Consecration to Charity: The Novelty of the Vincentian Charism

by | Feb 6, 2017 | Formation, Spirituality and Spiritual Practice

1. Moment of Understanding:

Four centuries separate us from the events that gave life to the Vincentian Charism. A room with a dying old man who confesses, a pulpit in which a sermon is preached, an abandoned parish in which his new priest cares for a needy family, a group of women organized by a young priest to put into practice the charity. Four scenes, two events actually, Folleville and Chatillon, which are key moments in the life of Vincent de Paul for the work that the Holy Spirit is inspiring him to begin.

Vincent de Paul was formed in the theology of his time, knew the great spiritual men who leaded the reflection of that moment, some of them took part in his thought as St. Robert Belarmino, Fray Luis de Granada, Benoit de Canfield; with others he had a relation of spiritual affiliation or friendship, as with Pierre de Berulle, André Duval and San Francis of Sales. From each of these authors took theological lines that inspired his work, but first and foremost was the daily life his great teacher and what made him understand the mission that God put into his hands.

In short, the events of the life of Vincent de Paul, from his peasant childhood in the French Landes to the events of Folleville and Chatillon, come to be like pieces of the puzzle that the saint will slowly armed to find in his life the key to the mission that God is calling to him: charity.

The great pastoral capacity to convert into mission what he had learned in books and in practice is what enables us to find in Vincent de Paul, in his life and in his work, a true path of Christian holiness, which, even after four hundred years, offers us, in the Vincentian charism, the renewing force of a way of configuration with Christ.

The novelty of Vincent does not consist in a spiritual school in the style of modern devotees, nor in a social work of promotion to the poor in the style of 21st century politicians.

The mystique of action, the proposal of St. Vincent, is a true path of configuration of the whole person with Christ, from a reading of personal history of life, a look at yesterday that has led oneself to be who we are passing by a personal encounter with Christ in the most ordinary events of life and, finally, arriving at the necessity of giving oneself to the service of charity to the poor from one’s own state of life, be it consecrated, be it priest or lay people.

The novelty of Vincent, we could say then, is in his consecration to Christ through the poor, a consecration to charity, and from there it is understood as the only key from which it is possible to interpret what makes us really Vincentians or that what, once lost, would make us stop being Vincentians:

One means of doing as God wills is to do it in charity—in charity, Sisters. How excellent that will make your service! But do you know what it means to do it in charity? It’s to do it in God, for God is charity, and it’s to do it purely for God; it’s to do it in the grace of God, for sin separates us from the charity of God. (CCD IX, Conference 24).

2. Time to contemplate:

History and life are teachers in the life of St. Vincent. Let us try to meditate on this exercise of contemplating the way that God has allowed us to travel: stopping in silence for a few moments and in dialogue with the Lord, let us turn our gaze to our past: my family history; my struggle for happiness and that of my loved ones, my way in a Church or Vincentian family group. After contemplating it, I ask myself:

How did all this happen? What signs of God do I encounter that have spoken to me throughout my life to feel the call to charity, like Saint Vincent, to serve my neighbor with all my strength?

Who do I recognize in my story as sent by God to help me find the way? Do I feel today that call to live the will of God from the service of charity?

3. Moment of Meditation:

With humility and simplicity let us recognize if our life and that of our group/branch/association is helping us to live the path of holiness that characterizes the Vincentian charism.

I invite you to try to draw up a list of the lights and shadows that make my life and that of my group/branch/association reflect or do not reflect the gift of charity, not only as a statement we preach but as a lifestyle that characterizes us.

4. Moment of Commitment:

It would be highly recommended that groups of the Vincentian family can create a space dedicated to the setting of the Jubilee. A commitment tree is recommended where each month the group commitment is placed, as a fruit, in the light of this meditation.

At the group level it is recommended to take a commitment with the Lord, it will be good to remember it in the next visit to Jesus in the Sacrament. Let’s remember that it is not a question of wanting to change our life by an act of magic, but in its due process, step by step, as if we learned music, said St. Vincent:

Someone who has learned a motet in music and then wishes to learn a second and a third finds it easier to learn the second than he did the first, and much easier to learn the third than the first or even the second? So today we have a little difficulty performing a certain act o f virtue or religion; the second time we’ll have less, and the third even less than the second, and in this way we become more and more perfect.  (CCD XI, Conference 126).

Autor: Rolando Gutiérrez C.M.
Vice-Provincia de Costa Rica.

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