“It is our vocation, then, to go not just into a parish not just into a diocese, but all over the world. And to do what? To set people’s hearts ablaze, to do what the Son of God did, who came to light a fire on the earth in order to and to set it ablaze with his love.” St. Vincent de Paul, (CED, Vol. XII, 207)
St. Vincent de Paul was a man ahead of his time. Take, for example, the innovative ways he involved laity in the works of charity he began. In addition to founding religious communities of men (Congregation of the Mission) and women (Daughters of Charity), Vincent began “Confraternities of Charity” in parishes to meet the needs of ill and indigent members in their midst. Whenever his priests gave a parish mission to renew the spiritual life of a parish, they were instructed not to leave until they had established a Confraternity of Charity among parishioners. Similarly, St. Louise de Marillac, Vincent’s first and greatest collaborator, showed the first Daughters of Charity how to live among and serve the poor.
Vincent also brought “wealthy women of means” into his circle of charity, encouraging them to offer not only financial support but to engage in direct service to the poor. From this group was born the Ladies of Charity, (known in Europe as the AIC), still active across the world centuries later. The dynamic Vincent encouraged was to promote charity for the common good in service to Jesus Christ by inviting people from all walks of life to take part.
In later generations, men and women, inspired by Jesus and imbued with Vincent de Paul’s spirit, continued his work to “serve the poor in Christ, and find Christ in the poor”. Some were laity, such as Blessed Frederic Ozanam and Pier Giorgio Frassati. Others were religious men and women who began communities of priests, brothers, and sisters to continue the charism of Vincent, by meeting pressing needs of their day. Today, over a million people live the charism of St. Vincent in what is known as the Vincentian Family.
Resources to learn more about the Vincentian Family: