Fr. Jaime Corera, CM writes “If Vincent had remained faithful to Leviticus until his death and if he continued to love himself in the same way that he did for the first thirty-seven years of his life, if he had not experienced a radical change that enabled him to forget himself and live the demands of the new commandment, he would never have become Saint Vincent, he would never have founded any Association, Company or Congregation…”.
In his article on the Love of Neightbor Fr. Corera provides a very profund analysis of how the New Testament, the Fathers of the Church and later mystical traditions went beyond Leviticus. “The love of neighbor is the path to encounter with God”?Vince how Vincent made that same journey.
“The information that we have obtained from the various biographies of Saint Vincent reveals to us the fact that Vincent’s discover in 1617 of the spiritual and material poverty of the poor in rural France was the beginning of a long journey in following Jesus Christ, one that was quite distinct from his previous journey.
This new and definitive path led him, on September 27, 1660, to a face to face encounter with God.
In other words, the fact that Vincent entered into this process and that we are able to reconstruct events with the information that is available to us … all of this enables us to also affirm that the poor led Vincent to God. In this way we once again see the fulfillment of that which is expressed in the New Testament, in the patristic and mystical traditions and the teaching of the Catholic Church: love of neighbor is the path to encounter God.”
Fr. Corera continues with the implications for those would would journey with Vincent commit themselves as Vincent did to the material and spiritual redemption of those who are in poverty.
“If people desire to enter into a relationship with any of the Vincentian institutions, their fundamental motivation should be a desire to dedicate themselves to the material and spiritual redemption of those who are poor, understanding that when they act in this way they are taking a step forward in their journey toward God.
Therefore, all the other elements of a Vincentian lifestyle are based on the reality of dedication to those who are poor: prayer, moral life, family life, profession, work, social relationships, recreation … and in the case of the members of the Congregation of the Mission and the Daughters of Charity: community life, vows, priesthood, consecration …
All of these distinct elements ought to lead us to greater love and service on behalf of those who are poor. We speak correctly when we refer to the poor of Jesus Christ because he himself assures us that what we do for the least of our brothers or sisters we do to him (Matthew 25:40). We must realize that as we dedicate ourselves to ministry with those who are poor, we are also deepening our personal relationship with God.
As we initiate any Vincentian Formation program we must provide individuals with a sound spirituality and with some form of direct contact with those who are poor. If this direct contact is missing then what we refer to as growth in the spiritual life (prayer life) would occur in a vacuum devoid of those specific activities that nourish the spiritual life. The result of such a process is almost always an inauthentic spiritual life, one that lacks concern and dedication for the spiritual and material redemption of those who are poor.”
He concludes with the cost of following Jesus and Vincent.
“To be compassionate toward the poor and to provide them with occasional charitable assistance that alleviates to some degree their situation without endangering one’s own well-being and love of self … in that case it is enough to practice what one has learned from the book of Leviticus.
But to dedicate one’s whole life to the poor, to risk one’s own well-being … in such a situation the book of Leviticus is not enough: one must rather internalize and put into practice the demands of the Lord’s new commandment, the demands as they apply to Christians in general and as they apply to Christian-Vincentians.”