The Life of Vincent de Paul (Abelly): Book I, Chapter XI

Francisco Javier Fernández ChentoVincent de PaulLeave a Comment

Author: Louis Abelly · Translator: William Quinn. · Year of first publication: 1664.
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The Conversion of Several Heretics whom Monsieur Vincent Brought Back to the Catholic Church

While Monsieur Vincent was at Chatillon, God used his zeal and prudence to influence several people who had fallen into heresy. He was able to bring them back to the path of truth.

We will recount here the events surrounding the conversion of only two of these heretics. They owed their conversion, after God, to the zeal of Monsieur Vincent. He was responsible for their regaining the gift of faith which they had lost in their defection from the Church.

The first was a young man from Chatillon named Monsieur Beynier, born into a family that had instructed him thoroughly in their heretical doctrines. He was an only son and had inherited a sizable estate from his parents. Under the evil liberty of his false religion, however, he led a dissolute and scandalous life. Monsieur Vincent, moved by his zeal for the glory of God, wished earnestly to snatch this prey from the hands of the devil, to return him to Jesus Christ. Little by little he gained the friendship of this young man, despite his reputation for leading a debauched life. He often visited him and engaged him in conversation, much to everyone’s astonishment. In so doing, he aroused the jealousy of the Protestant pastors of the locality. They were indifferent to his dissolute life as long as he remained committed to their religious sect.

These pastors began to object when they noticed that he was becoming more reserved than before. This was the first step recommended by Monsieur Vincent to help him recognize and embrace the truth. Finally, at a time willed by God, his eyes were opened and his heart moved. He abandoned both his life of debauchery and his heresy. He gave himself so completely to the practice of the Christian virtues that he resolved to embrace perpetual celibacy. He even forgave the debt of two or three persons whom he felt his father had treated fairly, although they had not registered any complaint on this score. As for the rest of his worldly goods, he used them as a source of alms and other pious works. As a legacy he endowed several religious houses, particularly the foundation of the Capuchin Fathers at Chatillon. We owe the following account to Father Desmoulins of the Oratory who was well aware of these events, since he was superior in Macon at the time.

What appeared most remarkable in this conversion of morals and beliefs is the part played by Monsieur Vincent, whom God used for the purpose (these are his exact words.) Monsieur Vincent assigned all the credit to those who had merely received the abjuration and given absolution. He could have claimed this honor for himself, following the suggestion of Archbishop de Marquemont of Lyons, were it not that his personal humility preferred it be assigned to others. 1

The second heretic Monsieur Vincent regained for the Church was Monsieur Garron, who later moved to the capital city of Bresse. We learn of his conversion from a letter of thanks he wrote to Monsieur Vincent dated August 27, 1656, some forty years after his conversion.

Behold, one of your children in Jesus Christ again has recourse to your paternal goodness. He benefited from it before when he was engendered in the Church by your absolution from heresy in the church of Chatillon-les-Dombes in 1617. You taught me the principles and the beautiful maxims of the Apostolic, Roman Catholic religion. By God’s mercy I have persevered in it, and I hope to remain in it for the rest of my life. I am that little Jean Garron, nephew of Monsieur Beynier of Chatillon, in whose house you stayed while you were there. Please give me some advice now to help me carry out God’s designs. I have an only son who, now that his schooling is ended, has decided to become a Jesuit. This son is blessed above all others in this province in worldly goods, but I do not know what to do. 2

He presented reasons for and against this proposition and finally concluded: “I am afraid of erring in this matter. I beg of you most humbly to advise one of your children what course to follow. You will be happy to know that the pious association of charity for the sick poor is still alive in Chatillon.” 3

We do not know what Monsieur Vincent said in response to this letter. Its contents nevertheless confirm our opinion that God had given him the grace of discerning hearts, teaching the truth, and inspiring the love of true virtue and solid piety. Here is a father of one of the richest families of his province. His only beloved son wished to leave home and deprive him of one of the greatest of human consolations. He did not listen to flesh and blood but turned to him, to whom, after God, he owed the life of his soul, to ascertain God’s will in this matter. He was ready, if it proved to be the divine will, to sacrifice his Isaac, so deeply had Monsieur Vincent planted piety and the love of God in his soul that its growth forty years later produced such heroic fruit.

This same letter was, no doubt, a source of great joy to Monsieur Vincent. It let him learn in his old age that God by his grace had preserved this first Association or Confraternity of Charity which he had begun forty years before in Chatillon. It had been an inspiration and model for the establishment of many others in various places where the sick poor, suffering members of Jesus Christ, could receive such gracious help for both body and soul.

  1. Denis de Marquemont, archbishop of Lyons, 1612-1626. CED XIII:494.
  2. Saint Vincent was responsible also for the conversion of Garron’s three brothers.CED XIII:49,51.
  3. CED III:29.

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