Saint Vincent Strambi born Vincent Dominic Salvatoro Strambi was a Catholic Bishop who was a member of the Passionist Congregation, born at Civitavecchia, Italy January 1 1745; died Rome, Italy January 1 1824. Canonised by Pope Pius XII in 1950. His feast is September 24.
Born to Joseph and Elenora Strambi on January 1 1745, Vincent was the youngest of four children, though his three elder siblings would all die in childhood. His father was a pharmacist known for his charitable works and his mother was noted for her sanctity. Vincent was a troublesome child who excelled in athletics and who, in his teenage years, became more devout. Educated by the Friars Minor he taught his fellow students the Catechism. Despite initial resistance from his parents, Vincent entered the seminary and began his studies for the priesthood in November 1762. At seminary he became attracted to the religious life but because of his frailty he was refused admission to both the Capuchins and the Vincentians. Noted for his oratorical gifts he was sent to Rome to study Sacred Eloquence and thereafter continued his theological studies with the Dominicans at Viterbo. Whilst still a student he was appointed Prefect of the seminary at Montefiascone and thereafter acting-Rector of the seminary at Bagnorea.
Before his ordination to the priesthood Vincent made a retreat at the monastery of Vetralla. The monastery belonged to the Passionist Congregation and it was here that Vincent met the Congregation’s founder Saint Paul of the Cross. Impressed by the devotion of the Passionists he asked Paul to be admitted to the Order. Feeling that Vincent did not have the stamina for Passionist life, Paul refused him.
Vincent was ordained priest in December 1767 and then returned to Rome to further his theological studies, here he was noted for his study of Saint Thomas Aquinas. He still felt called to the Passionist Congregation and made several trips to see Paul to beg to be admitted into the Congregation. In September 1768 Paul finally agreed and Vincent became a novice, taking the name Vincent Mary of St. Paul. Making his profession as a Passionist the following year, Vincent continued to further his studies, especially of the Church Fathers and Scripture.
Preaching missions has always been part of the Passionist charism and Vincent preached many such missions, drawing large crowds by his preaching. On several occasions Vincent preached before cardinals and bishops. In 1773 Vincent was appointed Professor of Theology at the Passionist house in Rome, SS John and Paul, and it was here that he was present at the death of Paul of the Cross. Thereafter Vincent was appointed to several high offices in the Congregation, serving as Rector of the Roman house and Provincial of the Roman Province. In 1784 he was relieved of his duties for a short while to write the biography of Paul of the Cross, the biography was later published in London with a preface by Blessed Dominic Barberi. The invasion of the Papal States by Napoleon and the anti-Catholic decrees that followed forced Vincent to flee Rome in 1798 and in May 1799 Vincent was taken prisoner by the French forces, though he returned to Rome later that year.
After the death of Pope Pius VI, Vincent was nominated for the Papacy by his friend Cardinal Antonelli and even received a number of votes. In July 1801 Vincent was appointed Bishop of Macerata and Tolentino, becoming the first bishop coming from the Passionist order; this required him to leave the Passionist monastery. He was consecrated bishop at SS John and Paul in Rome. Though a bishop Vincent continued to practice the austerities of Passionist life and continued to wear the habit in private. As bishop Vincent was greatly concerned for the needs of the poor, even begging on their behalf. He also had a great care for the education of the priests of his diocese and paid close attention to the teaching in the seminaries. His charitable works included the establishment of orphanages and homes for the aged.
In 1809 Napoleon issued a decree annexing Macerata as part of the French Empire. Despite orders from the French to have this decree read in all churches, Vincent refused. In a similar action he also refused to provide the French with a list of all the men in his diocese that would be suitable for military service. In September 1808 Vincent was placed under arrest for refusing to take the oath of allegiance to the French invaders and was then exiled to Mantua.
Vincent returned to his diocese four years later in 1814. His return was met by crowds who lined the route of his journey. Pope Pius VII, returning from his own exile, visited Vincent and remarked,
“This holy man overwhelms me.”
The invaders had left much damage in their wake, not only the destruction of building and churches, but the creation of lax morality. Vincent work hard to rebuild the lives of his people and priests.
In 1817 the French returned to Macerata where they set up their headquarters from where they would attack the Austrians. The people turned to Vincent for fear of what the French would do. He gathered priests and seminarians in his private chapel to pray and after one and a half hours in prayer he rose and declared that Macerata would be saved through the intercession of the Virgin Mary. The French were indeed defeated, though the local people feared what they would do during their retreat. Vincent met with the leader of the French army and begged him not to enter the town, Murat agreed. Vincent then secured the assurances of the Austrian generals that they would not slaughter the French soldiers.
Vincent was now nearing his eightieth year and in 1823 Pope Leo XII gave him permission to retire. He was then appointed the Pope’s personal advisor and took up residence at the Quirinal Palace. It was during his time in this office that Napoleon’s sister, Pauline, returned to the Catholic faith with Vincent’s guidance. When the pope fell ill Vincent asked God that his life should be taken rather than that of the Pope. The Pope recovered and Vincent died a few days later on his 79th birthday, January 1 1824. His body lay in state at the Quirinal and was then buried in SS John and Paul.
Vincent was beatified by Pope Pius XI in 1925 and canonized by Pope Pius XII in 1950. In November 1957 his relics was transferred from SS John and Paul to the Church of Saint Phillip in Macerata.