“O Savior! O my Lord and my God! You’ve raised up a Company for this purpose; You’ve sent it to persons who are poor, and You will that it should make You known to them as the one, true God, and Jesus Christ whom You sent into the world, so that, by this means, they may have eternal life. This is what should cause us to prefer this to all other states and works on earth and to consider ourselves happier for it. O Dieu! Who could understand this?” (CCD:XII:conference 195).
Vincent de Paul
- Perhaps we should begin, as many times before, by the end: “Who could understand (the reason for the existence of the Congregation of the Mission)!.” The consequence of this understanding also appears clear to Mr. Vincent: it “should cause us to prefer this to all other states and works on earth and to consider ourselves happier for it.” Perhaps we could reverse the affirmations: to prefer this task and to be happy leads us to understand the reason of being a CM. In short: to reach perfection from above or from below.
- This “reason for being” (charisma) should not be confused with the “end of the CM” (norm). The latter appears in the Common Rules and unfolds in three dimensions: being happy (dimension “what”), evangelizing the poor (dimension “how”), from the community (dimension “with whom”). The first of these reasons for the charism refers to “announcing to the poor the Kingdom of God” that perhaps we should update it and say “reign of God” because the first affirmation refers to a politically debatable space… announcing that the act of God is already present, and not only this, but also brings happiness to those who need it most: the poor.
- The second reason for the Congregation of the Mission is “to show Jesus Christ as the history of the will of God.” A historical Christ, therefore, that brings us to the biblical Christ and, through both, to discover the will of God. And it’s not about two paths but about the sequencing we must follow. The insistence on Jesus Christ as the way to the Father is one of the key elements of most Christian spiritualities. Does Monsieur Vincent add or qualify something, in any way, to this perception? … We must respond affirmatively because the poor is the interpretative key to access the historical Jesus Christ.
- And the purpose of all this work is indicated by Mr. Vincent with all clarity: to achieve eternal happiness. It is true that eternity is interpreted in a temporal sense or, if I may, eschatologically. And, in this sense, or one is very firm in his convictions or the discouragement spreads everywhere. The “beyond” is too far from our “immediacy.” Why not talk about quality happiness, a quality life instead of eternal life, life in the afterlife?
- And what does the missionary have to do in this mishmash of things? What is your occupation? … Preaching? Give wheat? Plant? Care for the crop? To announce? … Well, it is very simple: to accompany the poor towards happiness. I highlight the verb “accompany.”
Questions for dialogue:
- What is your personal reflection on the purpose of the Congregation of the Mission?
- To preach, to give wheat or to accompany?
- Is our Christology biblical or historical? Dual or unitary?
- Do our jobs reflect a preferential option for the poor?
- Do we personally accompany someone to the encounter with happiness?
Mitxel Olabuenaga, C.M.