Abelly: Book 1/Chapter 41
Index of Abelly: Book One
The Death of the Prior of Saint Lazare. Monsieur Vincent's Appreciation of Him
Monsieur Adrian Le Bon, the prior of Saint Lazare, was the instrument in God's hand, as we have said, for bringing Monsieur Vincent and his priests to Saint Lazare. Not only did he agree that Monsieur Vincent should come but rather he was insistent on the point. For more than a year he persisted in trying to convince Monsieur Vincent to accept the house and priory, even using intermediaries to persuade him. The example of the relationship between these two servants of God is perhaps unique in our times. The only conflict between the two was about who was the more virtuous: Monsieur Vincent's humility was matched by the prior's charity. The love of poverty of the one was in competition with the generosity of the other. Perhaps the only way this contest could be ended was in consideration of Monsieur Vincent's disposition to be receptive to the inspiration of God to which he was always so attentive. On this particular occasion perhaps the greatest virtue was to give in to one who might be said to be inferior to him, rather than take another course of action which would have been less advantageous to the development of the Congregation of the Mission.
The charitable prior retained his rooms in Saint Lazare, as did his religious also. It is impossible to exaggerate the satisfaction and consolation he enjoyed for the rest of his life in observing these good missionaries and especially Monsieur Vincent. For his part, Monsieur Vincent looked upon him as the benefactor and support of the missionaries living at Saint Lazare. He was shown all the respect, kindness, and assistance possible, in a spirit of sincere filial appreciation. This lasted for twenty years, until 1651 when it pleased God on the very day of Easter <Ftn: April 9.> to call this good and charitable prior to taste in heaven the fruits of his charity.
Just as Monsieur Vincent had honored, loved, and served this friend during his long life, he did so especially at his passing. He did all that a sincere love could suggest to help the prior in his last hours. He called together all the priests in the house to gather about the bed of the dying man to recite aloud during his lengthy agony the prayers for a departing soul, together with other prayers as well.
When the prior, aged seventy-five, had breathed his last, Monsieur Vincent spoke to those assembled around the bed: "Now, my brothers, our esteemed father is before God." Then, raising his eyes to heaven he prayed:
O God, may it please your goodness to apply to the soul of your servant the merits of the good works and the small services we have been able to do in the Congregation. We offer them to you, O Lord, beseeching you to apply them to his benefit. Perhaps some of you, my brothers, were in need. The prior provided for your wants. Be on guard that you never fall into the miserable sin of ingratitude towards him or the other older priests of the house, for we are like children who must respect them as our own parents. Be grateful to them for the good they have done and strive to remember the prior and pray for him. <Ftn: CED XI:155-56.>
The funeral was worthily celebrated. Monsieur Vincent himself offered many masses for his intention and had other priests do the same, both in Saint Lazare and elsewhere. He wrote to all the houses of the Congregation:
It has pleased God to make all the members of the community orphans by calling to himself our father, the prior of Saint Lazare. He departed this life on Easter day, fortified by the sacraments and in such conformity to God's will that the least trace of impatience never appeared either in his entire last sickness nor in any previous illnesses. I beg all the priests of your house to offer masses for his intention and have the brothers receive communion. <Ftn: CED IV:168-69.>
Monsieur Vincent had a fine epitaph placed in the choir of the church of Saint Lazare near the tomb of the prior as a permanent memorial. He further stipulated that on the anniversary of his death, on April 9, a solemn service in his memory was to be held in the church of Saint Lazare.
Index of Abelly: Book One