Saint Vincent de Paul was born in Gascony on April 24, 1581. He was the third of six children. Vincent’s parents were poor farmers and, during his early life, he worked as a shepherd. He was later sent to the nearby town of Dax where he studied with the Franciscans. Vincent also studied at the University of Toulouse.
While on a voyage after his ordination at the age of twenty, Vincent was captured by Turkish pirates. He was sold as a slave on Tunis but was able to return to France in 1607 after he supposedly converted his owner.
Upon returning to France, Vincent became the chaplain of Queen Margaret (1553-1615). At this point in his life, Vincent was not overly concerned with charitable work. In fact, he was doing all he could to gain the comforts that had been denied him during childhood.
In 1612, Vincent came in contact with the family of the Count of Joigny. He served as a tutor to the children and as the confessor and spiritual director of the Countess de Gondi. During 1617, the Countess asked him to hear the dying Confession of a nearby peasant. To his horror, he discovered that the man had never made a proper Confession in his life. He had never before realized how badly the poor needed spiritual direction.
He soon left the service of the Count and became the pastor of a small parish. He began ministering to the poor and attempted to convert the rich. During the early 1620s he began ministering to prisoners who were galley-slaves. Interestingly, the general of the galleys was the Count of Joigny.
The Countess, on the other hand, was pleased with his work and gave him enough money to start a new congregation. The Fathers of the Mission, better known as the Lazarists, are dedicated to serving the poor, the sick, and the unemployed. More recently they have opened several colleges.
During the later part of his life, Vincent collected alms to send to North Africa to ransom Christian slaves. After a bout of ill health, Saint Vincent de Paul died in Paris on September 27, 1660.
When his body was exhumed in 1712, it was found to be almost completely incorrupt. Although it has since decomposed, his heart is still intact and can be seen in the chapel of the Sisters of Charity in Paris. The bones of the saint have been encased in a wax figure that can be seen at the house of the Lazarist Fathers in Paris.
Saint Vincent de Paul was beatified on August 13, 1729 by Pope Benedict XIII (1649-1730) and was canonized on June 16, 1737 by Pope Clement XII (1652-1740). He is the patron saint of all charitable organizations. His feast day is September 27.
Source: Butler’s Lives of the Saints
Cruz, Joan Carroll “The Incorruptibles”