“We should follow, as far as possible, all the gospel teaching already mentioned, since it is so holy and very practical. But some of it, in fact, has more application to us, particularly when it emphasizes simplicity, humility, gentleness, mortification, and zeal for souls. The Congregation should pay special attention to developing and living up to these five virtues so that they may be, as it were, the faculties of the soul of the whole Congregation, and that everything each one of us does may always be inspired by them.” (Common Rules of the Congregation of the Mission, II, 14).
Vincent de Paul
- Mr. Vincent brings up the five virtues that must be “the faculties of the soul of the whole Congregation, and that everything each one of us [the missionaries] does may always be inspired by them.” This is an excellent clarification of the concept “virtue”: inner strength (faculties of the soul) and external force (inspired by them). How distant this concept is of both quietism (to which so many fans were, more in the past than in the present) and activism (to which we are so much more fond in the present than in the past!).
- That is why after this comes the clarification of “developing and living up”: “developing” referring to the internal dimension of each of the virtues; “living up” that leads to deploy in society what has been developed. And this refers to each and every one of the virtues taught in the Christian tradition. Thus begins Mr. Vincent’s lecture to the missionaries: “We should follow, as far as possible, all the gospel teaching already mentioned, since it is so holy and very practical.”
- However, he does not hesitate to point those to what he understands should outline the “virtuous pentagon” of his missionaries, which he says are more appropriate: simplicity, humility, gentleness, mortification and zeal for souls.
- The identification with these virtues, with their starting point in the formative years when entering the Congregation of the Mission, is the spiritual task of the life of a missionary. It is a process of continuous improvement that must configure your “personal plan of ongoing formation.” No one doubts that this is hard work …
Questions for dialogue:
- Do you have a written Personal Formation Project, concrete and evaluable?
- Is there a Formation Project in your community?
- Is there a real concern in your local community for Ongoing Formation?
- Amongst these five virtues, what are your strengths and your weaknesses?
- Are these virtues recognizable in the Congregation of the Mission or in your vincentian branch?
Mitxel Olabuenaga, C.M.