St. Vincent de Paul was a French Roman Catholic priest, who dedicated himself to serving the poor. He was renowned for his compassion, humility and generosity.
I am what someone in Pune would call a Vincentian. This is because I have had the privilege of studying for 12 years at St. Vincent’s High School and Junior College which is one of the best schools in Pune. It is because of this that I’ve had a good exposure to Jesuits, the life and teachings of St. Ignatius of Loyola and St. Vincent De Paul. There are plenty of articles detailing the life and works of St. Vincent de Paul; however, this isn’t one of them. Rather, I would like to talk about the virtues of St. Vincent.
Simplicity: We are called to lead a life without any sort of manipulations and speaking without double meanings or agendas. Basically, it means we should be transparent and truthful in everything we do and speak with the goal of only pleasing God and not others. This is where the motto of the Jesuits really strikes me, ‘Ad majorem Dei gloriem’ which translates as, ‘For the greater glory of God’.
The office of simplicity is to make us go straight to God, without regard to human respect or our own interests. It leads us to tell things candidly and just as they exist in our hearts. It leads us to act simply, without admixture of hypocrisy and artifice…and, finally, keeps us at a distance from every kind of deceit and double-dealing. – St. Vincent de Paul
I often struggle with slander and gossip and when I reflect on this I realize that no matter how angry I am, it is not my place or calling to slander someone no matter how much they have hurt me and some things are better left discrete.
In human life, prudence is indeed necessary, that we may be circumspect in our actions and know how to adapt ourselves to the dispositions of others. – St. Vincent de Paul
Humility: This virtue has many definitions, but for us Christians, it means that we are dependent on God and know that all things good in our lives flow from Him for which we should be grateful. It is this quality that lets us go more than halfway to meet the needs of others. It is this virtue that helps us reach out to the poor and less privileged.
In recent years I’ve grown a lot in this virtue, however back in college, I used to think I was smarter and better than the rest. I had forgotten that my mind and talents were a gift from God, and because of this pride, I was brought really low.
Recently, a friend and I had gone to the Phoenix mall in Pune and entered an elevator. There was a young boy who was operating it. My friend and I struck up a conversation with him, asking him his name, his shift timings and other trivial stuff. The best thing that I noted about this boy, Harsh, is his cheerfulness and humility. He has a constant smile on his face while opening the doors for the customers and is extremely polite. The next time that I went to the mall I was alone, and out of all the elevators, I again entered the one he was operating and the fact that he remembered me really made my day. I thanked him when I was leaving the elevator and gave him a friendly pat on his shoulder and the ‘welcome’ that he shouted out with a smile kept me buoyant for the rest of the evening.
This is where our humility comes into action. How many of us notice the people who we feel are below us in stature? Many of them would not want charity in the form of money or food but a smile and a kind word of appreciation will do wonders for them.
Mortification: It also means self-control. Control in our passions and pleasures so that we don’t overdo them. Recently I read an article on self-control based on this same saint where it explained that we should exercise self-control not only on our external senses, (sight, smell, taste, hearing and touch) with sight and touch being more prominent but also our inner senses of the brain like memory and willpower which will help us overcome our underlying passions.
I read a lot of novels. I have finished books in one sitting with just copious amounts of coffee without regard for time and other duties. Because of this, many times my studies have suffered. It took a really long time for me to break this habit and at times I still struggle to get through a month without reading at least one book, though with better time management. An improved personal prayer life and asking the Holy Spirit for help has helped me develop better self-control in this as well as in other unproductive things. Better yet, I have started reading spiritual books.
Meekness: This virtue lets us handle anger positively without suppressing it but expressing it appropriately. It helps us to be forgiving when offended and understand others weaknesses. It helps us not to take revenge and be resentful of the character and behavior of another. Patience which is one of the forms of meekness helps us endure present evils or some unpleasantness without any self-pity.
St. Vincent asked God to change his heart:
“Grant me a kindly and benign spirit…”
This is the one virtue that I have really struggled with because of my temper. Skinny little me had plenty of fistfights in school. Even the smallest things would make me angry and I would lash out. I’m glad to say I have come a long way with the help of the Holy Spirit. He has helped me to forgive people and not hold on to grudges and take revenge.
Zeal: As Christians, we are called to have zeal i.e. great passion in the service of God and his people. Zeal is to be inventive in one’s love and to be resourceful in expressing it for others. We in the CFCI family are called to have the zeal to save souls, the same zeal that St. Vincent De Paul showed in saving souls through confessions and prayer.
St. Vincent loved, with a burning love.
“Let us beg God to enkindle in our hearts a desire to serve him…”
Since I joined the community little over a year ago, I have tried to serve in whatever way possible in the different programs and in my own chapter. I am now been given the responsibility of a being Household Servant which has helped me improve myself so that I can be a better example to my household. I had always wanted to volunteer in the Society of St. Vincent De Paul (SSVP or SVDP) here in Pune that distributes food to poor families in the diocese but never really got into it other than just finding out the details. I guess now that I have put it in writing, I will definitely volunteer and help in the best way I can. Vincenti Dabitur!