The Irish Province of the Vincentians has unveiled a new website dedicated to Parish missions with the banner “Come and see… go and tell!”
As might be expected it has an excellent article on the orgins and development parish mission of a work close to Vincent’s heart.
Nobody seriously claims, least of all St Vincent himself, that St Vincent de Paul was the first or only priest of his age to give missions. What may be fairly claimed for our saint is that he took the mission idea, so adapted it, so remodelled it to suit the spiritual needs of the working-class family, especially the needs of the peasantry, that in his hands a mission became a most powerful instrument of grace and blessing to the people.
“The little method”
Not content with these general and practical instructions on the manner of preaching St Vincent put his ideas on preaching into a condensed formula which he loved to refer to as “the little method”. It breathes the very spirit of simplicity. It is the Vincentian method of preaching, approved and authorised since the days of St Vincent. It contains, in addition, St Vincent’s contribution to that reform of sacred eloquence in the Church at large that began in the Church of France in the seventeenth century.
Here, in condensed form, is St Vincent’s explanation of the little method. A preacher’s first duty is to make himself heard and understood; his second duty is to persuade. Now what do we do when we want to persuade a man to do something? Don’t we point out to him the advantage of doing what we suggest? Don’t we give him the reasons for doing it? Having done so, we tell him what is involved in our proposal, in what our proposal consists. We explain the nature of our proposal. Finally, we point out how he can do what we suggest; we give him the practical means. Nature, motives and means, all set out clearly and simply; such is the little method of preaching of St Vincent de Paul. To follow it it is not necessary to treat the points in the order in which they are here given, or even to make a marked distinction between them. All that is necessary is that they be there – whether overtly or covertly is at the taste of the preacher.
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