“I can no longer hide the sorrow of my heart at hearing that much is to be desired in you. […] Where is the spirit of fervor which animated you when you were first established in Angers and which led you to esteem your directors so highly? […] Where are the gentleness and charity that you must preserve so carefully when dealing with our dear masters, the sick poor? If we deviate in the slightest from the conviction that they are the members of Jesus Christ, it will infallibly lead to the weakening of these beautiful virtues in us” (SLM, letter 104b).
Letter of Saint Louise de Marillac to the Daughters of Charity of the Hospital of Angers, July 1644.
- As the mercantile port city of Angers, today’s society also causes the Vincentian Family to be disoriented on what to do and how to do it. And it needs to orient itself. We can not give up ourselves for failures with the apologies that we are already many years old or we are too tired. Louise de Marillac, when she writes this letter, is already an old woman for the seventeenth century.
- The branches of the Vincentian Family are not perfect, they have to correct virtues and failures to avoid walking disoriented. Each Vincentian has to orient himself in his personal, family and social life, and help to guide his companions in the commitment to live as Christians and to evangelize as Vincentians. The greatest service that the Vincentian Family can do is to present itself to the poor and to society as a group in which everyone knows how to live and what to do so that everyone in their environment can be happy.
- A poem by Hélder Cámara says: “When I see a Community, I do not only admire the pearls that make up that precious necklace, above all I admire the discreet thread that unites them.” Is not this the orientation that all Vincentians should take? To work so that we all live together? How to exercise discreet thread in the group?
- It is one of the tasks that Saint Louise constantly asks of the communities. It is an important task not only because of the discontent that the division brings, but because, when they are dispersed and divided, we appear before the world as people who have difficulty living together. And people seek union. It is important that families live together and be models and encouragement for young people, who do not know how to live in a family or how to do it.
- Another direction that should guide Vincentians is to heal wounds. In the group we find people who have deep wounds in their hearts, moral, emotional wounds, family breakups. We all have them, and if we do not accept them, we can project our bad mood on the group. We need guidance. Start by seeing others as people, with a dignity that never disappears, although he or she has flaws and an unpleasant character. What is most surprising about Jesus is that when he treats the wounded person, that person always feels dignified. Jesus never reduces the person to his wound, no matter how big.
Questions for dialogue:
- Start the dialogue by simply stating if each one of you is well oriented on these three questions: how I am now, how I can build union in the Family and in my branch and how I can serve the poor from the Vincentian Family.
- Discuss this sentence that we usually say, when, inserted in a plural and relativistic world, we ask ourselves: What can we do? And calmly we answer: I do not know what I can do.
Benito Martínez, C.M.