Saint Vincent de Paul was born on April 24, 1581 and died on September 27, 1660. His parents were peasants from Gascony, France. Although his family was poor, Saint Vincent de Paul studied humanities and theology at Dax with the Cordeliers. He also studied at Toulouse and got his degree in theology.
Saint Vincent de Paul Ordained
Saint Vincent de Paul was ordained in 1600. After being ordained, he became a tutor in Toulouse and continued with his own education, as well. His studies were interrupted when he had to return home to settle his inheritance.
Captured by Pirates
Saint Vincent was a passenger on a ship on his return trip from Marsailles to Toulouse when he had settled his inheritance. The ship was raided by Turkish pirates who captured Saint Vincent. The pirates sold him as a slave in Tunis.
Saint Vincent de Paul Escaped
Saint Vincent de Paul escaped slavery in 1607after he converted his master to Christianity. Saint Vincent returned to France and then traveled to Rome to continue with his education. After two years, Saint Vincent de Paul was sent back to France and reported to King Henry IV. He was named Queen Margurerite’s almoner and was assigned to the Abbey of Saint-Leonard-de-Chaum.
Saint Vincent de Paul Founded Peasant Missions
Saint Vincent de Paul left the abbey to teach the children of a rich French family. While living on the estate, Saint Vincent was allowed to establish peasant missions to help the poor. Many priests from Paris joined Saint Vincent in his charitable works.
Saint Vincent Helped Prisoners
Once Saint Vincent de Paul established his missions for the poor, he concentrated on assisting the galley prisoners. The prisoners were help in wet, dark dungeons with chains on their legs. They were fed only black bread with water. All of the prisoners suffered from ulcers and covered in vermin.
Saint Vincent de Paul dedicated himself to improving both the physical and spiritual state of these prisoners. He visited the prisoners, speaking kindly to them and assisting them with their physical needs, not matter how repulsive it was. The prisoners loved Saint Vincent and he was able to convert many of them. Louis XIII named Saint Vincent as almoner of the galleys and he was able to visit prisoners in Bordeaux, Marseilles and Paris. He built missions for all of the galleys by 1625.
Saint Vincent de Paul Established Seminaries
After the successful startup of all his missions, Saint Vincent de Paul was assigned to establish retreats for men studying to become priests. The first of the retreats was begun in 1628. These short retreats eventually became the foundation of seminaries. By 1635, Saint Vincent established a seminary in Saint-Sazare named the Seminary of St. Charles. By the time Saint Vincent died, he had founded eleven seminaries for young clerics.
Saint Vincent de Paul Established Daughters of Charity
Not only did Saint Vincent de Paul establish seminaries, he also founded the Daughters of Charity to help with his missions. The women of this order visited and assisted the poor. Saint Vincent also established the Ladies of Charity which were lay women who visited the sick, poor and prisoners. These women also nursed and cared for orphans and established orphanages for the children.
Saint Vincent de Paul founded the Hospice of the Name of Jesus which was dedicated to caring for the elderly and those who suffered from incurable diseases.
Eventually, the charities of Saint Vincent de Paul spread beyond France into bordering countries and today they exist throughout the world.
Saint Vincent de Paul Society
Today, the charitable works of Saint Vincent de Paul continue. Every Catholic parish in the world has a Saint Vincent de Paul Society where members of the parish offer assistance to the poor, sick and needy of their community.
Many of the members of the Saint Vincent de Paul Society wear Saint Vincent de Paul jewelry. The Saint Vincent de Paul medal or the Saint Vincent de Paul necklace is a reminder to them to carry on the charitable works of Saint Vincent to all who need help.