Saint Vincent de Paul, Agent of Charity

September 27 is the feast of Saint Vincent de Paul. If you aren’t familiar with him, you should be! He was a devoted Christian and had great love for the poor.

Saint Vincent de Paul

Image by WikimediaImages (2013) via Pixabay, CCO Public Domain

Early Life

St. Vincent was born in France to a peasant family sometime between 1576-1580. His father was a farmer so he was required to help out with the cattle, sheep and other chores. However, he was found to be very intelligent and was given the opportunity to study with the Franciscans. He was ordained in 1600 but in 1605 he was captured by Turkish pirates and sold as a slave. Thankfully, he was able to escape in the year 1607.

His Ministry

St. Vincent spent his life preaching and dedicating his life to serving the poor. He visited the prisoned, opened hospitals, and performed all sorts of charitable works to ease their sufferings. He eventually created the Missionary Congregation and the Daughters of Charity. Many lay people joined him in his work and continue to follow his example of charity in organizations such as the Saint Vincent de Paul Society.

The Lesson

There are a couple of important lessons we can learn from Saint Vincent de Paul. First, he has a great love for God. He lived in a time when many priests were lukewarm and unknowledgable of their faith. His example of faith and love converted many people. We can ask ourselves: Am I lukewarm in my faith? Am I an example of faith and love to those around me? How can I do better?

Second, he was gentle and loving to those who were largely marginalized by the community of his time. He reached out to those in prison. He cared for those who were sick. He loved the unloveable. We are probably not called to give our lives in service at such a great scale but we can ask ourselves: How do I treat those around me? Am I gentle and kind? Do I make the effort to reach out to those who are lonely, poor, or not someone in need? How can I do better? Is there a St. Vincent de Paul Society nearby where I can volunteer?

As we celebrate the memorial of St. Vincent, let us ak his intercession that we may love our Lord and our neighbor in a deeper, more significant way.

Further Reading

Check out the following sites to learn more about Saint Vincent. He had quite a life and my post only touches on the highlights.

NewAdvent.org

Stvincentdepaul.org Eatontown

Piercedhearts.org

Catholic.org

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Psst: Just a reminder, there is only a couple of days (until September 30) left to make a difference for those who are facing tremendous challenges due to the recent natural disasters. You can grow your faith and help those in need at the same time. – a win/win!

Saint Damien de Veuster

Also known as Saint Damien of Molokai, Saint Damien is a missionary priest who spent years caring for people with leprosy.

Image by William Brigham (1889) via Wikipedia, CCO Public Domain (Photo taken shortly before his death)

His Life

Saint Damien (Jozef de Veuster) was born in Belgium in January 1840 as the youngest of seven children. At the age of 13, he was taken out of school to help out on the family farms. His heart, however, was set on religious life and eventually he was able to enter the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary.

Although considered uneducated, he was ordained a priest in 1864 – two months after arriving at Hawaii. Saint Damien spent the rest of his life serving, caring, and ministering to the people in the leprosy colony of Hawaii. At that time, leprosy was still considered incurable and very contagious so people with leprosy were often ostracized and quarantined off by themselves.

After 11 years or so, Damien discovered that he, himself, had contracted leprosy. He died in April 1889 at the age of 49. He was beatified in 1995 by St. John Paul II and canonized by Pope Emmertis Benedict XVI in 2009. His feast day is today, May 10.

What We can Learn from Saint Damien

One of the things that is  most notable about Saint Damien is that he does not shy away from the marginalized. Whereas most people avoided the “lepers,” Saint Damien embraced them, loved them, and selflessly took care of them. Thus, his life becomes a challenge to us :

Do I (can I) embrace those who others push away or ignore? This can be something as simple as visiting the homebound or elderly. However, it can mean standing up for the unborn by joining a pro-life organization or other type of ministry. Still, it can also just mean being present to our family and taking the time to ministering for their needs!

Another thing about Saint Damien that stands out is his perseverance. Saint Damien suffered much in his life and had to deal with a lot of obstacles and difficulties. However, he never let those difficulties make him lose sight of God’s purpose for his life and he never gave up. He pushed through, trusted in God, and was able to do a lot of good for the people of Hawaii. In this too, Saint Damien’s example is a challenge to us:

Do I let myself get discouraged when I face difficulties or do I trust in God and work through them? It is not a matter of if we will have troubles and problems. It is a matter of when we will have troubles and problems. The important thing is how we respond to those problems. Unfortunately, I don’t always handle problems very graciously. If I am being honest, I don’t handle problems very graciously most of the time. Anyone else or is it just me?! Still, Saint Damien’s example encourages me. I am a work in progress and that’s okay. 🙂

So, let us pray to Saint Damien that he will intercede for us and help us have a great love for every person and to persevere in all of our struggles. Saint Damien, pray for us!

Other Resources

To learn more about Saint Damien, visit these sites:

Catholic.org

EWTN

Wikipedia

 

The Impulsive Life of St. John of God

Today is the optional memorial of Saint John of God. I first heard of him through the Little Sisters of the Poor because the congregation has a big devotion to him. He had a great love of the poor and would do anything for them.

Image by Comunicacion.curia (2011) via Wikipedia, CC ShareAlike 3.0 Unported

What I didn’t know until recently was that he had a rebellious and wild streak to him. In fact, he was so impulsive that he was deemed insane and committed to mental institution for a while!

