2. What it means to be a member of the Family
Basing myself on Fr. Eli’s clear ideas, I dare expand the horizon of what, in my humble opinion, could encompass relationships among the members of the Family in this year of Vincentian Collaboration, a year that could well be relaunched uninterruptedly year after year.
The first objective should undoubtedly be to better our family relationship, affectively and effectively. This implies more interaction, so that we may know each other better, so that one branch may express its appreciation and congratulations for the achievements of another branch. To value what the others do should not be an obstacle to our being aware that everything is subject to improvement.
Trust, mutual support, understanding and cooperation ought to characterize our dealings with one another and overcome all suspicion, envy and unfair competition. All friendly fellowship reveals itself in kindness, warmth, support and collaboration, as well as in the interest that family members show for each other’s work. Such good family relationship is expressed also in festive celebrations, fraternal agapes and in liturgical celebrations and community prayers also.
Good family relationship demands that we go beyond the usual tenets of society. Knowing what other members or branches of the family do is indispensable. This also means we have to be involved in the task of making the family known in ecclesial and social surroundings. It further indicates that we have to take part in common projects, to break out of inaction and comfortable molds, and seek new avenues for our social work to be an evangelizing mission too.
As Vincentians, we cannot settle for the social or altruistic services that NGOs provide, and which are usually valued highly in our society. Our solidarity with the poor of any kind ought to be, moreover, the announcement of the unknown God, the God of love. The Vincentian charism goes far beyond emotionalism or material assistance, although this is also an unavoidable expression of effective love. Vincent de Paul makes this clear in the tasks he entrusted to both Vincentian Fathers and Brothers, and to the Daughters of Charity. At the same time, however, the announcement of the Good God in our social services should not smack of proselytism. Resonating still is the echo of Vincent’s words to Joanne, in the film Monsieur Vincent: “It is only because of your love, Joanne, that the poor will forgive you the bread that you give them.” It is the warm expression, the closeness, the fraternal dialogue, the attentive listening to the poor that will help you find the good God of Vincent de Paul.
I dare to suggest still that we should not understand “Vincentian Family” as referring solely and exclusively to those institutions with the “Vincentian Family” label, with the corresponding photo ID. Around us, in the various ministries placed in our charge, are people with authentic Vincentian spirit. We should also count on them, keeping them informed, inviting them, making them participants in our pastoral and evangelizing projects. To see the whole Vincentian Family united in spirit and in truth is to witness, surely, its strength and capacity to organize and transform our society! Only God knows how far we could go, if this dream were a living reality.
P. Félix Villafranca, C.M.