There is hardly any saint in the history of France, that endured more challenge and torment in his life than Saint Vincent of Paul. The Rev. Alban Butler begins his magnificent hagiography of this great saint we can model our own suffering and militant lives upon thus.
EVEN in the most degenerate ages, when the true maxims of the gospel seem almost obliterated among the generality of those who profess it, God fails not, for the glory of his holy name, to raise to himself faithful ministers to revive the same in the hearts of many. Having, by the perfect crucifixion of the old man in their hearts, and the gift of prayer, prepared them to become vessels of his grace, he replenishes them with the spirit of his apostles that they may be qualified to conduct others in the paths of heroic virtue, in which the Holy Ghost was himself their interior Master. One of these instruments of the divine mercy was St. Vincent of Paul.
The Lazarites live and work under a rule written by St. Vincent and approved by 2 Popes and the French King Louis XIII.
[I]n 1633, the regular canons of St. Victor gave to this new institute the priory of St. Lazarus, which being a spacious building was made the chief house of the Congregation, and from it the Fathers of the Mission were often called Lazarites or Lazarians. They are not religious men, but a Congregation of secular priests, who after two years’ probation make four simple vows, of poverty, chastity, obedience, and stability. They devote themselves to labour, in the first place, in sanctifying their own souls by the particular holy exercises prescribed in their institute; secondly, in the conversion of sinners to God; and thirdly, in training up clergymen for the ministry of the altar and the care of souls. To attain the first end, their rule prescribes them an hour’s meditation every morning, self-examination thrice every day, spiritual conferences every week, a yearly retreat of eight days, and silence except in the hours allowed for conversation. To comply with the second obligation, they are employed eight months every year in missions among the country people, staying three or four weeks in each place which they visit, every day giving catechism, making familiar sermons, hearing confessions, reconciling differences, and performing all other works of charity. To correspond with the third end which St. Vincent proposed to himself, some of this Congregation undertake the direction of seminaries, and admit ecclesiastics or others to make retreats of eight or ten days with them, to whom they prescribe suitable exercises; and for these purposes excellent rules are laid down by the founder. Pope Alexander VII., in 1662, enjoined by a brief, that all persons who receive holy orders in Rome, or in the six suffragan bishoprics, shall first make a retreat of ten days under the direction of the fathers of this Congregation, under pain of suspension. St. Vincent settled his institute also in the seminary of St. Charles in Paris, and lived to see twenty-five houses of it founded in France, Piedmont, Poland, and other places.
The tale of Saint Vincent being sold into slavery is worth recounting here as well. Imagine yourself enduring being sold into slavery then re-sold FOUR times in the era of “Black Lives Matter”. Vincent’s liberation was brought about by is last owner who converted to Catholicism and became a religious!
The saint went to Marseilles in 1605, to receive a legacy of five hundred crowns which had been left him by a friend who died in that city. Intending to return to Toulouse, he set out in a feluca or large boat from Marseilles to Narbonne, but was met on the way by three brigantines of African pirates. The infidels seeing the Christians refuse to strike their flag, charged them with great fury, and on the first onset killed three of their men, and wounded every one of the rest; Vincent received a shot of an arrow. The Christians were soon obliged to surrender. The first thing the Mahometans did was to cut the captain in pieces because he had not struck at the first summons, and in the combat had killed one of their men and four or five slaves. The rest they put in chains; and continued seven or eight days longer on that coast, committing several other piracies, but sparing the lives of those who made no resistance. When they had got a sufficient booty they sailed for Barbary. Upon landing they drew up an act of their seizure, in which they falsely declared that Vincent and his companions had been taken on board of a Spanish vessel, that the French consul might not challenge them. Then they gave to every slave a pair of loose breeches, a linen jerkin, and a bonnet. In this garb they were led five or six times through the city of Tunis to be shown; after which they were brought back to their vessel, where the merchants came to see them, as men do at the sale of a horse or an ox. They examined who could eat well, felt their sides, looked at their teeth to see who were of scorbutic habits of body, consequently unlikely for very long life; they probed their wounds, and made them walk and run in all paces, lift up burdens, and wrestle, to judge of their strength. Vincent was bought by a fisherman, who, finding that he could not bear the sea, soon sold him again to an old physician, a great chemist and extractor of essences, who had spent fifty years in search of the pretended philosopher’s stone. He was humane, and loved Vincent exceedingly; but gave him long lectures on his alchemy, and on the Mahometan law, to which he used his utmost efforts to bring him over; promising on that condition to leave him all his riches, and to communicate to him, what he valued much more than his estate, all the secrets of his pretended science. Vincent feared the danger of his soul much more than all the hardships of his slavery, and most earnestly implored the divine assistance against it, recommending himself particularly to the intercession of the Blessed Virgin, to which he ever after attributed his victory over this temptation. He lived with this old man from September 1605 to August 1606, when, by this physician’s death, he fell to the share of a nephew of his master, a true man-hater. By resignation to the divine will, and confidence in providence, he enjoyed a sweet repose in his own heart under all accidents, hardships and dangers; and by assiduous devout meditation on the sufferings of Christ, learned to bear all his afflictions with comfort and joy, uniting himself in spirit with his Divine Redeemer, and studying to copy in himself his lessons of perfect meekness, patience, silence and charity. This new master sold him in a short time to a renegado Christian who came from Nice in Savoy. This man sent him to his temat or farm situate in a hot desert mountain. This apostate had three wives, of which one, who was a Turkish woman, went often to the field where Vincent was digging, and out of curiosity would ask him to sing the praises of God. He used to sing to her with tears in his eyes, the psalm, Upon the rivers of Babylon, &c., the Salve Regina, and such like prayers. She was so much taken with our holy faith, and doubtless with the saintly deportment of the holy slave, that she never ceased repeating to her husband, that he had basely abandoned the only true religion, till, like another Caiphas, or ass of Balaam, without opening her own eyes to the faith, she made him enter into himself. Sincerely repenting of his apostacy, he agreed with Vincent to make their escape together. They crossed the Mediterranean sea in a small light boat which the least squall of wind would overset; and they landed safe at Aigues-Mortes, near Marseilles, on the 28th of June, 1607, and thence proceeded to Avignon. The apostate made his abjuration in the hands of the vice-legate, and the year following went with Vincent to Rome, and there entered himself a penitent in the austere convent of the Fate-Ben-Fratelli, who served the hospitals according to the rule of St. John of God.
Saint Vincent de Paul, oremus!!