Abelly: Book 1/Chapter 48
Index of Abelly: Book One
Other Works of Piety in Which Monsieur Vincent was Involved Besides His Usual Duties
People well acquainted with Monsieur Vincent, aware of his zeal and the many opportunities brought about by divine Providence to exercise this virtue, can truly say that for thirty or forty years there were few important works of piety or charity especially in Paris in which he did not play some part by his advice or cooperation.
The house of Saint Lazare was a sort of magnet drawing anyone wanting to begin some new venture in service to the Church. Here Monsieur Vincent could be found to advise, help, or offer the cooperation needed for success.
This great servant of God was consulted almost continually by various people anxious to become involved in charitable works. His concerns were not confined to Paris, which alone would have given him ample scope for his work, but extended to many other places as well. He received many letters, some from people totally unknown to him, but who had heard of his virtue and especially his charity. This often gave them confidence to write. Besides the ordinary meetings he held at Saint Lazare at least three times a week, which he was most faithful in attending, he was often called to other meetings, whether of the bishops, theologians, or religious superiors, or others, of all sorts and types. Sometimes these meetings were held to resolve some pressing problem or to organize some activity, or to bring a remedy to a difficulty. In short, they sought to find a way to further the glory of God and the good of dioceses, communities, or families.
He was called upon to help restore peace within several religious houses, whether of men or of women, or to intervene in disputes and even lawsuits between individuals or entire communities.
His charity urged him to visit the sick or sorrowing. Sometimes he was invited, and other times he went of his own accord to extend his sympathy or consolation.
He was in charge of the houses of the Visitation of Saint Mary, established in Paris and Saint Denis as we have shown in an earlier chapter of this book. <Ftn: Ch. 16.> He took this obligation seriously, making periodic visitations and looking after all the spiritual needs of the sisters.
To all the foregoing we must add his constant solicitude for the welfare of all the houses of the Congregation. He received many letters every day from all over which he was obliged to answer. Despite all his duties and the unusual interruptions to his routine, he regularly arose at 4:00 A.M. He went to the church where he remained for nearly three hours, sometimes longer, to make his mental prayer, offer mass, and recite part of the breviary. He was remarkable for the serenity of soul in his preparation and in his thanksgiving after mass. No matter what the press of business he never shortened this period of prayer, or if he did so rarely, it was because of some extraordinary circumstance.
During the day he was overwhelmed with visitors, but evenings were reserved for interviews with those living with him. He listened to each one with great kindness and with such attention, as though he had nothing else to do. He had to go out on errands of charity nearly every day, sometimes twice a day, from which he returned late. As soon as he got back he would fall on his knees for the recitation of the office. He recited it always in this posture when was home, as long as his health permitted. Afterwards he received those in the house who wished to speak to him, then he would read the daily correspondence or attend to other business. All this forced him to retire late, but he remained faithful to his usual hour of rising, provided he was not sick or indisposed.
Every year he was careful to make a spiritual retreat, despite all other preoccupations he had. He was persuaded before all else to look to his own salvation and the sanctification of his soul. He encouraged others in this same practice to which he was so faithful, both to help them by his own example or to stimulate himself to continue faithful. He wished to draw from the heart of God the light, strength, and graces necessary to accomplish worthily all the great enterprises he was responsible for. In this he imitated Moses of old. Among all the cares of leading a whole nation, he had no more secure place of refuge than the sanctuary where he was secure from the importunities of the people. Here he could devote himself to pleading before God for the people for his divine help and protection.
This is how the days and years passed for this great servant of God. We can truthfully say, in the language of Holy Scripture, that his days were full. Indeed they were full. We should even say they overflowed with his virtues and merits.
Whoever would cast a glance at the countless works of charity, which God inspired Monsieur Vincent to initiate and which continue to this day, cannot help being impressed. The houses of the Congregation of the Mission set up in so many places. The countless missions given, the seminaries where his priests labored, the retreats for ordinands, conferences and retreats which contributed so much to the development of the clergy and the laity, the founding of the Daughters of Charity, the establishment of the Confraternities of Charity in so many city and country parishes, the activities of the Ladies of Charity in favor of all sorts of good works, the creation of hospitals, the care of the abandoned poor, especially in the provinces overrun by war--whoever, I say, considers all these activities must realize that no one could possibly do all this. The hand of God was ever with his faithful servant to bring about these works of mercy.
Although all glory is due to God who ever remains the first and principal author of all good, we must honor and esteem his gifts and graces in his servants, who have cooperated so faithfully in his goodness. Although we confidently affirm that Monsieur Vincent was so worthy of esteem and praise, in his own eyes he was the unworthy servant. When he was congratulated for initiating so many marvelous works of mercy, his humility led him to answer that he was the vile and contemptible mud that God formed into the bricks used in building his kingdom.
Index of Abelly: Book One