Is conversion on your agenda? It was on St. Vincent’s! As we approach the Feast of St. Vincent, it’s important to look to the heart of the matter. More than celebrations, the Feast needs to be a time of re commitment.
Celestino Fernandez, C.M., addressing the recent General Assembly of the the Congregation of the Mission said,
When we say that Vincent de Paul engaged in the action of conversion, we are not talking about small, fragmentary, moral acts of conversion … acts in which Vincent was surely engaged. Rather, we want to highlight something more profound and all-encompassing about Vincent’s life: conversion of the poor means that the poor have to be at the center of our evangelizing activity and at the same time, the poor have to point out to us the path of evangelization. If the poor at not our perspective and our point of reference, then, who is this Christ that we give witness to? If the poor are not the first beneficiaries of the Good News, then, why do we want to engage in the process of evangelization? If our cause is not the cause of the poor, then, how are we going to continue the mission of Christ? The theologian, Jon Sobrino, takes up that position when he affirms that the crucial question is not whether the Church will transmit saving knowledge but whether the Church will continue, in word and deed, the liberating history of Christ.
This profound conversion — this humble stance that acknowledges the “mystique of the poor” and the mystical presence of Christ to be encountered — is what it takes to say #IamVincent. It must be all-consuming. There is no other fruitful path for us! For reason’s only God knows, each one of us finds our salvation bound up with the salvation of the poorest among us. It must be our passion.
Earlier in his address, Fernandez noted that we must have this
… passion for the poor: here we are not simply talking about some vague concern for the poor or drawing closer to those who are poor … no, when speaking about a passion for the poor much more is involved. Let us listen to Vincent’s words in this regard: the poor, who do not know where to go or what to do, who are suffering already and who increase daily, are my burden and my sorrow7. In other words, the poor are to be our dominant passion and therefore, everything else is secondary. Vincent de Paul, inspired by this passion for the poor, stated: We should sell ourselves to rescue our brothers and sisters from destitution.
Read Fernandez’s insightful reflections to prepare for St. Vincent’s Feast.