BICENTENNIAL HOMILY SEPT 26/27/2020
THEME: Let us Continue to Imitate God’s Generosity Like St. Vincent de Paul Did.
Vincent de Paul was born into a peasant family on April 24, 1581, in France. He was ordained a priest at 19. He came to the conclusion that helping others was more important than helping himself. In 1617 Vincent became chaplain to the galley slaves. He was concerned for all the peasants on the general’s properties because of the terrible conditions in which they lived.
By 1625 he had influenced a number of young men, some of them priests, to join him in forming a religious group to be called the Congregation of the Mission (Vincentians). Vincent and his friends worked with the poor people of the countryside near Paris, helping them obtain food and clothing and teaching them about Christ.
Vincent formed associations of wealthy lay people in Paris, persuading them to dedicate some of their time and money to helping the poor. He started several hospitals, including one in Marseilles for convicts sentenced to the galleys. Several times he was asked to act as a mediator in the wars of religion that were tearing France apart.
With Louise de Marillac, he started the first religious group of women dedicated entirely to works of charity outside the cloister, a group called the Daughters of Charity.
Vincent was a man of action rather than of theory. The religious spirit he communicated was simple, practical and straightforward. He looked to Christ as his leader and tried to translate the Gospel message into concrete results.
He died on Sept. 27, 1660, and was canonized a saint in the Roman Catholic Church in 1737. The religious groups he founded continue to carry on his work. Saint Vincent De Paul is renowned for his kindness and generosity.
It is possible that Saint Vincent De Paul was chosen to be the Patron Saint of the Diocese of Richmond because many of the communities were poor and needed a Vincentian care. Hence, the Daughters of Charity, Co-founded by Saint Vincent De Paul, founded Saint Mary’s School and Orphan Asylum in Norfolk, in 1848.
Over time, several institutions in the Diocese were named after St. Vincent de Paul: Schools, orphanages; De Paul Medical Center in Norfolk, which is the first Catholic Hospital in Virginia, established in 1855, Catholic Charities (1922), etc.
Preaching the Gospel by words and works is the hallmark of the Diocese of Richmond. Since the foundation of the Diocese, Bishops, priests, Deacons, Religious and Laity have been at the forefront of serving those most in need. “Ministering to those afflicted with Yellow Fever, providing medical care to injured soldiers from both armies during the Civil War and Educating African American children when no one else would, the Catholic community’s Gospel witness combined faith and works.,” so writes Bishop Knestout in Catholic Virginian of September 21, 2020, page 2.
He adds that “over the last six months, Commonwealth Catholic Charities spent $ 1 million helping people, especially those impacted by COVID-19 and day in and day out, our parishes continue to provide this witness through meal programs and food and clothing distribution, promoting justice, offering housing assistance, ministering to the incarcerated, providing counseling, pregnancy, adoption, and foster care services, aiding refugees and immigrants, caring for the disabled persons and senior citizens, supplying disaster relief, as well as through other forms of outreach.” (Ibidem + His letter of Sept 26, 2020).
Consequently, in this bicentennial celebration, the feast day of our Patron Saint, Vincent de Paul, is marked by an Octave of charitable activities beginning on September 26/27 and ending on October 4th, 2020. Each day has a special area of need: This Sunday focuses on Hunger and Homelessness; Monday: Racial Justice; Tuesday: Addiction; Wednesday: Youth; Thursday: Care for Creation; Friday: The Incarcerated; Saturday: The Sick and Dying;
Sunday: Displaced Persons (immigrants, refugees, and Asylum Seekers). Each one of us is encouraged to look for the needy in those areas and help them.
Charitable services are a tangible witness to the Gospel. Saint James reminds us that “Faith without works is dead.” (James 2:17). That is why Saint Vincent de Paul urged his companions to assist the poor in every way. “To do this is to preach the Gospel by words and work”, he said.
Pope Francis urges us to intentionally seek out and assist the poor among us. This is what Jesus did exactly. He left his comfort in heaven and came to suffer and die for the salvation of sinners. He went around teaching and curing every disease. He gives graces through his sacraments, including his body and blood for our salvation. And so he commands us: “Love one another as I have loved you.” (Jn 13:34).
And after we have done so, he will welcome us in heaven saying: “Come and possess the kingdom….I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave drink, I was naked and you clothed me, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.” (Mt 25:34-36). Let us Continue to Imitate God’s Generosity Like St. Vincent de Paul Did.