In 1617, while Vincent de Paul was chaplain to her family, he accompanied, Mme. de Gondi to her castle in Folleville. Word came that a dying peasant wished to see M. Vincent. Vincent hurried to the man’s bedside to hear his confession and urged him to make a general confession for all his past sins. This man was well respected and highly though of within the community but over the years had kept silent for one reason or another of the more serious sins he had committed. He poured it all out and was absolved. This man felt that had it not been for this general confession he would have been damned for eternity. So relieved was he, that he called his family to his bedside and told them his tale. Over his last 3 days, he publicly confessed his sins.
Mme. de Gondi turned to her chaplain and said, if this man, who was thought to be virtuous, was so close to damnation, then how many more souls may be lost through ignorance?
It was from this that Fr. Vincent preached, what he would later refer to as the first sermon of the mission on Wednesday 25th January, 1617. It was a simple sermon – no flowery high brow language. He spoke with a passion for his brothers about how to make a good general confession and God blessed his words and moved the hearts of those who heard him speak.
“The people, that poor good people came to confession in droves. Vincent and his assistant priest could not cope. They would have to ask the Jesuits of Amiens to help. Mme. de Gondi undertook to arrange this. The rector himself came and was later replaced by one of his companions Fr. Fourché. Even so they were swamped by the numbers of penitents. They repeated the sermon and exhortations in the neighbouring villages and always had the same resounding success.”
Vincent felt that this was what God wanted from him; to bring the Gospel to the poor. This was one of the founding aims of the Congregation and still continues today.