Written by on 09/27/2017

Winchester, VA – Born in 1581 in Gascony, France, to peasant farmers, Vincent was a smart child, but he was required to work as the herder of his family’s livestock. His father would go on to sell his oxen to finance Vincent’s seminary education at 15.  Vincent’s goal in becoming a priest was to become successful, obtain a benefice, retire early and support his family with his money. Vincent went on, despite the unsavory atmospheres of his school, to be ordained at the age of nineteen—five years younger than what the Council of Trent required as a minimum age. When he was appointed parish priest in Tilh, the appointment was appealed to Rome, and Vincent resigned, returning to school. He would go on to receive a Bachelor in Theology and a Licentiate in Canon Law. In 1605, while returning home from a real estate transaction abroad, Vincent was captured by Barbary pirates and enslaved, first to a fisherman, then to an herbalist, then to a former Franciscan priest from Nice who had converted to Islam to spare his life and was living in the mountains with three wives. The second wife, after some conversations with Vincent, decided upon the Truth of the Catholic faith, and rebuked her husband for having become Muslim. The former priest saw the error of his ways, and ten months later, with Vincent, secretly left Tunesia for France.  Vincent would continue his studies, then work as a parish priest, and finally worked as a tutor to the Gondi family. It was there that Vincent felt a strong calling to work with the poor. He went on to found the Daughters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul. He would later work as a chaplain to galley slaves and then as the superior of the Congragation of the Mission, also known as the “Vincentians,” who devoted themselved to people in small towns and villages. He would spend much time giving retreats to clergy at a time when priestly abuses were high, and he helped found seminaries. He would also provide spiritual direction to the Convent of St. Mary of the Angels for 28 years. He died in 1660 at the age of 79. St. Vincent de Paul, pray for us!

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