It is interesting to note that the Saint whom we venerate today insisted on spelling his name Depaul and not de Paul. That was because in France the use of de before a family name usually denotes one of a noble lineage. Saint Vincent eschewed such references as he was totally and utterly dedicated to charity particularly as it concerned the poor. As the Wikipedia put it “He was renowned for his compassion, humility, and generosity and is known as the “Great Apostle of Charity”. His collect very well summarizes the form and shape of his life and ministry:
Loving God, we offer thanks for thy servant Vincent de Paul, who gave himself to training clergy to work among the poor and provided many institutions to aid the sick, orphans, and prisoners. May we, like him, encounter Christ in the needy, the outcast and the friendless , that we may come at length into thy kingdom where thou reignest, one God, holy and undivided Trinity, for ever and ever.
The thought of encountering Christ in the needy is something worth pondering. So many of us like to think we are the ministers providing aid and comfort and bringing Christ to the needy. We sometimes feel we are “doing them a favor” by allowing them into shelters, and even our churches. But so many times over the course of my life there have been occasions when the needy and destitute have ministered unto me and through their ministry I have experienced the Christ in a very powerful way. They were actually doing me a favor even though they did not provide me with clothing or food but rather with a an opportunity to glimpse what the Christ is truly like.
Interesting also is something Saint Vincent said about his own temperament. “He said that except for the grace of God he would have been “hard and repulsive, rough and cross” I can certainly identify with that. He was, however, quoting Holy Women, Holy Men “tender and affectionate and very sensitive to the needs of others. In the most distracting occupations his soul was always intimately united with God. Though honored by the great ones of the world he remained rooted in humility.”
Let us all seek to emulate the “The Apostle of Charity”.