|St. Vincent de Paul|
Known as the "Apostle of Charity" and "Father of the Poor," St. Vincent contributed to the internal reform of the Church in France through a simple formula: the faithful preaching of the Gospel; the intentional gathering of disciples of Jesus for meaningful Christian community and mutual support; and the radical commitment to serving the needs of the poor and the marginalized.
Faithful preaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ--both in words and in actions--is the necessary starting point for a life of holiness. It not only comforts wounded sinners but also exhorts them to ongoing conversion of heart. Faithful preaching of the Gospel resists the reduction of Christianity to a mere reflection of worldly wisdom or a mere repetition of universal religious claims--as if the Incarnation of God happens anywhere else but in Jesus Christ.
Meaningful Christian community and mutual support allows real relationships to flourish. This is the context in which people can let themselves be vulnerable and open their hearts to God's transforming grace. This is the place where authentic diversity of personalities and opinions can be held in tension, out of mutual respect. The human person is made for relationship with God, which sin has wounded and the grace of Christ has repaired, but it must be lived out in concrete, interpersonal relationships.
Radical commitment to serving the needs of the poor and the marginalized may be St. Vincent's most enduring legacy, and this may be the easiest point of entry for 21st Century Christians. St. Vincent's Daughters of Charity, which he co-founded, and his Vincentian priests continue their work today. His designation as patron saint of all charitable societies keeps his smiling presence front-and-center for all who would serve the least, in the name of Jesus. But his abiding relevance for today might just be his simple, direct, hands-on approach to helping the people God placed right in front of him each day.
Notwithstanding heroic moments of Christian witness and/or martyrdom, most moments of holiness resemble small acts of kindness, offered out of love. This is because holiness looks like Someone--Jesus Christ--whose face we glimpse when we encounter the least and whose work continues in and through us when we serve those in need.
May St. Vincent intercede on our behalf that we might find everyday ways to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, welcome the stranger, clothe the naked, care for the ill, and visit the imprisoned (Mt 25:35-36)!