The Branding of a Lifetime: Weekly Message for 9-25-2018

Dear Friends in Christ,

In a few days we’ll be celebrating the feast of St. Vincent de Paul, and when you Google his name, his biography doesn’t even come up. His name is associated with thrift stores, societies, rent aid, and help for the poor. Just as Our Lord emptied himself (see Philippians 2:7) for our salvation, St. Vincent de Paul gave of himself for the poor and for those in spiritual need. It’s a “branding” that would make the most jaded marketer or self-promoter envious. St. Vincent de Paul is synonymous today with a way to help the poor or receive help. I’ll always remember the day I was preparing to enter the seminary and the St. Vincent de Paul truck backed up to my cul-de-sac to take the things I once treasured to the thrift store so that the poor would have a chance to benefit from them too.

St. Vincent de Paul started with nothing in a French village, born in 1581. He was taught by Franciscans and did so well he was invited to tutor the children of a nearby wealthy family. After studying theology at the University of Toulouse he was ordained a priest in 1600. While traveling from Marseilles to Narbone by a ship in 1605 he was enslaved (that is not a typo) and taken to Tunis to be sold as a slave, escaping two years later. He eventually arrived in Rome and became the chaplain of the Count of Goigny, in charge of giving money to the poor. His true passion was giving the poor relief, preaching to them, helping them, and building hospitals for them. He didn’t stop with the poor; soon he was also ministering to convicts. He would grow his ministry, so needed, into a lay institute of women to help him (the Ladies of Charity), a religious institute of priests (the Congregation of Priests of the Mission, now called the Vincentians), programs for the formation and reformation of clergy, and an institute of women religious (the Daughters of Charity, co-founded with St. Louise de Marillac).

Coaches in personal branding will tell you the important thing is to position yourself strategically so that you and your career stand out and are recognized. One thing about that is true: your attitude and your actions are the building block of your reputation, for good or ill. If history remembers you at all it will be to either praise you or curse you. Let’s take a lesson from St. Vincent de Paul’s playbook: he didn’t care about his “brand”; he cared about serving others, and for that his brand was recognized where it really counts: Heaven.  

May your name be written in Heaven too.

Father Nikola Derpich, L.C.

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