This is the sixth of a series of formation packages meant for individual or group study based upon “The Prophetic Dimension of the Vincentian Charism in light of the Social Doctrine of the Church” by Sr. María Pilar López.
Pope Francis has written, “The word ‘solidarity’ is a little worn and at times poorly understood, but it refers to something more than a few sporadic acts of generosity. It presumes the creation of a new mindset which thinks in terms of community and the priority of the life of all over the appropriation of goods by a few.” [Evangelii Gaudium 188 ]
A mindset! What a fascinating reframing of the meaning of solidarity. It takes us beyond the dichotomies associated with the word.
During one of his morning homilies (9-13-2016) he elaborated on this mindset as working toward a culture of encounter:
“An invitation to work for “the culture of encounter,” in a simple way, “as Jesus did:” not just seeing, but looking; not just hearing, but listening; not just passing people by, but stopping with them; not just saying “what a shame, poor people!”, but allowing yourself to be moved with compassion; “and then to draw near, to touch and to say: ‘Do not weep’ and to give at least a drop of life.”
No wonder Pope Francis says, “When we encounter others we become neighbors.” [Letter for 48th World Communications Day]
This reframing is also another delightful way of connecting the life and words of Pope Francis and the way Vincent lived his life.
The word solidarity is not found in any of Vincent’s writing. This word was not used until the nineteenth century.
In Vincent’s writing we do find, however, expressions of compassion toward those sisters and brothers who suffer.
Sister Pilar writes: “Vincent spoke about the common good and through his life he gave witness to the meaning of solidarity as an encounter: the experience of finding oneself in the midst of the world of suffering and injustice and not remaining indifferent, and • having the ability to think and live differently.
She takes the reframing one step further: “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness (Genesis 1:26). This scriptural text, simple and yet profound, is the theological and Christian foundation of solidarity.”
God is our neighbor and all humans are our neighbors. Now that is a neighborhood I want to live in.
As in so many areas, Saint Vincent points out the path and shows us how to make poor people authentic protagonists of their own promotion. But, as she says, that is the next section!
Here is another gem from Sister: “As I was preparing this presentation I remembered a gathering of young religious. After viewing the film, The Mission, a Jesuit novice exclaimed: we cannot be pigmy children of giant parents.” The more I read in articles such as those by Father Corpus Delgado, Sister Pilar, and others writing in the Spanish language, the more I appreciate our Vincentian Heritage and realize why it has lasted 400 years.
- How do I encounter those who are poor and live in solidarity with them?
- If all peoples live in God’s neighborhood, what am I doing to clean up the neighborhood?
See you next week!
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