“In actual practice this virtue is about choosing the right way to do things. We should make it a sacred principle, then, admitting of no exceptions, that since we are working for God we will always choose God-related ways for carrying out our work, and see and judge things from Christ’s point of view and not from a worldly-wise one; and not according to the feeble reasoning of our own mind either. That is how we can be prudent as serpents and simple as doves.” (CR. II, 5).
Vincent de Paul
- Let’s continue taking advantage of the reflection of Mr. Vincent about simplicity. As on so many occasions the last point helps us to locate the previous lines: “That is how we can be prudent as serpents and simple as doves.” As far as I remember, this is the first time that he cites the entire evangelical text, bringing the “prudent as serpents” …
- The reflection begins from an extremely interesting point of view: “In actual practice this virtue (simplicity) is about choosing the right way to do things.” That is, virtue is not only valuable in itself but useful in choosing the precise means to achieve a concrete end. Certainly he also states that we “should make it a sacred principle.” The effort, therefore, to find suitable means is not a trivial question.
- In this sense he encourages his missionaries (the text, let us not forget, it is of the Common Rules) to identify themselves in their being and act with Christ (“to see and judge things from Christ’s point of view and not from a worldly-wise one; and not according to the feeble reasoning of our own mind either”). This idea will lead him to one of his deepest insights when he affirms that Christ is “the Rule of the Mission.” Certainly all this is a function of the “things of God.”
- This last question makes us wonder if when “things are not of God” our act must be the same. Possibly this question does not fit in the mind of Mr. Vincent and will identify all our actions as directly at the service of God and, therefore, all things will be of God and away from the feeling of the world and the reasoning of our own thinking. The only perspective that fits is the one of God and only from God we can find the means to carry out our action.
Questions for dialogue:
- To what extent do we care about the identification with Christ in order to seek the means for our action?
- What meaning do we give to the expression “the Rule of the Mission is Christ”?
- Are there many “doves” and “serpents” among us?
- Do our decisions reflect “prudence” and “simplicity”? In what proportion? What risks do they entail?
- Is “the feeling of the world” and “the reasonings of our mind” renounceable when it comes to approaching the complex problematic of the world today?
Mitxel Olabuenaga, C.M.