|Memorial of St. Vincent de Paul
Psalms 149:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 9
“I will set out to serve the poor. I will try to do so in a gay and modest manner, so as to console and edify them; I will speak to them as though they were lords and masters.” -- Vincent de Paul
Today is the feast of St. Vincent de Paul who was ordained in 1600. Five years later he was captured by pirates and sold into slavery in northern Africa. In 1609 he was sent back to France and became the one who dispensed alms for the queen. In 1617 he co-founded the Confraternity of Charity, an order to encourage ladies to minister to the poor. Like the reports about Jesus, Vincent’s commitment to the poor and commitment to God were united. Vincent went on to found seminaries that molded priests for service to the poor. Vincent’s legacy reaches into modern times, as organizations around the world are still committed to serving the poor under his name.
The aspect that stands out about Jesus in today’s gospel and the life of Vincent de Paul is that their actions perplexed others. Herod and others were perplexed by Jesus’ actions and the royalty of France, and others were perplexed that Vincent would leave his privileged assignments to focus on serving the poor. Maybe an indication of how closely we are following the life of Christ is the degree to which the world is perplexed by our Christ-like actions. Following Jesus is counter-cultural and if we are living the gospel we will experience the effects of opposing our culture. One example for Americans is instead acquiring goods and working for a life of luxury, followers of Christ would be more concerned about serving the poor. Many Americans would be perplexed if you traded a life of luxury for serving the poor.
Millionaires Millard and Linda Fuller did just that. They gave up their fortune to create a vision of providing housing for the poor. Their vision, which began in a Georgia chicken barn in 1976, is known worldwide as Habitat for Humanity. Habitat for Humanity is responsible for providing the poor with 100,000 homes in more than 77 countries. I imagine many were very perplexed that the Fullers gave away their riches to care for the poor, but their Christ-like actions have transformed our world.
Today the Church holds-up the life of Jesus and Vincent de Paul as
ways to unite a life in service to the poor while living in a close relationship
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