People in the US today might feel it’s slightly smarmy for someone to join the priesthood for social climbing. But that’s exactly what St. Vincent did, and what still draws people in some countries from poverty into priesthood. In fact, St. Vincent’s father’s muddy boots so embarrassed him when dad visited the seminary, he refused to see the old guy. His long-term strategy was successful: St. Vincent rose to become the queen’s chaplain and a tutor to one of Paris’ wealthiest families. He rode a long way on charm…
Sound skeazy? Then grace intervenes. After a major turning point, Vincent turned his considerable skills to the poor. After all that schmoozing with the wealthy, Vincent founded a congregation to educate priests, as well as hospitals, orphanages and homes for the mentally ill. Starting the Daughters of Charity with St. Louise de Marillac revolutionized the enclosed life for nuns, making “their convent the sickroom; their cloister the streets of the city.”
But he didn’t lose his touch with the rich. They started competing to fund his projects, including the ransom of slaves in North Africa. Today we probably all know folks who serve as bridges between the wealthy and the poor, charmingly transferring a surplus of money to where it’s needed most. (Pause here to appreciate your favorite fund raiser, or a priest/nun happy to separate you from your wallet.)
St. Vincent apparently continued the gracious ask when he was dying, informing God: “We have done what you commanded, do now what you have promised.”
Wow, a whole new side of St. Vincent I didn’t know. Thanks. I’ve always marveled at all the hospitals and schools and mission sites that people in that era started. Blows my mind. But they did it for and with God. Gotta keep trusting in anything is possible….