Friday, April 9, 2010

St. Vincent de Paul (April 24, 1581 to Sept. 27, 1660)

During my teenage years, my mother would often ask me if I had any clothing that I no longer needed. I never hesitated to fill a bag with items that were in good condition and that I wouldn't wear anymore.
My mom, who was a sixth grade teacher, would take the clothing to school and put it aside for children who might need something to wear, but were too shy to ask.
Even before there was a school breakfast program, every morning she would set a table in the back of her classroom with cereals, muffins, juice, and fruit that the kids could enjoy. She was so understanding and would tell them they could come in before classes started and have something to eat. There was nothing to be embarrassed about.
My mom wanted the children to have a nutritious meal so they could do well in school. In a way, she was very much like a modern day St. Vincent de Paul even though her contribution was on a much smaller scale.
St. Vincent de Paul was born on April 24, 1581 in Pouy, Gascony, France to a poor family. He studied at the College of Dax and was ordained a priest in 1600.
St. Vincent de Paul was captured by Turkish pirates who sold him into slavery in Tunis. He managed to escape his owner, but not before converting him to Christianity.
In 1625, he founded the Congregation of the Mission and, in 1633, the Daughters of Charity with St. Louise de Marillac.
After devoting his life to helping the poor, he died on Sept. 27, 1660 in Paris where his incorrupt body is at the Church of St. Vincent de Paul. His feast day is Sept. 27 and he is the patron saint of charities and hospitals.
Many years after my mother passed away, I was in a store and the clerk looked at my credit card and said she had a sixth grade teacher with the same name.
"What do you remember about her?" I asked.
"She was very kind, and she told us that even if we couldn't afford to go to college there would be a way. We could find help through scholarships and financial aid," the young woman said. "And, she was right. But, my favorite thing was that she always brought us in homemade cake on Fridays."
I told the girl that her teacher was my mother. It also made me feel good to know that even the smallest acts of charity leave lasting impressions.

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