During the past three weeks, I have been recovering from a 3.5-hour back surgery and thereby dependent on others for care and kindness. Unable to bend, lean, or twist (the BLT treatment), I relied on friends to do many of the usual household chores for me—make the bed, cook the meals, do the laundry, run errands, and drive me to appointments—as I struggled with mobility and pain. That care grew from a sense of love and hospitality that we sometimes take for granted.

  • Are you feeling down? Vincent was depressed for 3.5 years.
  • Are you a little tired? Vincent lived nearly 80 years, dying in 1660—working. When asked on his deathbed what would he have done differently with his life, his single dying word was “more.”
  • Are you disappointed with our sorry old world? Vincent spent his entire life in a time of war except for his final three months. He lived and worked through three pandemics.

Vincent wrote the common rules for members of the Congregation of the Mission and taught them how to live:

“Love, like that between brothers, should always be present among us… For this reason there should be great mutual respect, and we should get along as very dear friends…”

Vincent de Paul, Common Rules VII, 2

What do Howard Schultz of Starbucks, Steve Jobs of Apple, Walt Disney, and Bill Marriott, Jr., have in common with Vincent de Paul? They demanded excellence in serving their customers—defining ridiculously high standards and exhorting their people to exceed expectations, take swift action and strive constantly for improvement. Did Howard, Steve, Walt, and Bill learn it from Vincent? They could have.

We can all learn from Vincent—and we should. There is too much misery in this world to lack care, kindness, and hospitality. My niece sent me a get-well shirt with this quote from St. Luke: Love them anyway (23:34).

Fr. J. Patrick Murphy, C.M., Ph.D., is Emeritus Professor of Public Service at DePaul University and Values Director for Depaul International, an organization that serves homeless people in seven countries.