The Meekness of Preachers

St. Vincent de Paul, also, was accustomed, even in preaching; to speak with the greatest suavity and gentleness, so that he infused into the minds of his bearers, especially the poor, such confidence in himself, and such readiness to follow his directions, that after a sermon, they would often run after him, and entreat him with tears, in the midst of the crowd, to hear their confessions, in which they revealed to him, with great frankness, the most hidden wounds of their souls, that they might receive from him a remedy.

He once committed a great sinner to the care of one of his priests, that he might do what he could to bring him to repentance. The priest soon found that whatever he said had no effect upon that obstinate heart, and he therefore entreated the Saint to say something himself. He did so, and with such efficacy that he converted him.

The sinner afterwards acknowledged that it was the singular sweetness and charity of the Saint, which had gained his heart, and that he had never heard any person speak of God as he did. For this reason the Saint would not permit his missionaries to treat penitents with austerity and harshness; he told them that it was necessary to encourage repentant sinners, and that the infernal spirit ordinarily makes use of rigor and bitterness, on the part of priests, to lead souls more astray than ever.

He used the same method in the conversion of heretics, and succeeded by it in converting many, who afterwards confessed that they had been gained to God by his great patience and cordiality. The Saint explained this when he said: “You see, when one begins to argue with another, the latter easily persuades himself that he wishes to conquer him, and therefore is more prepared to resist than to embrace the truth; so that the contest, instead of disposing his mind to conversion, rather closes his heart, which, on the contrary, remains open to sweetness and affability.”

When St. Francis Xavier was preaching in Macao to a great multitude of people, some of the mob threw stones at him. He went on without the least sign of resentment, and he made more conversions in this way than by his preaching.

Text from A Year With the Saints (New York: P.J. Kenedy & Sons, 1891).

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