One of the longest and as yet untranslated series of eye-witness accounts of the life of Vincent de Paul comes from Bro. Louis Robineau. He was the founder’s secretary for several years and after the saint’s death he pulled together his notes. These he arranged according the virtues that Vincent practiced, such as humility, devotion, zeal, etc. He did not write a biography, however.
André Dodin published the first transcription of the French original only in 1991, but this was later found to be quite defective. Georges Baldacchino, a confrere of the Paris province, produced a corrected version in 2002. It was based on a more careful reading of the original manuscript in Paris.
The value of Robineau’s work is that he was present when many of the actions were done or the words were spoken. A close examination of the text shows something about the brother as well as about Monsieur Vincent. Much of what he says appears nowhere else, but many of his observations have made their way into Abelly’s 1664 biography. The relationship between the two is yet to be analyzed.
I have begun to translate this work, which is about 80 typed pages. I would be happy to have one or more persons read the work, either for its accuracy or its English style. Someone could also review the work and bring to light details that are worth noting. The work is about half translated but will be finished shortly. Plans for publishing are not firm yet, but it could well be published only electronically. The important thing, it seems to me, is to make it available for anyone interested in St. Vincent.
Here is a sample of some revealing texts:
1) “Another time, after some fault that I had committed in his presence, instead of reproaching me bitterly, he took the key and showed me how one should open a door without making noise.” This corresponds well with Vincent’s well-known problem with noise in the house.
2) “One day a man came to see Monsieur Vincent and he brought him some verses that he written in praise of him. This man began to read them in his presence, but as soon as Sieur Vincent realized that they were about him, he left immediately. I learned this from Monsieur Vincent.”
3) “When he was leaving or returning from town, and if he was not occupied with dictating letters or talking about something, he prayed to God either mentally or aloud.” This passage, listed under the virtue of devotion, also shows that Vincent dictated letters while walking or riding in his carriage.
4) “In 1652, he asked the Company no longer to address to him great bows when someone walked in front of him. He said that there were communities which had their reasons to do this, but that the Company should act more simply. ‘And since I know that I am so pitiful, a sinner, and proud, and that I would grow prideful for this if I let this continue, no gentlemen, do not do this, but think of me as a miserable sinner, a proud man who does not deserve any honor’.” The amazing point here is that it took him this long to repress this mark of honor and respect.