Following Vincent – “Wherever He Went Good Things Happened”

by | Jun 18, 2016 | Formation, Reflections

vincent-life-lessons-series-facebookLet’s get right to the point! Do good things happen wherever you and I go?

Why is this question important? For at least two reasons!

We call ourselves Christians,  followers of Christ. And of him, it was said,

“You know what has happened throughout the province of Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached—  how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him.” Acts 10:37-38

This was echoed in Luke 4:18. “Today this scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.”

Most visitors to this site call themselves Vincentians in one way or another. So the question is important for second reason. We are followers of Vincent.

Vincent body

Click image to enlarge

Fr. Pat Griffin recently reminded us that the body of St. Vincent in Paris beneath an arch depicting the many good works he did in his life. The transcription sums up Vincent in two words “Pertransiit benefaciendo.”  It is freely translated “Wherever he went, good things happened.”

It is a great and simple description of St. Vincent de Paul as it was for the Lord Jesus.  It captures the spirit of the mission and the Vincentian charism.  Above and surrounding this phrase are images of the men and women who express Vincent’s spirit in their work.  They are preaching the gospel and carrying out works of mercy—teaching the children, feeding the hungry, giving clothing to those without, ministering to the sick, and leading the homeless to shelter.

In 17th Century France, Vincent de Paul and his followers were powerful forces in these works of gentleness and compassion.  All individuals and institutions which take him as a model must be the same:  take advantage of the opportunity to do some good.  Wherever we go, good things should happen.

The body of St. Vincent was brought to this Church on April 26, 1830.  Walking with Vincent in this procession would undoubtedly be two familiar figures in our Vincentian history:  Catherine Labouré—a young seminary sister whom the Blessed Mother would visit in another three months on the rue du Bac; and Rosalie Rendu.  If the procession had taken place one year later, someone else would probably have been in that procession: Frédéric Ozanam.

I personally have always be struck that The New York Times inadvertently provided a contemporary image of this procession. In its commentary on the death of  Sister Mary Bernadette Szymczak, DC the New York Times newspaper ran an almost one page obituary, complete with picture, under a banner headline “She Fed the Poor.”

Fr. Griffin concludes,

It is an important game of “follow the leader.”  But we must remember who the leader actually is: we follow Christ.  Vincent followed Christ, and Louise followed Vincent following Christ, and Rosalie followed Louise following Vincent following Christ, and Frederic followed Rosalie following Louise following Vincent following Christ, and we follow . . . you get the point.  As members of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, we are followers of Christ who keep our eyes on those who have gone before us in a 400 year version of “follow-the-leader.”  They have shown the way.  Christ is always the leader and our walk is always with him, but with such pleasant playmates and companions. All of them teach us the values of organization, collaboration, and compassion.  We model that for others.  May St. Vincent’s example inspire us; may God’s Holy Spirit continue to guide us; and may Mary through the gift of the Miraculous Medal intercede for us.

Full text of Fr. Griffin’s reflections