Although his mission of charity to the poor is probably most familiar, Vincent himself recognized another, equally important, responsibility – to train priests. It is this second calling which has earned him the title of “Light of the Clergy.”

St. Vincent de Paul has earned the title, “the Father of the Poor and the Light of the Clergy.” His love for the persons of his generation was intelligently planned, effective, and boundless. As a bearer of God’s love for the world, Vincent was especially tender and compassionate. To the priesthood, he gave himself unreservedly, because it is through the instrument of the priests, that the human race becomes the recipient of God’s truth and His life. Priests proclaim the Gospel message under the guidance of the Church’s teaching authority; they are channels of grace by their offering of the Eucharistic Sacrifice, by their forgiving sin in the name of Jesus Christ in the Sacrament of Penance, and by their administration of the order of sacraments. Consequently, during his lifetime, St Vincent de Paul provided much evidence of his unique love for the sacred priesthood.

Kenneth F. Slattery, C.M.

NJ, Princeton, Vincent de Paul, Lux Cleri_tif

Vincent de Paul contemplates crucifix, as Lux Cleri, or "Light of the Clergy." Original in Vincentian house chapel, St. Joseph Seminary, Princeton


Among those reformers of the clergy and formators of priests in France of the 17th century, St. Vincent has a foremost role. He is not a theoretician and he has not left any dogmatic expose. The work of St. Vincent consisted in activity in the service of the baptised and of those who were also ordained.

– Raymond Facelina C.M., Province of Paris
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In Vincent’s conferences and letters, we find many of the same phrases and emphases that we discover in the writings of Bérulle, Olier, and John Eudes. They speak above all of the centrality of Christ and the need for the priest to empty himself and “put on the Lord Jesus Christ.” They encourage priests to have “religion toward God.” They are very conscious of the “exalted” role of the priest and the need for the priest to be holy.

Vincent joined these and other leaders of the time in the reform of the clergy, becoming one of its principal proponents. As was often the case with him, his view of priesthood, while influenced by his teachers, was independent of theirs, especially as he envisioned priesthood in the Congregation he founded.

– Robert P. Maloney, C.M.
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Vincent, a member of the French school, sees the priest as “a man of culture” who has to be holy in order to deal with holy things. One’s priesthood is a participation in the priesthood of the Son of God, characterized by grandeur and dignity. However, the experience of serving Christ in the person of the poor (above all, from the time of Gannes-Folleville and Châtillon-les-Dombes) brought Monsieur Vincent to another line of theological understanding, rooted in the incarnation of the Son of God. In this thought, ministry and service, charity and self-denial are more important than dignity. For Vincent, “the grandeur and dignity” of his priesthood came to be defined as effective charity in favor of the needy: “To go to God is to serve the poor.” This is what Vincent’s faith and experience taught him.

– Alvaro Quevedo Patarroyo, C.M., Province of Columbia
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For Further Reflection and Study

The Mission and Vocation of the Priest according to St. Vincent
The Intercession for Priests: Ministering to Priests in the Charism of St. Vincent, by Kevin Scallon, C.M.
Vincent and Formation
Play a Game: Test your knowledge of Vincent as Priest!

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