• 27 Sep 20

Sep 27 - “St. Vincent de Paul” © icon by Br. Robert Lentz, OFM. Happy Feast Day St. Vincent!

For St. Vincent de Paul, becoming a priest meant escaping his family’s poverty into a life of clerical ease. His first ten years as a priest were spent basking in his newfound comfort and privileges. Then a great change came over him and he eventually dedicated the rest of his life to the service of the poor. He organized groups of lay people for charitable work, and a society of priests who would train the clergy as well as do missionary work in rural areas. Today his name is synonymous with Catholic charity throughout the world.

Charity for St. Vincent was not an impersonal gift of money. Each poor person was a sacramental presence of Christ, to be revered. "The poor are your masters," he told his followers, "and you are their servants." Such a statement in the France of Louis XIV was revolutionary. "If you hear the poor calling you, mortify yourselves and leave God for God," he advised sisters who asked what to do when the doorbell rang during community prayer. "A Sister may go to the sick ten times a day, and ten times a day she will find God there."

Respect for every poor person was based not only on theology, but also on psychology. Assistance can either uplift or degrade a person, depending on how it is given. With great insight he said "The poor will forgive you for giving them bread, only because of your love." The poor were no less human than the aristocrats at Versailles were, and their feelings were every bit as important.

In this icon St. Vincent holds a black child in his arms, since poverty so often has dark skin in the twenty-first century. Icons may contain anachronisms when there is a great truth at stake. The Greek inscription reads, "St. Vincent, the Light of Priests."