Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Sept. 27, 2011 Tuesday: St. Vincent de Paul

Although he had no advantages of birth, fortune, or handsome appearance, or any showy gifts at all, Vincent de Paul's later years became one long record of accomplishment. In the midst of great affairs, his soul never strayed from God; always when he heard the clock strike, he made the sign of the cross as an act of divine love. Under setbacks, calumnies, and frustrations, and there were many, he preserved his serenity of mind. He looked on all events as manifestations of the Divine will, to which he was perfectly resigned. Yet by nature, he once wrote of himself, he was "of a bilious temperament and very subject to anger." Without divine grace, he declared, he would have been "in temper hard and repellent, rough and crabbed." With grace, he became tenderhearted to the point of looking on the troubles of all mankind as his own. His tranquillity seemed to lift him above petty disturbances. Self-denial, humility, and an earnest spirit of prayer were the means by which he attained to this degree of perfection. Once when two men of exceptional learning and ability asked to be admitted to his congregation, Vincent courteously refused them, saying: "Your abilities raise you above our low state. Your talents may be of good service in some other place. As for us, our highest ambition is to instruct the ignorant, to bring sinners to a spirit of penitence, and to plant the Gospel spirit of charity, humility, and simplicity in the hearts of all Christians." One of his rules was that, so far as possible, a man ought not to speak of himself or his own concerns, since such discourse usually proceeds from and strengthens pride and self-love.

Letter of St. Vincent de Paul to Pope Alexander VII
June 6, 1659

Most Holy Father:

I know that the whole of France and many other nations are urgently beseeching Your Holiness to deign to inscribe on the calendar of Saints the name of the Most Illustrious and Most Reverend Francis de Sales, Bishop of Geneva. I am also aware that Your Holiness, filled with admiration for the rare virtues that shone in him, and the books of lofty devotion which he composed, holds his memory in profound veneration, and, consequently, that Your Holiness seems inclined to carry out this design, without there being any need of petitions from others and, especially, from such a wretched and unknown individual as myself. Nevertheless, Most Holy Father, as I was on rather familiar terms with this servant of God, who often deigned to hold converse with me, either about the Institute of the Religious of the Visitation of Holy Mary, which he established and founded, or on other pious matters, I have admired so many, and so great, virtues in him, that it is hard for me now to keep silence; I cannot be the only person who says nothing.

Faith, Hope, Charity, and the other cardinal and moral Christian virtues seemed almost innate in him and, taken together, formed in him, at least to my way of thinking, such a fund of goodness that, during an illness which occurred to me shortly after a conversation with him, I turned over in my mind his sweetness and exquisite meekness, and often repeated to myself: 'Oh! how good must God be, since the Bishop of Geneva is so kind.'

If I were alone, Most Holy Father, in thus thinking about him, I might believe I was deceiving myself but, as the whole world shares these sentiments, what else is needed, Most Holy Father, but a word from Your Holiness to consummate such a holy enterprise, by resolving to inscribe his name in the catalogue of the saints, and setting him up for the veneration of the whole world! All the priests of our Congregation and myself prostrate at the feet of Your Holiness, now most humbly beg you to do so. May God Almighty deign to grant you many long years for the welfare of His Church!