St. Vincent de Paul was born in Puoy, in France, in 1581. He was born to a poor family, but, recognizing his brilliance, they managed to send Vincent to school. He eventually went to University in Tours and was ordained in 1600.
In 1605, St. Vincent was captured by Muslim pirates and sold into slavery. St. Vincent worked as a fisherman and servant for several years. He endured many years of misery and suffering. The future saint eventually escaped back to France.
He returned to University, and his brilliance as a scholar led to his becoming chaplain to the Queen of France. St. Vincent lived a life of privilege, and was even entrusted with a diplomatic mission by the King of France.
St. Vincent, after witnessing the suffering of the French peasantry, realized that he had a duty to care for the poor as a Christian. He left his comfortable home and volunteered to work among prisoners and galley slaves. He eventually became the chaplain for galley slaves in 1619.
St. Vincent was tireless in his work with the poor. He was very eager to ensure that the Gospel was preached to the poor. St. Vincent sought to provide not only for the physical needs of the poor, but their spiritual needs. In 1625, he founded the Vincentians in order to help the poor and to bring the Word of God to the underprivileged in France. Thanks to St. Vincent, many of the French elite were made aware of the plight of the poor, and were inspired to help the unfortunates of society. In 1633, he helped establish the Sisters of Charity, who were to work with orphans and the aged.
St. Vincent was particularly interested in clerical education, and established retreats for priests. This did much to improve the clergy in France.
St. Vincent died in 1660. His body was disinterred in 1710, and had not decomposed.
In the eighteenth century, a young blind girl was cured after praying to Saint Vincent at his reliquary in Paris.
Because of these and other miracles, as well as his life of great spirituality and Christian charity, St. Vincent was canonized in 1737.
Saint Vincent believed that every Christian had a duty to help his unfortunate brothers and sisters:
“Who will excuse us before God for the loss of such a great number of people, who could be saved by the slight assistance we could give them?”
St. Vincent believed that helping the poor and the weak was necessary for salvation:
“We cannot better assure our eternal happiness than by living and dying in the service of the poor, in the arms of Providence, and with genuine renouncement of ourselves in order to follow Jesus Christ.”