[The conferences] are blooming in Livorno and in Pisa, they begin to prosper in Florence, in Pontadera, they settle in Prato, and soon in Volterra and in Porto Ferraio. Very soon there will be seven families of Saint Vincent de Paul in this Tuscan country in which Catholic life languished as if drowned by the golden chains of the Josephism. But what matters most, and what excites me the most, is that the first spirit of our Society is being communicated in a wonderful way to the new members. I have found among them the simplicity, the cordiality of our beginnings.
Frederic Ozanam, letter to François Lallier, March 8, 1853.
- At the end of the seventeenth century Josephism appeared, whose main actor was the Emperor Joseph II of Austria (1780-1790). With it he wanted to subordinate the Church to the State in all its external aspects. Chancellor Kaunitz, one of the protagonists of the events, said that “it matters very much to the Prince that the Dogma remains in conformity with the Gospel, and that both the discipline of the clergy and the cult are adjusted to the needs of the public good, no less than to determine with absolute discretion who, whoever he or she is, can entrust things of such importance.” Frederic refers thus to the situation of the life of the Church in Tuscany, not so much by the subjection to the state as by the passivity in which they lived.
- Frederic had the opportunity to know firsthand, already very close to his death, how the conferences of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul flourished in Italy; he even became personally involved in the promotion and creation of some of them.
- Seeing the Society grow, without doubt excited him, especially when he remembered those humble origins in Paris. But, as he himself says, what excited him most was to see that the original spirit remained intact through the years and after having grown to include thousands of members. “Simplicity and cordiality” that are among the virtues estimated by Ozanam and by the Vincentians, because they invite us to live our Christian life following the virtues we inherited from St. Vincent, and to do so living in community, as good brothers.
Questions for dialogue:
- Do we live cordially, as good brothers, our relationships in the group / community / conference to which we belong?
- Are these (simplicity and cordiality) “characteristic notes” of our ministry?
- Do we live with excitement, with emotion, the call we have received to follow Jesus Christ evangelizer of the poor, in the footsteps of St. Vincent de Paul, St. Louise de Marillac and many other notable Vincentians who preceded us?
Javier F. Chento