The Life of Vincent de Paul (Abelly): Book II, Chapter XIII, Section V

Francisco Javier Fernández ChentoVincent de PaulLeave a Comment

Author: Louis Abelly · Translator: William Quinn. · Year of first publication: 1664.
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SECTION FIVE: A Remarkable Example

Among many other examples which could be cited to show the concern of Monsieur Vincent that benefices, particularly those relating to episcopacy, be conferred only upon those worthy of the office, and who might be expected to fulfill its duties fittingly, we will speak of only one. This will enable us to see the virtue and mentality of this great servant of God.

At the time, the court was not in Paris. This occasioned Cardinal Mazarin to write the following letter to Monsieur Vincent:

These few lines are to inform you that Monsieur [Mathieu Mole] hurried here, as soon as the bishopric of [Bayeux] became available, to ask the queen that it should be conferred upon his son. She was happy to comply, for he has the requisite qualities, and Her Majesty was pleased to find such a suitable opportunity to thank the father, through his son, for his past services and his zeal for the welfare of the state. The queen promised me she would write to you, and I thought I should write, to ask you to contact this young man, to give him the instructions and advice you think necessary for properly carrying out this office.1

This letter concerned Monsieur Vincent greatly, for though he greatly respected anything coming from Her Majesty or her prime minister, he knew well that this priest nominated for the bishopric did not have the qualities needed for this charge. Besides, the diocese in question, one of the largest of its province, had been neglected by its previous bishops. It now needed a pastor who would live and work for revitalizing it. This could not be hoped for in the one selected. What could the faithful and zealous servant of God do to avert this disaster?

To appeal to the queen and the cardinal was too late, for the appointment had already been made. Besides, the court was in need of the loyalty of the father. Monsieur Vincent still felt he had to do something to prevent this appointment. It would be so prejudicial to the welfare of the poor diocese and to the salvation of both the father and the son. Since he enjoyed their friendship, he believed his duty demanded that he render a charitable service for them, the more pure and impartial in that he would run the risk of losing their affection.

He went to visit the father at his own home. He showed him that his son lacked all the good qualities needed for governing the diocese, and how important it was for himself and his son not to incur the wrath of God because of the evil results of such an appointment. To convince the father that he should not proceed with this matter, he foresaw the objections likely to be raised. He responded in advance to what fatherly love was apt to suggest. This good gentleman listened attentively to these remarks, saying he agreed with what had been said. He even thanked Monsieur Vincent for his trouble, promising he would give the matter further consideration.

Several days later Monsieur Vincent returned to his home on some other business and met with these words: “O Monsieur, O Monsieur Vincent, what sleepless nights you have caused me.” He then spoke in detail of his house and its affairs, his advanced age, the number of his children and the obligation he was under to look to their settlement before he died, not to leave them unprovided for. He pointed out that his son would have virtuous and learned priests working with him, who would enable him to fulfill his duties as bishop. For all these reasons he felt that he had done well to obtain this appointment for him.

Monsieur Vincent had already spoken against all such human considerations, and said nothing more, leaving events in the care of divine Providence. Shortly after, God showed clearly how displeasing this whole episode was to him. He called from this world the new bishop, so recently elevated to this dignity. The father was left with the regret that he had not followed the advice given by Monsieur Vincent.2

  1. CED II:563-64.
  2. Edouard Mole, bishop from June 22, 1647 to April 6, 1652.

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