With back-to-school time upon us, I got to thinking about intercessors for our young ones as they head back into their school routines, whether that be in a brick-and-mortar school or through homeschooling. I have many saints in my prayer arsenal, as I call it, and I suppose that I have my favorites. This year, my mind went to a quiet member of my personal communion of saints, St. Vincent de Paul, whose feast is September 27th. I thought I would share a little bit that I learned about St. Vincent, and how he has been a spiritual force in my schooling life.
St. Vincent was born in the late sixteenth century into a humble peasant family in France. His family was able to secure part of his education with local Franciscan friars because they wanted to encourage his academic pursuits. As a teenager, he began studies for the priesthood, and was ordained at age 20. He was certainly an intelligent and ambitious young man!
He devoted his priesthood to ministries for the poor and the sick. He founded the lay Confraternity of Charity, the Daughters of Charity, and the Congregation of the Mission, all of whom ministered to the poor, nursed the sick, and aided the unemployed. St. Vincent desired to help those who felt they had no one to turn to. For instance, in an older edition of Magnificat magazine on his feast day, we read:
“He instructed his followers, ‘If a needy person requires medicine or other help during prayer time, do whatever has to be done with peace of mind. Offer the deed to God as your prayer.'”
St. Vincent died in 1660, and is the patron saint of all works of charity.
My personal tie-in to St. Vincent de Paul relates to my own formal education. After spending my entire K-12 career attending public schools, I enrolled in a Vincentian college. Founded by the Congregation of the Mission, my Catholic college has a service mission that all students are required to partake in as part of their educational experience. I remember volunteering at a local hospital as part of my own service hours. As well, the curriculum includes courses in both religion and ethics. It was very different from my previous educational experiences, and thus a fresh new perspective for me.
While I was a student there, my faith was not yet “my own” in an adult sense, but God was very much working in my life. Although I still found Sunday Mass a bit boring, and I lacked a full understanding of what occurs during the liturgy and of the Eucharist, I discovered daily Mass while I was there. The college has an absolutely stunning chapel on campus, and I happened upon a daily Mass starting one day. This discovery truly changed my life. I started attending daily Mass somewhat consistently throughout my time there, and I loved the spiritual pick-me-up of the 20-minute service. Even in my young and naive state, I recognized that something powerful happened at Mass, and I was more easily able to identify it in the shorter format since my attention wasn’t wandering. An important seed was planted.
Around my senior year, I stopped going to daily Mass as regularly, and then my faith life languished a bit until my second year of law school when I had a major spiritual “reversion” of sorts that led to me becoming rooted in my faith as an adult. And what was the event that tipped the balance towards making that happen, you rightly ask? Daily Mass, of course! At a different college campus, granted, but it all comes back to the Eucharist. Thus, it seems to me that St. Vincent de Paul had a hand in me coming back to my faith, and now cherishing it. Due to his role in my own education, I feel quite safe in entrusting the welfare of my children to him. I also now have a nephew named after him!
St. Vincent de Paul has a special place in my heart. Do you have a devotion to this saint? I would love to hear all of your Vincentian experiences in the comments!
Copyright 2018 Tiffany Walsh