There’s hope for all of us! I was just reading a synopsis of St. Vincent de Paul’s life (1580 – 1660), one of the most well known saints of Christianity for his care for the poor. Vincent, the account says, “had become a priest with little more ambition than to have a comfortable life,” but had been changed by the deathbed confession of a dying servant that “opened his eyes to the crying spiritual needs of the peasantry in France.” There’s lots of evidence of his good works, commonly known, but it was a small paragraph toward the end of the account that gave me pause – and actually made me smile.
Most remarkably, it notes, 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 a tender and affectionate man, very sensitive to the needs of others.
What is it that is able to touch the heart – or the will – to soften us in such a way: the plight of others? attention to our own blessings? However it happens, it seems we ought to believe it is possible for all of us to be touched by grace and to decide for God. Perhaps it all might start, as it did for Vincent, with a willingness to listen to someone in need – and maybe the offer of a smile to invite the conversation.