The Vincentian Question – What Must be Done?

by | Jan 27, 2018 | Formation, Reflections, Vincentian Family

One of St. Vincent’s benefactors turned to Vincent de Paul and asked: “what must be done?” Often referred to as the “Vincentian Question,” this question has shaped the Vincentian mission ever since. I was reminded of this when a read some commentary on the Women’s March.

The March – Moment or Movement?

The estimates varied. So did the reasons they marched. But one fact is clear. Women around the world marched on January 20, 2018. It was further than the borders of the United States and any particular issue. Buenos Aires, Kampala, London, Bangkok, Beijing and Sydney, Athens, Barcelona, Paris, Rome… Women are using their voices.

One passing reference in a story caught my interest. “It Ignited a protest. But can It sustain a movement?” The question caught my interest because it triggered the “what must be done” question about some recent and future events in the Vincentian Family.

Recent Moments in the Vincentian Family

Last summer the leaders of the European Union offered an unprecedented invitation to the Vincentian Family to unveil its plans to end homelessness by 2030. These leaders of the European Union lent their official support for the launch of the Vincentian Family Global Initiative against homelessness.

Some have described the gathering of 11,000 plus in St. Peter’s Square as the beginning of the Vincentian Family “finding its voice.”

The same could be observed about a recent explosion of interest in a Facebook video called “We are Vincentians.” In little over a week, it garnered some 27,000 views.

The response to these events surprised even those who initially set these events in motion.

A fair question is, why did these events catch on?

  • Why did the leaders of the European Union invite Vincentian leaders to present what some would consider an idealistic proposal?
  • Why did 11,000 people stand in solidarity with the Pope before the heart of Vincent?
  • Why did each of these 27,000 people invest their precious time in visiting a video with the title “We are Vincentians” and, in so many instances, tell others about it?

How many conversations and invitations to join a Vincentian movement did all this spark?

I suspect the answer lies in the fact that each of these events embodied something deep in the human heart. I suspect it was akin to what St. Vincent DePaul evoked when he told the story of the poor family in need. Today we stand once again before the Vincentian Question “What must be done.

Renewing the Vincentian Movement

Vincent had no idea of starting a movement 401 years ago when he preached the Sermon that led to a movement still alive today. He was simply trying to get the word out about the needs of a family in dire straits.

I wonder whether the leaders behind these Vincentian moments really thought these moments would coalesce into a renewing of the Vincentian Movement.

The momentum seems to be picking up. The Vincentian Family Film Festival next year at Castle Gandolfo has already attracted over 2000 submissions. The significance is not in the surprising number of early submissions. The significance is the impetus for getting the story out.  Its purpose is “to discover and support those who have the gifts to tell the story of Vincent in a digital age.” People seem afire to tell the story of Vincent following Christ the Evangelizer of the Poor.

So too, after 400 years the momentum is being fanned into flame with the Vincentian Superior General’s call to foster a culture of vocations.

  “The Culture of Vocations means an environment in which all people can discover and rediscover their reason for being on this earth, the meaning of life, the mission they are called to fulfill, the call they are invited to answer. The Culture of Vocations puts Jesus in first place, no matter if it is as a layperson or a consecrated person.”

Is this not the call to live Jesus’ words “to tell the good news to the poor” Luke 4 and his reminder that we will be judged ultimately by what we do for the least of our brothers and sisters Mt. 25. Is this not engaging people in community for mission?  Is this not God’s movement?

The key lies in each of us inviting others into Jesus’ mission of being evangelizers of the poor.

If each of us commits to this call would it not transform a series of moments into a profound renewal the movement that grew from the humble moments of 400 years ago?


  • Will our Vincentian moments become a rebirth of a movement?
  • How can I add my time, talent or treasure to telling this story?
  • In short, “What must be done?” becomes “What must I do?”



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