St. Vincent Pallotti spent his whole life in Rome during
one of the most turbulent phases of its history. The
early nineteenth century shook from the rumblings of
the French Revolution and the struggle of the masses
for national unity and self-determination. In Rome and
the Papal States, it took on a particularly anti-clerical
bent, fueled as it was by the activities of the secret
societies and the reluctance of the papal administration
to implement change.
Vincent was born in Rome on April 21st, 1795, the third
of ten children, five of whom died in infancy. His parents
were Maria Maddalena di Rossi and Pietro Paolo Pallotti,
a small goods grocer, owner of three shops in Rome.
Vincent was profoundly influenced by their personal,
practical faith, their deep devotion, and generous attentiveness
to the poor. He was aware of himself quite early --
his urge for activity and achievement, his tendency
to pride and anger.
still young, Vincent became aware of his vocation to
the priesthood. At twelve years of age he selected Fr.
Bernardino Fazzini as his confessor and spiritual director.
Fazzini, a diocesan priest, recognized in Vincent a
person of extraordinary spiritual gifts. He played a
formative role, inculcating in his young charge a profound
awareness of God, the discipline of self (according
to the ascetical practices of the time) and a readiness
for apostolic service. With clear sightedness and a
resolute will, Vincent brought an energy to his life
project, in spite of frail health and recurrent bouts
He was ordained priest at the age of twenty-three, already
experienced from years of involvement with catechists,
youth associations, ministry to peasant farmers and
the poor. Seeing how he poured himself out in a staggering
number of apostolic ventures, the ordinary people called
him the "apostle of Rome." His intuitive awareness of
the spiritual situation and his gift of eliciting help
from all classes of people led to the providential founding
of the Union of the Catholic Apostolate in 1835. The
Union was conceived as a united front, directing the
efforts of lay people, religious and clergy, and bringing
Christ's message of faith and love to people of need
in Rome and elsewhere.
Foundation, the Union of the Catholic Apostolate
The Union called all to the apostolate. Although there
had always existed in the Church a lay apostolate as
a participation by the laity in the hierarchical apostolate,
in Vincent's time this idea had almost vanished from
consciousness. Hence many considered Vincent's idea
of universal apostolate as unorthodox or, at least,
arrogant. It was suspected of renewing the Protestant
attack against the ordained priesthood. His effort,
however, was not a subversive act against authority.
In fact, he was closer to the Spirit of Vatican II which
proclaimed that the whole Church (in all its members)
was missionary. For Vincent the call to apostolate had
its fundamental basis not in hierarchical approval,
but in one's creation in the likeness of the God of
infinite love. His Union of the Catholic Apostolate,
however, was always obedient to and at the service of
Vincent remained in Rome during the 1848-49 Revolution,
in spite of attempts on his life. He died in Rome on
January 22nd, 1850. One of his students, John Spalding,
who was to become Archbishop of Baltimore, wrote of
was well known in all of Rome because of his extraordinary
holiness. His complete unselfishness was coupled with
penance. His love for all never faltered or slackened.
No difficulty, no cross, could shake his patience.
The touching trait of his character was his all-penetrating
love of God and of Jesus Christ. This love was the
driving force of all his endeavors; it was the true
life and soul of all his actions; it was the key to
his serenity, the font of his courage, and that inner
peace which spontaneously radiated from his behavior.
from Empowered by Love by Fr. Pat Jackson, SAC
Brief Biography | His
Spirituality | His
Pastoral Plan | St.
Vincent& Vatican II | The
Popes & St. Vincent | Prayer