His Early Life

St. John was born in Spain and his propensity for living on the wild side manifested itself when St. John was eight. According to Catholic.org, St. John heard a priest give a talk when he was 8 years old so he ran away from home so he could live an adventurous life traveling with the priest.

After a few years, St. John became sick and was adopted by the family who cared for him. However, as John got older, the wild streak kicked in again and he ran off to fight with the Spanish army against the French. While a soilder, he lived a life of drinking, gambling and of sin.

Sometime after quitting the army, St. John turned his life to God. However, different accounts assert different stories as to when and how he converted. Some say it was while working as a shepherd, and others say he converted when he heard the preaching of St. John of Avila.

Living for God and the Poor

St. John’s impulsiveness did not disappear after his conversion. I think it actually grew worse! Apparently, after hearing a sermon from St. John of Avila, St. John went running through the streets crying, pulling his hair out, and ripping his clothes. Because of his strange behavior, he was forced into a mental institution for a time.

He also had such a love for God and for the poor that he would do anything for them. He would beg for food, clothes and other items to give to the poor. Catholic.org tells the story how St. John grabbed a bowl of food to give to some starving people he came across and almost got arrested, ran into a burning building (the very hospital he spent time in) to rescue the patients, and jumped into a flood to save a drowning man – which became the cause of his death. St. John of God died, while kneeling before the Crucifix, on March 8, 1550 due to complications related to a sickness he caught after saving the man.

What Can We Learn From St. John?

At first glance, the life of St. John of God seems nice but bears no relevance for our lives. Not true, that. First, we can learn what it means to love God. Like all the Saints, St. John committed his whole self to God and was willing to do anything for Him even if it meant ridicule, rejection or misunderstanding. How about us? Are we willing to do anything for God even if it means being misunderstood or accepted by others? Living a life for God today is a real challenge. Society is so backward in so many ways and if someone shows a commitment to God they are almost instantly labeled a fanatic or weirdo. Am I willing to be a weirdo for God?

Secondly, even though St. John was sometimes too impulsive he acted on what he believed were inspirations of the Holy Spirit. How many times have I heard the whisperings of the Holy Spirit to help someone in need or to offer encouragement or a kind word to someone going through a difficult time but failed to follow through? Too many times than I would want to admit, for sure. We can imitate St. John by opening our hearts to the Holy Spirit and his promptings. And even more importantly, we can imitate him by acting on those promptings.

Resources

To learn more about St. John of God, visit these sites:

Catholic.org

Catholictradition.org

Catholicsaints.info

Next Steps

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Tweetable: The Impulsive Life of St. John of God

Saint Henry, Pray for Us!

Today is the optional memorial of Saint Henry. As far as I can tell, Saint Henry isn’t a particularly well-known or popular saint. So why write about him? Because, in some ways, he is just like us.

Saint Henry, Pray for Us!

Image by Foxy_ (2012) via Pixabay, CCO Public Domain

Granted, unlike most of us, Saint Henry was born into royalty. He became the duke of Bavaria in 995  and after the death of a cousin he was appointed the emperor of Germany. He was well educated and pious and when he married, he and his wife made a vow of chastity.

Still, Saint Henry lived out his vocation in the secular world. He was generous, had a strong sense of justice and a great love for the Church. At one point in his life, he became ill and had a crippled leg but bore his sufferings with great forbearance.

He also had his faults. In particular, he was a little too quick to jump into battle especially by today’s standards. He fought against those who went against his empire and he fought against those who caused trouble in Rome.

However, AmericanCatholic.org points out, “All in all, this saint was a man of his times. From our standpoint, he may have been too quick to do battle and too ready to use power to accomplish reforms. But, granted such limitations, he shows that holiness is possible in a busy secular life. It is in doing our job that we become saints.

This is why I am pointing him out to you. He lived a busy life, he fulfilled his duties with care, and  he still managed to live a faithful life with his eyes on Christ. He shows that we can do the same thing. No matter what is going on, we can still grow in holiness right where God has put us. We can still make time for prayer because, as Saint Henry shows us, we make time for those things that are important to us!

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Tweetable: Saint Henry, Pray for Us!

Resources: American Catholic, Catholic News Agency, Catholic Online

My Wish For You

This Advent prayer speaks to my heart today:

Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, ever faithful to your promises and ever close to your Church: the earth rejoices in hope of the Savior’s coming and looks forward with longing to his return at the end of time. Prepare our hearts and remove the sadness that hinders us from feeling the joy and hope which his presence will bestow, for he is Lord for ever and ever. Amen.

(Prayer found at catholic.org.)

As we approach the final week of Advent, it is my deepest wish that you know Christ’s healing love for you. And that your heart is filled with great peace, hope and joy in the knowledge of His awesome and abiding presence.

A Prayer for Fathers

“St. Joseph, guardian of Jesus and chaste husband of Mary, you passed your life in loving fulfillment of duty.
You supported the holy family of Nazareth with the work of your hands.
Kindly protect those who trustingly come to you. You know their aspirations, their hardships, their hopes.
They look to you because they know you will understand and protect them. You too knew trial, labor and weariness.
But amid the worries of material life your soul was full of deep peace and sang out in true joy through intimacy with God’s Son entrusted to you and with Mary, his tender Mother.
Assure those you protect that they do not labor alone. Teach them to find Jesus near them and to watch over him faithfully as you have done.”

– Pope John XXIII

(This and other Catholic prayers can be found at catholic.org)