“The great tragedy of the church is not that rich Christians do not care about the poor but that rich Christians do not know the poor.” — Shane Claiborne
Paraphrasing Roman 10:14 How can we encounter Christ in the poor if we do not know them?
Vincent certainly understood this. Fr. Luigi Mezzardi CM writes “Vincentian spirituality is not a doctrine but an encounter. an encounter not with Christ seen in a vision, but with Christ who lives in the poor. ” In his article – Vincentian Spirituality – Encounter with Christ in the Poor presented in the Vincentian Encyclopedia he develops this theme in three stages: knowing, meditating, and serving.
Hopefully the following excerpts will encourage further study.
“The route of St. Vincent was one of “spiritualization”: in the first phase of his life (up to 1608/1610) he looked after himself; later, a crisis led him to discover that people need God. The route of St. Louise was one of “humanization”: in the first phase, she tried to escape to the monastery, later to escape from the responsibility of the family only to discover, after meeting St. Vincent, that God needs people.”
“Vincent in the events of Folleville and Châtillon (1617) and Louise in the experience of the Light of Pentecost (1623), discovered their vocation of being 1) dedicated to God 2) in order “to serve the neighbor,” by responding to the hunger for Word and Bread.”
“Vincent heard Christ’s voice in the suffering humanity of poor people, in the people hungering for bread and for the word. Seeing the poor, he found Christ. He saw Christ in the “other.”
“Frederick Ozanam understood this very well, perhaps the most faithful interpreter of St Vincent, when he wrote of the poor: “We should prostrate ourselves at their feet and say to them with the Apostle: “You are my Lord”. You are our masters and we are your servants; you are the sacred images of the God we do not see, and not being able to love him any other way, we love him in you” (To Louis Janmot).”
Some questions he raises
- Are the poor present in our prayer?
- Do we bring to mind faces, situations, needs?
- Is our vocation an encounter based on interior prayer or a mere adherence to a group of persons?
- Are we convinced that our Vincentian Family “can do all because we have in us the germ of doing everything in Jesus Christ?”
- Do you have an experience of this that you can share?