Missionary Saints – St. Vincent de Paul

This world matters. Healing the sick; mending the wounds caused by hurtful acts; and drying the tears of those in sadness, is LOVE. The needy are difficult, at times, precisely because of their needs! Yet the love of Christ fuels us to give despite the costs. Read about a life lived in gratitude—the life of Saint Vincent de Paul.

Mission Is A Love That Cannot Be Contained.
As Catholics we believe mission originates in God. Divine Love sent the Son and Spirit into the world and Divine Love sends the Church out in every age (CCC #851). Divine love is the vigor of our missionary dynamism, “for the love of Christ urges us on” (2 Cor 5:14).

Experience of Divine Love
It was his profound experience of Divine Love that gave Saint Vincent de Paul his indefatigable zeal for mission. Abiding in Divine Love through the daily celebration of the Eucharist, frequent Confession, and a life of constant prayer was Saint Vincent’s instruction to the clergy, religious, and laity who sought to join him in a life of service to the poor. Saint Vincent took to heart Jesus’ words to His disciples, “abide in me and you will bear much fruit” (John 15:5).

A Love that Goes on Mission
For Saint Vincent de Paul abiding in Christ was for the bearing of fruit in mission. He questioned any love that did not translate into deeds. Some clergy of his day opined that the quality of their prayer experience took precedent over the needs of their people. He told them, “So very often, many outpourings of affection for God, of resting in His presence, of good feelings toward everyone and sentiments of prayers like these, although very good and very desirable, are nonetheless suspect if they do not express themselves in practical love which has real effects.” (Documents, vol.11, p. 40) Love is to be measured not only by the intensity of its yearning but by the efficacy of its results. Love for God and neighbor must be tangibly expressed.

Love Enfleshed – Eucharist!
The words of Saint Vincent compel us to move from adoring Christ in the Eucharist to adoring Him in our neighbor, particularly those in most distress. We leave God in prayer and worship to find God in mission: in the faces of the poor, the forgotten, the angry, the despondent,  the sick and the dying. In writing to the Daughters of Charity, he instructed: “We must pass, my sisters, from affective love to effective love. And that is a love which takes flesh in works of charity, service of the poor which is undertaken with joy, constancy, and tender love.” (Documents, vol. 11, p. 593) “A love which takes flesh.” Sounds familiar doesn’t it? God sent His Son to enflesh the immensity of Divine love for humanity. Likewise, Christ sends the Church forth in mission to enflesh the Love of God we have come to know and experience through Him, with Him, and in Him. And for Saint Vincent de Paul this is to be done so zealously!

Missionary Zeal
“Zeal… is made up of a genuine desire to please God and to be useful to others: zeal for extending God’s kingdom, zeal for achieving others’ salvation. Is there anything in the whole world more perfect than this? If God’s love is fire, then zeal is its flame; if God’s love is a sun, zeal is its ray. Zeal is the purest element in loving God.” (Documents, vol. 12, pp. 307-308)
True missionary zeal sets a person on fire with love of God. True missionary zeal realizes that all gifts and power come from God. True missionary zeal is humble and courageous when encountering scorn and persecution. True missionary zeal seeks to touch the wounds of suffering people directly, not from a distance or just with pithy words. True missionary zeal does not manipulate or patronize but dignifies those being served by engaging them in meeting their own needs, the needs of their community and thus building God’s kingdom together. True missionary zeal nurtures, energizes, empowers. True missionary zeal sees the poor as our masters, their needs taking precedent over our own. True missionary zeal has its origin in Divine Love. True missionary zeal is a love that cannot be contained. Thank you, God for giving us an example of true missionary zeal in Saint Vincent de Paul!

Saint Vincent de Paul – An Unusual Patron for Benedictines
People regularly ask which Saint Vincent is the patron of the Benedictine Archabbey in Latrobe, Pennsylvania.  This is a good question, because Saint Vincent de Paul was not a Benedictine and has likely never been the patron of a Benedictine monastery.

Historical reasons
When Father Boniface Wimmer, O.S.B. arrived in America in 1846, Bishop Michael O’Connor invited him to be pastor of Saint Vincent de Paul parish in what is today Latrobe, Pennsylvania (then part of the newly erected Diocese of Pittsburgh).  Originally established in 1790 as the first mission west of the Allegheny mountains, the parish was long known simply as Sportsman’s Hall.  When a new parish church was dedicated by Bishop Kenrick on July 19, 1835–then the feast day of Saint Vincent de Paul—the bishop officially placed the parish under his patronage. When the new pastor, Father Wimmer established his Benedictine foundation, he maintained the patronage of Saint Vincent de Paul and a unique association between Saint Vincent de Paul and Saint Benedict was formed.  You can read more about this history on the parish website (

God’s reasons
While the historical events provide a certain explanation, it is good to step back and wonder why God chose to place this Archabbey under the patronage of Saint Vincent de Paul.  Looking more closely at the life of Saint Vincent de Paul we can propose several reasons.  One reason is that this Benedictine Congregation was destined for extensive missionary outreach.  You can read more about Saint Vincent de Paul’s missionary zeal here (LINK Helene’s article).  Another reason is that Saint Vincent de Paul labored to form the clergy: he formed a religious order (the Congregation of the Mission) that worked in the newly established seminaries in France and offered retreats for clergy throughout France.  Father Boniface Wimmer likewise founded the 4th oldest Seminary in the United States. Saint Vincent Seminary in Latrobe has formed generations of priests since its establishment in 1846.

A unique combination
What do you get when you mix Saint Vincent and Saint Benedict??  God has done something new at the Archabbey in Latrobe by placing it duly under the patronage of Saint Vincent de Paul and Saint Benedict.  Saint Vincent de Paul inspires an outward focus on mission and formation, driven by the love of Christ.  Saint Benedict inspires worship and stability in community, also founded on the love of Christ.  This powerful combination that God invented in 1846 has faithfully served the Church in her mission to save souls.   Through the regular liturgical prayer of the divine office that provides the gravitational center of community life, a holy place has been cultivated in Latrobe, Pennsylvania.  This holy place is a force for evangelization in itself as countless college students, retreatants, oblates, seminarians, retreatants and guests have discovered the peace of Christ through their time on its grounds. This place has also served as a furnace that has forged and fostered missionary zeal in the monks who have vowed stability to the Archabbey.

The Institute for Ministry Formation
In both mission and formation, the newly established Institute for Ministry Formation (IMF) at Saint Vincent Seminary continues the work of Saint Vincent de Paul and Saint Benedict. The IMF forms the lay faithful through retreats, workshops, courses, conferences and spiritual direction, helping them to fall in love with Christ and go out on mission.  The IMF also supports the work of Saint Vincent Seminary in providing formation for seminarians and ongoing formation for priests, helping them to be more like Saint Vincent de Paul.  Recently, the IMF formed an outreach called STEP4ward to accompany pastors in the work of transformational change in their parishes.  The IMF can only do all of this because of the foundation of the Benedictine monastic community and the network of prayer and support that has gathered around this community over the past 174 years.  Please continue to be a part of this great mission that God has put together at the Benedictine Archabbey of Saint Vincent de Paul!