For St. Vincent, to live according to the spirit and charism of the congregations is to live the virtues of the Gospel. He considered virtues as, “Evangelical Maxims” which Jesus the sovereign Master taught us both by word and example. Therefore, Vincent asks his followers, above all else, to strive to ground our lives on the teachings of Jesus which can never deceive us.
St. Francis De Sales, in his book, “Introduction to Devout Life “writes about the wisdom of pursuing virtues and folly of seeking human glory and honors:
The pursuit and love of virtue begins to make us virtuous; but the pursuit and love of honors begins to make us contemptible and blameworthy. The well-born do not trouble themselves about these little trifles of rank, of honors, and of salutations; they have other things to do; it is a mark of degenerate spirits. He who can have pearls does not burden himself with shells; and they who aspire to virtue are not eager for honors.
For Vincent de Paul, simplicity, humility, meekness, mortification and zeal were the characteristic virtues of missionary. He saw them as “five smooth stones by which we might conquer the evil Goliath.” In this reflection, based on the book of Fr. Maloney, (Seasons in Spirituality: Reflections on Vincentian Spirituality in Today’s World), I am trying to recall some of the teachings of St. Vincent on the first two virtues of the missionaries, namely, simplicity which Vincent called as his gospel, and humility which he considered as queen of all other virtues.
Simplicity is first of all, speaking the truth. It is saying things as they are without hiding anything. It is doing everything for love of God and for no other end. St. Vincent mentions many reasons why his sons and daughters must be simple: God communicates with the simple, the world loves simple people, duplicity is never agreeable to God.
The virtue of simplicity is very closely linked to the virtue of Humility. Humility is to recognize that all good comes from God and also to recognize our own lowliness and faults. It means avoiding the applause of the world. It involves taking the last place and loving the hidden life. It also means esteeming others. Humility was the characteristic virtue of Jesus, and so it must be also our characteristic virtue. It is the source of peace and union in the communities.
To be humble and simple means to avoid vain glory and seek the glory that comes from God. In the Gospel of St. John, Jesus tells us that those who are not simple and humble cannot believe in Him:
“I do not accept glory from human being. Moreover, I know that you do not have love of God in you. I came in the name of my Father, but you do not accept me; yet if another comes in his own name, you will accept him. How can you believe, when you accept glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?” (Jn5:41-44).
About the Author:
Fr. Binoy Puthusery, C.M. is a Vincentian priest belonging to the Southern Indian Province. He was ordained as priest on December 27, 2008 and soon after served as an assistant parish priest in Tanzania. In 2011, after two years of ministry, he was appointed as Spiritual Director to the Vincentian Sisters of Mercy, Mbinga Tanzania, where he still is today.