The feast day of St. Vincent de Paul is celebrated as a Solemnity in the Archdiocese of St. Louis because he is the secondary patron of the Archdiocese (after St. Louis). St. Vincent de Paul was part of a movement of renewal and reform in the French Catholic Church during his day that continues to bear fruit among those inspired by the spirituality of the Vincentian family.
This is represented in many forms, including a number of institutes of consecrated life, seminaries, universities, schools, hospitals, lay associations, missions, and untold food pantries, thrift stores, soup kitchens, and, of course, home visits. It would be difficult to accurately capture the various forms of ministry that this one man inspired because the task is so great.
How was he able to do that? How is one person able to have such an (ongoing) impact on humanity? There are numerous devotional and scholarly contributions to what was special and distinctive about St. Vincent de Paul.
To memorialize his feast day, let’s be reminded of one thing that was foundational to his holiness: his (interior) relationship with God.
St. Vincent de Paul was intensely committed to the interior life, and to the practice of what used to be commonly called “mental prayer.” Mental prayer can be called interior prayer, or more commonly, meditation. It means using the mind, the heart, and even the body, to meditate upon truths of the faith and God.
St. Vincent de Paul was part of a school of renewal and reform of the Church in France, often described as the French School of Spirituality. A central feature of this school was its focus on the interior life, i.e. an interior relationship with God in Christ. As we memorialize and celebrate the person of St. Vincent de Paul, let us remember that his relationship with God is what motivated his activity, especially his empathy and love for the poor.
To memorialize this day, may we allow God’s presence to touch our hearts, that we may extend that grace to others, especially those most in need of His love.
Image: Alexandre Ducourneau (1842), Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons