“Oh, what a happiness, if, without offending God, the Company could be employed only in the service of those who are destitute in all things! To this end, this Company must never depart from nor change its poor manner of life. Thus, should Divine Providence provide them with more than is necessary, let them go to serve the corporally and spiritually poor at their own expense. If this passes unnoticed, what does it matter, so long as souls honor eternally the Redemption of Our Lord?” (E 100).
From the report about the Company of the Daughters of Charity that Saint Louise de Marillac sent to Saint Vincent de Paul a few months before her death.
- The central characters in Advent are John the Baptist and Mary. The cry of John the Baptist: “Prepare the ways of the Lord,” is an invitation to personal conversion, to change the heart of stone for another of flesh. For Mary, the conversion is to enter the messianic times that the prophet Isaiah had announced, it is to implant justice, love and peace among the poor, changing the structures that dominate this society to which Saint John Paul II called the society of sin.
- Saint Louise de Marillac accepts these two meanings of Advent, but drawing a conclusion: that the Daughters of Charity save, by leading an austere life, and in that way they will be able to be “in the service of those who are destitute in all things.” Wonderful in this society of sin in which only productivity is worth, although we ought to abandon those who do not produce for being old, sick or have no capabilities. Advent asks for solidarity with the weak so that the lamb and the lion, the child and the viper play together and so it could be said that the messianic times have began with the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem on Christmas Day.
- Advent is demanding, and John the Baptist points this out by his way of dressing and feeding in the desert. Like it or not, Jesus often speaks of sacrificing himself for the weakest, abandoning a part of our comforts: “Birds have a home… Leave father and mother… Do not take nothing with you…” And St. Vincent and St. Louise, in letters and conferences, speak of leading a poor life.
- The lack of sacrifice and responsibility have led men to a light life, turning them into hollow, superficial people, orphaned of spirituality. And there is danger that the Daughters of Charity, who walk the roads of the towns and the streets of the city, get infected when entering the stores or in the big establishments: buying for buying, spending for spending, without needing it. It’s what we call consumerism. Let us never say of our communities what a modern psychiatrist wrote about today’s society: that it seeks “abundance, having everything material and has minimized the spiritual … People full of everything, swollen, full of things, but without direction” (Enrique Rojas).
Questions for dialogue:
- How do you plan to live Advent? Will you do something to change your heart of stone into one of flesh? Will you announce Advent to family, friends and people, as John the Baptist announced it?
- Do you plan to save on family and personal expenses to give to people who need it? Will you speak at home of this, with your wife and children?
- In the Vincentian branch to which you belong, have you met or are you going to meet to discuss these Advent matters?
Benito Martínez, C.M.