Two things about St. Vincent de Paul’s life (1580-1660) were surprising to me as I read his brief biography at http://www.franciscanmedia.org this morning. First I learned that he had no burning zeal for the poor early in his life. As a matter of fact, he “became a priest whose ambition was to have a comfortable life.” Called to hear the confession of a dying servant of the Countess de Gondi, his life began to change. The Countess had convinced her husband to give a large amount of money to help the poor in their area and she finally persuaded Vincent to be in charge of the effort. It was then that he found his true calling, caring for the less fortunate, becoming founder of the Vincentian order of priests and spiritual father to the Daughters of Charity, led by Louise de Marillac.
The second comment of Fr. Don Miller in the biography was even more startling as we usually think of our saints as models of good behavior. Fr. Miller writes that Vincent was by temperament a very irascible person – even his friends admitted it. He said that, except for the grace of God, he would have been “hard and repulsive, rough and cross” but he became tender and affectionate, sensitive to others’ needs. So it seems there is hope for all of us who struggle to be kind and cheerful!
Perhaps the morale of this story is that “it’s never over till it’s over.” Experiences in life can take us places we never imagined going and we can be changed in ways we never thought possible. So we can all take heart and be on the alert for moments of grace that might be offered to us at any time!