“O Dieu! What a reason the Company has for observing its Rules faithfully; to do what the Son of God came into the world to do! That there should be a Company, and that it should be the Company of the Mission, composed of poor men, and that it should be entirely dedicated to that purpose, going here and there through hamlets and villages, leaving the towns behind-something that’s never been done-and going to announce the Gospel only to persons who are poor!” (CCD:XII, p.4).
Vincent de Paul
- Now that we are celebrating 400 years of the Vincentian charism, it is not at all wrong to bring up this brief fragment, central to the thought of Mr. Vincent. Naming the Congregation of the Mission “Company” is surprising…could it be an influence of his admired Jesuits? Possibly!
- What does the Company of the Mission do, he asks, in the world? … A blunt response: the same thing that the Son of God did: to announce the Gospel in an itinerant way. Does he add anything more? … Possibly the “only to persons who are poor.” And where were they in the seventeenth century in France?: in the villages and hamlets. Let us add: the suburbs of Paris had nothing to envy, as far as the misery, to the rest of France. There began the work of the Daughters of Charity.
- A nuance for the satisfaction of his listeners: the Company “is composed of poor people.” Let us understand: “poor people,” not “people who are poor” … The reality of his first confreres endorses the situation, so we must understand the expression as a call to “simplicity,” “humility,” “zeal,” “meekness” … because the first step to “go from here to there” is the practice of these virtues.
- And all this reflection … for what? What is the point of it? … The beginning of the text gives us the guidelines: “for observing its Rules faithfully.” We can well assume that when he resorts to this “observance” is because there was some kind of relaxation in its fulfillment … nothing strange in any type of institution, regardless of origin and timing in its foundation. An observation which, on the other hand, must be continually updated.
- I bring up one final point related to the “going from here to there” … or, what is the same, “roaming” applied not only to people but also to foundations. An element (along with the exclusion of cities) very present in the Vincentian heritage and which, in my opinion, has not been fully assumed in the Mission. I make an exception in the pre-urban “popular missions” (at least, of what I know, in Spain).
Questions for dialogue:
- Are the Rules a continuous element of reflection in the Vincentian Communities?
- Are the “Vincentian virtues” consolidated in our lives?
- Are the places where we develop our work spaces where poverty is prevalent?
- What is the relationship existing in our ministries between “evangelization” and “promotion”?
- Are parishes or schools places to where we can be itinerant?
Mitxel Olabuenaga, C.M.