St. Vincent de Paul, founder of the Congregation of the Priests of the Mission (Lazarists) and the Society of the Sisters of Charity, while a young priest was held as a slave in Africa where he had been sold by pirates. On his return to France he became a parish priest. For a time he took the place of a galley slave. His parish was a country parish; his experience led him to found the Priests of the Mission, bound by special vow to undertake special work. At one time he was entrusted by St. Francis de Sales with the spiritual direction of the nuns of the Visitation. Assisted by Louise de Marillac he founded the Sisters of Charity.
The authority exercised by St. Vincent was immense, and was undisputed throughout the kingdom. He was a member of the king’s Privy Council, and thus had control over the appointments to the Episcopal see and to the richest benefices of the Church of France. Yet Vincent, meek and humble of heart, ascended the magnificent stairs of the palace and took part in the royal councils with the same evangelical simplicity, and clothed in the same poor and shabby garments in which he traversed the streets of Paris rescuing abandoned waifs and strays and succoring the helpless sick and suffering. He died in 1660 at St. Lazarus, the motherhouse of his Congregation. Leo XIII declared him the patron of all charitable associations.
(Source: The New Roman Missal, Rev. F. X. Lasance)
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