Love and care for the poor marked the lives of both St. Vincent de Paul and St. Louise de Marillac. St. Vincent was born into poverty in sixteenth century France. He responded to a call to the priesthood, but his life took an unexpected turn after his ordination when he was captured by pirates while on a short sea voyage. He was sold into slavery in Africa and for years served a benevolent and aged Muslim who offered to make him his heir if he converted to Islam. Vincent prayed to the Lord and the Virgin Mary for the protection of his own faith. When the old man died, Vincent became the property of the man’s nephew, who sold him to another Muslim, a convert from Christianity. One of this man’s three wives learned about Christianity from Vincent, and, although she did not convert, she reproached her husband for abandoning the faith of his childhood. He repented and went with Vincent to Spain where he was reconciled to the church and joined a religious community. Vincent, now free, returned to France where he once again served the community as a priest. He dedicated himself to both the spiritual and material needs of the people, hearing confessions, preaching and teaching, and serving the sick and the poor.
In France, Vincent founded the Congregation of the Mission, more commonly known as the Vincentians, priests and laymen who take vows and devote themselves to their own spiritual sanctification and to bringing sinners to Christ, preaching, teaching, and committing themselves to works of mercy. There he met Louise de Marillac, a woman who also had a great love and faithful commitment to the poor. Louise, as a young woman, had felt a desire to enter religious life, but her spiritual director discouraged her from this path, so instead she married and had a son. After her husband died, Louise, who had always been tireless in her works of mercy, began to join the work of the Vincentians in their apostolate of charity. Together, Vincent and Louise founded the Congregation of Sisters of Charity, a religious community of sisters who give their lives to the service of the poor and the sick. In this great Year of Mercy, these two great saints form a model of fellowship and community given over to charity.
St. Vincent de Paul
Noble Saint Vincent de Paul, beloved servant of the poor, may we follow your example and do good works among those whom society has abandoned, enslaved, or forgotten. Inspire us to feed the hungry, to love a child, to provide comfort and medicine to the sick, to clothe those whose garments are threadbare, and to offer hope and our Lord’s words to all who need respite. Pray for us to our beloved God that we may commit ourselves selflessly to doing the same charitable acts that you did all your life, and intercede with him that we may have the favor of his guidance and strength and love upon this important and meaningful work. Amen.
St. Louise de Marillac
O God, You inspired St. Louise de Marillac with a great love for the poor and abandoned. Grant us the grace to serve those whose lives touch ours with the same spirit of love and courage in these challenging times. May the Company of the Daughters of Charity continue to grow and multiply throughout the world so that the poor will know God’s love in a tangible way. We ask this through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever. Amen.