I am told that anniversary celebrations began in medieval times when people celebrated 25 and 50 years of marriage. A husband would crown his wife with a wreath of silver for 25 years and of gold for 50.
The tradition of gold and silver wedding anniversaries has stuck, but there is now a long list of other named anniversaries to accompany them. Each represents a different facet of the couple’s commitment, the stage their relationship is at and the number of years they have been together.
Anniversaries of Pope Francis and Saint Vincent
We just marked two anniversaries – the fifth anniversary of Pope Francis and the 400th anniversary of the Vincentian charism or way of following Christ the Evangelizer of the Poor.
Pope Francis is no longer considered a new Pope. And… at least in some quarters… the honeymoon is over.
But it does occur to me that Pope Francis may well go down in history as one of the great Evangelizers of the Marginalized.
He certainly has been mindful of words whispered in his ear at the time of his election. The Pope’s friend, Cardinal Cláudio Hummes, a Brazilian and a Franciscan, who when he congratulated the newly elected Pope, whispered in his ear, “don’t forget the poor!”
It seems that those words united the heart and the soul of Francis with all the pain and suffering, all the hopes and joy of the poor who live in the slums of Buenos Aires, in the favelas of Rio and San Palo, in the shanty towns of Bogota, in the marginalized villages of Haiti, Mexico and Central America. His dedication to the poor and the marginallzed is not only in his heart but on his lips and in his actions.
The anniversary industry has no category or symbol for 400 years. Probably because the market is too small.
But Vincent does have a special symbol for his 400th anniversary. It is you and me! It is called the Vincentian Family.
Lessons for us
We are living symbols of both Pope Francis and Saint Vincent.
Pope Francis has done amazing things to lift up the poor and lowly. He is helping us hear the cries of the poor. A way of celebrating Pope Francis’ 5th anniversary would be to ask ourselves, how well do we hear the cries of the marginalized and lift them up?
St. Vincent de Paul’s spirit has been embodied for some 400 years. What are we doing to inspire new generations? I encourage you to at least read the words of Steve Green’s “Find us Faithful.” If you have five minutes, watch the YouTube video below and experience them in sight and sound. I have heard this many times and it still stirs me!
Find Us Faithful
We’re pilgrims on the journey
Of the narrow road,
And those who’ve gone before us line the way,
Cheering on the faithful, encouraging the weary,
Their lives a stirring testament to God’s sustaining grace.
Surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses,
Let us run the race not only for the prize,
But as those who’ve gone before us
Let us leave to those behind us,
The heritage of faithfulness passed on through godly lives.
Oh may all who come behind us find us faithful,
May the fire of our devotion light their way,
May the footprints that we leave
Lead them to believe,
And the lives we live inspire them to obey,
Oh may all who come behind us find us faithful.
After all our hopes and dreams have come and gone,
And our children sift through all we’ve left behind,
May the clues that they discover and the memories they uncover
Become the light that leads them to the road we each must find.
Words and Music: Jon Mohr / Copyright 1988 Birdwing Music/Jonathan Mark Music