St. Vincent was born in 1581 in the village of Pouy in Gascony, in the Province of Guyenne and Gascony, the Kingdom of France, to peasant farmers, father Jean and Bertrande de Moras de Paul. There was in the vicinity, a stream named the "Paul" and it is believed that this might have been the derivation of the family name. Vincent himself wrote the name as one word - Depaul, possibly to avoid the inference that he was of noble birth, but none of his correspondents did so. He had three brothers - Jean, Bernard and Gayon, and two sisters - Marie and Marie-Claudine. Vincent was the third child. At an early age, he showed a talent for reading and writing but during his childhood, his work was as a herder of his family's livestock. At 15, his father sent him to seminary, managing to pay for it by selling the family's oxen.
For two years, he received his education at a college in Dax, France adjoining a monastery of the Friars Minor where Vincent and others resided. In 1597, he began his studies in the Faculty of Theology at the University of Toulouse. The atmosphere at the university was anything but pious or conducive to spiritual contemplation. Fights broke out between various factions of students which escalated into armed battles. During the course of the unrest, an official was murdered by two students. Nevertheless, Vincent continued his studies and was able to help pay for his education by tutoring others. He was ordained on 23 September 1600 at the age of nineteen in Chateau-l'eveque, near Perigueux. This was against the regulations established by the Council of Trent which required a minimum of 24 years of age for ordination and when Vincent was appointed parish priest in Tilh, it was appealed against in the Court of Rome. Rather than respond to a lawsuit in which he would probably not have prevailed, he resigned from the position and continued his studies. On 12 October 1604 he received his Bachelor of Theology from the University of Toulouse. Later he received a Licentiate in Canon Law from the University of Paris.
In 1605 Vincent left Marseilles by ship, on his way back from Castres, where he had gone to sell some property he had received in an inheritance from a wealthy patron in Toulouse, and was taken captive by Barbary pirates, who brought him to Tunis. De Paul was auctioned off as a slave to the highest bidder, and spent two years in bondage.
His first master was a fisherman, but Vincent was unsuitable for this line of work due to sea-sickness and was soon sold. His next master was a spagyrical physician, alchemist and inventor. Vincent became fascinated by his arts and was taught how to prepare and administer his master's spagyric remedies. At that time, science and medicine were far more advanced in Muslim countries than in Europe, where medicine was little more than speculative medical quackery, the exception being those herbalists and traditional healers whose knowledge of the medicinal properties of plants, fungi and minerals had been passed down through generations. These traditional healers, who lacked any formal education for the most part, were almost completely obscured by the pseudo-science of the "learned".
The fame of Vincent's master became so great that it attracted the attention of men who summoned him to Istanbul. During the passage, the old man died and Vincent was sold once again. Vincent's new master was a former priest and Franciscan from Nice, named Guillaume Gautier. He had converted to Islam in order to gain his freedom from slavery and was living in the mountains with three wives. The second wife, a Muslim by birth, was drawn to Vincent and visited him in the fields to question him about his faith. She became convinced that his faith was true and admonished her husband for renouncing his Christianity. He became remorseful and decided to escape back to France with his slave. They had to wait ten months, but finally they secretly boarded a small boat and crossed the Mediterranean, landing in Aigues-Mortes on 28 June 1607.
St. Vincent Catholic Church is a welcoming spiritual community where sacraments, education and evangelization lead us to Jesus Christ