Vincent de Paul (April 24, 1581 – September 27, 1660) was a Catholic priest dedicated to serving the poor. He was born in Landes, Gascony, France, to a peasant family and studied theology at Toulouse. He was ordained in 1600, remaining in Toulouse until he went to Marseille. In 1605, on his way back from Marseille, he was taken captive by Turkish pirates, who brought him to Tunis and sold him into slavery. After converting his owner to Christianity, Vincent de Paul was freed in 1607. After returning to France, he went to Rome to continue studying until 1609, when he was sent back to France to serve as chaplain to Marguerite de Valois. For a while he was parish priest at Clichy; in 1612, he served the Gondi family. He began to give himself almost completely to charitable works, giving peasant missions on the estate. In 1622 he was appointed chaplain to the galleys and in this capacity gave missions for the galley-slaves. He founded the Congregation of the Mission, and with Louise de Marillac he also founded the Sisters of Charity, the first congregation of women caring for the sick and poor outside of the convent. During his lifetime, the Lazarists or Vincentians increased in numbers and spread across the world. Throughout his long years of service to the poor, Vincent stood as the conscience of the kingdom, in spite of the opposition from the wealthy at that time and often also from the poor, who lacked appreciation. In 1705, the Superior-General of the Lazarists requested that the process of his canonization be instituted. On August 13, 1729, Vincent was declared Blessed by Pope Benedict XIII. He was canonized nearly eight years later by Pope Clement XII on June 16, 1737. In 1885, Pope Leo XIII named him as patron to the Sisters of Charity. He is also patron to the Brothers of Charity. His heart is still incorrupt and is displayed in a reliquary in the chapel of the motherhouse of the Sisters of Charity in Paris. In 1737, his feast day was included in the Roman Calendar as July 19, because his day of death was already used for the feast of Saints Cosmas and Damian.
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