The Vincentian Charism and Liberation

by | Oct 22, 2017 | Formation, Reflections

Our 400th anniversary as Vincentians is a time to reflect on our origins, examine our consciences, and imagine our future. E-books are a way of reflecting– a quick way of getting books that you can take along with you, when you have unexpected free time, when you’re traveling or commuting. An interesting e-book called “Vincent de Paul and Liberation” is available for download:

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From the introduction:

In the synagogue at Nazareth Jesus described his mission by referring to the words of the prophet Isaiah: The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor (Luke 4:18). What does this Good News consist of? Once again using the words of Isaiah, Jesus stated: He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free (Luke 4:18).

The Good News is essentially the proclamation of liberation […]

Vincent viewed the Lucan text as the fundamental text for his various establishments. He referred to this text when he explained how our vocation is a continuation of Jesus’ mission (cf., CCD:XI:26, 98, 121-122, 282-284; XII:3, 71, 79, 299).

Good News for the poor, what a program! To proclaim freedom to all those persons who are chained in ignorance and evil and misery! Vincent, guided by events, engaged in some incredible activity. He was moved by the misery of the poor country people who had been abandoned to ignorance and vices by pastors who were ill-prepared and unworthy. Through the preaching of popular missions Vincent would bring light to the darkness that enveloped these people and would also free them from the evil that overwhelmed them.

Vincent was moved by the material misery of those suffering as a result of illness, war, hunger and various epidemics. He attempted to free those men and women by organizing people and establishing institutions that would provide people with an alternative: the Confraternities of Charity, distribution of provisions and food to the hungry, taking charge of relief services to the areas devastated by war, offering interior freedom to prisoners and the galley slaves.

The liberating activity of Vincent has two aspects: [1] evangelization or the proclamation of the Good News, which consists of telling those individuals who are enslaved in ignorance, superstition or sin that they are children of God and as such, called to live in the freedom of God’s children and therefore they should conduct themselves as sons and daughters of God; [2] at the same time that the Good News is proclaimed, concrete action is necessary in order to make the proclamation credible … the material life of those persons must be transformed. It is not enough to tell people that they are children of God, something must also be done about the inhuman misery in which these people find themselves.

It was for this reason that the popular missions were always accompanied by the establishment of the Confraternity of Charity. The care and attention that was given to the material situation of people usually led to elevating their spiritual situation. This idea was expressed in the 1617 Rule for the Confraternity in Châtillon: On her day … she will prepare the dinner and take it to the patients, greeting them cheerfully and kindly. She will set up the tray on the bed … she will kindly encourage the patient to eat for the love of Jesus and his holy Mother … she will say some little word to him about Our Lord, making an effort to cheer him up if he is downhearted (CCD:XIIIb:12-13).

Vincent was attentive to these two aspects in all his initiatives. The proclamation and the concretization of the Good News of liberation is what Vincent called preaching the Gospel by words and by works, and that is the most perfect way (CCD:XII:78)

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