Being a young Christian today is not an easy task. Especially if we consider that, to live up to this name, we must experience closeness to God at every moment. Whether at work, at the university, at a party or social gathering or even walking along the street, we are called, as Vincentians, to give witness to a life project that enables us to pursue holiness without having to leave aside all the joy, vitality and audacity proper to our youthfulness. Faced with this attempt to experience Christianity in its essence and fullness, we find an important reference in the thought of Blessed Antonio Federico Ozanam: “To win without danger is to triumph without glory. The more difficult the work, the more beautiful it will be.”
If we refer to the first Christian communities, we can see that their example of resistance to the customs and habits impregnated in the world that surrounded them was very strong. Indeed, the principle that made them resist and persist as a group was derived from the love they shared among themselves, a principle that, incidentally, was the characteristic by which the pagans recognized Christians: “See how they love each other.” This observation leads us to reflect on whether today, in a moment marked by fierce ideological and political positions, we make ourselves known in our Vincentian groups and units, as did the first Christians … that is, are we passionate about our cause and our fellow believers; do we share sharing the pains, anxieties and challenges that arise from the mission of defending the poor, the excluded and the marginalized.
Love is the primordial principle that impels us into the midst of this busy world. If we love someone, if we love a cause, then we manifest pleasure and joy involved in such an activity, even if this means we have to renounce other activities. Then we seek, from the deepest experience of this love, to establish a relationship of mutual respect, closeness, recognition and knowledge with our fellow pilgrims on this journey of life. The love that we are talking about is not the love that the Greeks called eros, nor the love philos which, although also very important, refers only to sentimental relationships in the family; we are talking about agape love, sometimes transliterated simply as charity, a selfless love, a love that is able to reveal that which is best in humanity.
If, on the one hand, we choose to live this Christian experience in a world where the inversion of values sometimes makes us seem out of step with a society that is bound up with consumerism, materialism and hedonism, it may seem that we have chosen a radical and difficult position. Yet, as Vincentians, we must be clear that we are on the right path and that we must attract others to journey along this same path.. There are many temptations and difficulties that the members of the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul must confront in order to remain focused on continually discovering Christ in the person of the poor. Our patron saint, St Vincent de Paul, taught us very well.
Faced with this reality, Ozanam’s words take on greater urgency: the world seems to have cooled down and it depends on each one of us, as young Catholics, to rekindle the flame of Christianity, which is based on the greatest of all the commandments that Christ left us: Love!
Brother Kadu Ferraz,
Metropolitan Council of Olinda and Recife (Brazil)