Homily for St. Vincent de Paul by Fr. Ferdinand

Posted on 27th September, 2021

Homily for St. Vincent de Paul by Fr. Ferdinand 


What always strikes us listening about the life of St Vincent, is that he was not a Saint from birth.

Vincent was born in a poor peasant family in the South of France. As a teenager he fled the poverty of his village, was ordained illegally at 19 and began to build a secure future as a priest, eager to take on lucrative jobs and seeking good positions.


But what made him change? What caused his conversion? He began to change when he started to see, to truly see the misery of the people among whom he was working. Seeing the misery of the poor made him gradually change and devote his life to God in the service of the poor.


Who taught St Vincent to see? It was Jesus who taught him to see!


In today's Gospel, we heard: when Jesus saw the crowds, he felt sorry for them because they were harassed and dejected, like sheep without a shepherd.


Jesus teaches us to see. When Jesus sees he is not just looking… His seeing is like entering the real life of the other.  He sees what is truly in front of him, without immediate judgment.


When Jesus saw the crowds, he felt sorry for them. When Jesus sees the reality of  people's lives, he allows his heart to be touched, he feels compassion.


Compassion is a powerful emotion. It does not come from the head, but according to the Bible, it comes from our bowels, from the centre of our bodies.


To truly see is the first step, and to be moved with compassion by what we see is the second step.

It does not stop here. Compassion is more than just an emotion, it leads to action. When Jesus saw the crowds and felt sorry for them, he asked his disciples to pray for more labourers for the harvest, to relieve the people's distress.


Compassion leads to practical action. This is the third step, practical action.


Likewise with St Vincent; when he started seeing truly the reality of the poor in Paris, it changed his heart and his life. It made him more compassionate and made him act in favour of the poor.

He founded groups of men and women to assist the poor and visit the sick and, together with Louise de Marillac he formed the Congregation of the daughters of Charity, whose work was with the sick and the poor. He also founded a congregation of Priests, the Vincentians.


What do we see when we look around us? We do not see the misery of the poor of Paris  of the 17th century, but there are many other situations which, following the example of St Vincent would touch our hearts: we only need to think about those who are lonely and without friends, those who are sick, those who arrive on our shores without anything, the state of our Mother Earth.


How do we react to what we see? Does it leave us indifferent or maybe hopeless?


This week I heard on the radio about a survey which was held among young people between the ages of 15 and 24 in ten different countries. And more than half of them expressed the view that humanity is doomed because of climate change.


When St Vincent was faced with the reality of the poor of Paris, it could have left him with a sense of hopelessness and doom. It did not. It made him more compassionate and led him to action.

Today, on the feastday of our Patron Saint, let us ask St Vincent to pray for us, that we may follow his example.

That our hearts may beat with compassion, and that we may act with hope, in favour of God's Kingdom.

Fr. Ferdinand 

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