On the occasion of 25 January, the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul, a key date in Vincentian history in which we recall the events happened in the village of Folleville 400 years ago, Fr. Tomaž Mavrič, CM, Superior General of the Congregation of the Mission and of the Daughters of Charity proposes to us in this message to live in depth this Jubilee Year and to be creative in action and collaboration, with a common task for all of us who belong to the great Vincentian Family.
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Rome, January 25, 2017
To all the members of the Vincentian Family.
Jubilee Year – 400th Anniversary of the Vincentian Charism
Dear members of the Vincentian Family,
May the grace and peace of Jesus be always with us!
My heart is overwhelmed with thankfulness and joy for this “gift from Heaven,” allowing the entire Vincentian Family to celebrate, throughout the whole of 2017, the 400th Anniversary of the Vincentian Charism, which has left such deep marks of Jesus’s unconditional love on the world throughout the last 400 years and continues to do so today!
During this year, the Vincentian Family will choose different dates for beginning the celebrations. Some already have started. Some will begin later. But there is one date that is the source, the beginning of the reason for the celebration, the beginning of the “way of Saint Vincent de Paul,” the beginning of the Vincentian Charism: 25 January 1617 in the village of Folleville in France.
It was in that small village that Vincent was touched by the tremendous spiritual poverty of people in the countryside. A few months later, he had the experience of the tremendous material poverty in the town of Châtillon that gave birth to the Ladies of Charity, today known as AIC, and who now witness so beautifully to the Vincentian Charism around the world. He began by encouraging others to change their lives from within, as well as to reach out to the people around them, who had material needs. At the same time, he experienced his own personal conversion, dedicating himself totally to the spiritually and materially poor and bringing about the collaboration of so many, who followed in his footsteps, to make the Gospel a reality “here and now” for millions and millions throughout the 400 years that have passed since that time. This mission will not end until Charity is globalized, until Charity has embraced all corners of the world and touched the heart of every person!
The theme of the Jubilee Year, which will accompany us throughout the 12 months is: “I was a stranger and you welcomed me….”
There are already numerous and incredible initiatives within the Vincentian Family to celebrate the 400th Anniversary of the Vincentian Charism in all corners of the world on the local, national, and international levels, and there are some initiatives still to come. All of them have in mind Jesus’s words taken from Matthew 25:31-46 so dear to Vincentians and to all those who embrace the charism of Vincent de Paul: “I was a stranger and you welcomed me….”
As we look outward to the cry of the poor, we should not forget to look inward, to the cry of the poor within us, to the poverty within us that cries for help, for freedom, for redemption. It was Vincent’s acceptance and recognition of his own poverty that led him to purify his own heart, the heart that then beat so strongly for persons on the margins of society! Vincent’s approach to the person was not the approach of a theology from “above,” but rather an approach to the person from Vincent’s own poverty, the approach of a theology from “below.” To welcome the stranger within us, to recognize that he exists in every one of us, to embrace this stranger, accept him, and then give it all to Jesus to heal our wounds, to surrender completely to Him and trust totally in His Providence: this was Vincent’s way. Let it be the way of each one of us!
The lasting fruits of these 400 years are seen in the thousands and thousands of members of the numerous branches of the Vincentian Family who have walked before us, lived Vincent’s way, the Vincentian Charism, to the best of their abilities. Now it is our turn.
Besides the many initiatives we will be developing throughout the year 2017 to celebrate the 400th Anniversary of the Vincentian Charism, I would like to encourage and challenge each member of the Vincentian Family, each one of us, with one more common initiative. The initiative is not new. Many will work very hard on this initiative on various levels in different parts of the world in a special way during this Jubilee Year. On the one hand, the initiative is old, very old; on the other hand, it is always new, ever new, like the Gospel!
I am talking about new vocations to the consecrated life in the different Congregations within the Vincentian Family and for new members to its lay branches. It is clear that the initiative always comes from Jesus, but we need to cooperate and help the person Jesus is calling to the consecrated life or to become a member of some lay branch of the Vincentian Family, in the fullest way possible, for that call to become a reality.
The initiative is this: each one of us, collectively in groups or individually, will set for himself or herself, during this Jubilee Year, this concrete goal: to pray, be attentive, look for, encourage, and invite one new candidate to the consecrated life for one of the Congregations within the Vincentian Family or to join one of its lay branches as a member. Is this unrealistic? Is this a fantasy? With Jesus all is possible!
Through this initiative, hopefully many new vocations and volunteers will come forward during the Jubilee Year. Others may join us in the years to come, as the fruit of the 400th Anniversary. Nothing is impossible for Jesus, and we are invited to do all we can to cooperate with him. Providence will do the rest. The initiative and challenge for us is clear. Each member of a Congregation within the Vincentian Family sets for himself or herself this goal: I offer myself as a tool to Jesus to bring one new candidate to the Congregation to which I belong. The members of the lay branches of the Vincentian Family do likewise in order to get a new volunteer for their own branch in this Jubilee Year. Nothing more, but nothing less!
Let us then go forward in this Year of Grace with the words of Saint Vincent de Paul:
“I wish you a young heart and a love in its first bloom for Him Who loves us unceasingly and as tenderly as if He were just beginning to love us. For all God’s pleasures are ever new and full of variety, although He never changes” (Letter 288, CCD I, 408).
May the Jubilee Year be accompanied by the intercession of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal, Saint Vincent de Paul, and all the other Blessed and Saints of the Vincentian Family!
Your brother in Saint Vincent,
Tomaž Mavrič, CM Superior General