“As we Gather as members of the Vincentian Family to begin our celebrations for the 400th Anniversary of the birth of the Vincentian Charism, it’s a good idea if remind ourselves of St. Vincent’s life, of the important and life-changing events that occurred throughout and of what it was that inspired this great Saint in whose footsteps we all walk and from whose spirit we receive our inspiration. As we approach our celebration of Christmas, we are also reminded that For Vincent, Louise and Frederick, the Incarnation was central to their spirituality and their road to God. They did not find God in lofty thoughts but in the daily grind of life and most particularly in the poor, in Christ made Flesh, in the marginalized and neglected Jesus who Vincent describes as our Lords and Masters.
Vincent’s, journey to sainthood was not an easy one, rather than the image of the potter and the clay, in which God molds a person into shape, it seems to me that Vincent was more sculpted by God, that God needed to take out a chisel to Vincent, and hammer away at the rough edges, bit by bit, gradually knocking him into shape, it’s a much more harsh process, but the end results are often as strikingly beautiful and once the piece is sanded or polished, it’s can be quite spectacular.
Vincent is chiseled into being by life and circumstances and by God. The one thing I would say about Vincent is, that despite being a person who had a plan for his own personal advancement, he seems also to have been a person who never stopped listening for God.
There was something in his life, his prayer, his spirituality, that prevented him from being completely self-absorbed and that chink of light was enough for God to make his plans know to this incredible man. As soon as Vincent was able to discern clearly what it was that God was calling him to, he also possessed a wonderful ability to assist other understand that this call was not just his, but a call to many people to consider this route to God. Indeed it was also a call to the Church in France to begin to reform itself, to allow God to take a chisel to it and to begin to radically reshape it.
In St. Vincent’s life there were no bright lights, no moments of sudden conversion, it was a long and difficult process for both God and Vincent. As Mezzadri in his book reminds us, Vincent is a Saint of the Incarnation, he meets his God and is called by his God through his encounter with people, through his encounters with the Poor and this is the God he reveals to people and invites them to follow too.” Quotation from the input of Fr. Stephen Monaghan CM, Irish Missionary to Ethiopia
The opening session of the 400th anniversary of the birth of the Vincentian Charism was attended by members of the Vincentian Family in Ethiopia comprising of the Ladies of Charity, Sisters of Charity of St. Jeanne Antide Thouret (Italians, Pakistani), Brothers of Charity (Ethiopians, Tanzanian, Zambian, Kenyan, D.R. Congo), Society of St. Vincent de Paul, Congregation of the Mission (Ethiopian, Rwandese), Daughters of Charity (Ethiopian, Filipino).
Here are some of their thoughts about St. Vincent and the services he provided the poor of his time:
“St. Vincent challenged the injustices in his time. I pray for courage to do the same. He sent his priests and Sisters to war zones. This challenges me to be available where I am needed.”
“I found this input very refreshing as well as challenging and life-giving”.
“What I want to bring back with me to my home and ministry is the spirit of commitment, dedication and enthusiasm of St. Vincent.”
“What inspired me is the courage of St. Vincent to take risks and be bold to bring together the rich and the poor.”
“Vincent was fully immersed in the situation and life of the poor. He did everything to uplift the poor from poverty and build up their human dignity. He developed a great sense of humility, love and gentleness. I am very much enlightened, nourished, reawakened, encouraged and challenged by the life of St. Vincent as presented to us by Fr. Stephen, CM. Thank you Father for the brilliant presentation!”
“I have just arrived in Ethiopia, but already I feel very much at home here this morning among this gathering of the Vincentian Family, it’s a wonderful surprise to see so many orders and organisatons here today and meet so many people from all over the world gathered together in the Spirit of St. Vincent”
“A blessing from the Poor is a blessing from God…. Let us go to the poor.” (Frederic Ozanam)
Input given by Fr. Stephen Monaghan, CM, vocation director of the Irish Province of the Congregation of the Mission