A Visual of a Saint

Homily for the Memorial of Saint Vincent de Paul
Preached on September 27, 2018 at the Archabbey Church of Our Lady of Einsiedeln, Saint Meinrad Archabbey, St. Meinrad IN
Readings: Ecclesiastes 1:2-11; Psalm 90:3-6, 12-14, 17; Luke 9:7-9

DePaulMost saints I can identify based on an emblem that they are holding in their hands: an instrument of their martyrdom or an item that calls to mind an episode in their holy lives. But, such is not the case with today’s confessor, Saint Vincent de Paul, whose iconography is my favorite for two reasons.

First, Saint Vincent de Paul is almost always never portrayed alone. He is shown, just as he can be seen in the window here in the Archabbey Church, with an orphan or a beggar. This is a saint who always shares the stained-glass limelight with the nameless poor whom he had ministered to in life. It is the same with some of my other favorite saints: I always picture John of God carrying a plague victim, Damien de Veuster caring for a leper, and Mother Teresa comforting the poorest of the poor. They are so identified with those whom they had cared for here on earth, that I can still see them interceding for the same in Heaven.

Second, Saint Vincent de Paul is always portrayed in action, right in the midst of his ministry. As soon as I hear his name, I see him leading the orphan, tending the sick, and feeding the poor. For me, his stained-glass window is a great catechetical visual: it tells me that this is a saint and this is what a saint does and that is what makes him a saint.

Sometimes I wonder what sort of image pops in people’s minds when my own name is mentioned. As I look again at the window of today’s saint, I am challenged to reflect on how I am spending the life that has been given to me, with whom and for whom I am spending it. I think to myself, if I am not doing an act of charity or a work of mercy, if I am not fulfilling God’s will for my life, or, if as a monk, I am not following the Holy Rule, then what is it that I am doing?

Qoheleth would reply that it is probably not worth much, if it is worth anything at all (cf. Eccl. 1:2).

~ by Fr. Mateo Zamora, OSB on Thursday, September 27, 2018.

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