The world is suffering from a difficult and challenging situation. A pandemic has changed the reality of millions of people across the planet. Some experts say and we, as ordinary people, have already experienced the fact that the world will no longer be the same.
The pandemic has changed the way we relate to each other and this is especially noted by Latinos, who have more affective ways of interacting with people. Kisses, hugs and greetings with your hands should be avoided unless a mask is worn.
But during this time of pandemic, do we know God’s plans for us as members of the Vincentian Family? We could try to answer this complex question in various ways, but the answer that should touch the heart of every Vincentian is that God has chosen us to live our greatest mission because God loves us and, above all, God believes in our work. God wants us to be innovative in our activities … that is, more welcoming, more affectionate, more sensitive to the reality of the other who is suffering.
If before some of us might have had the image that our Lords and Masters were only the hungry, then today we must understand that our Lords and Masters are also those who need our love, our advice, our understanding and, above all, someone with whom to feel safer.
The social isolation that we have been asked to maintain, for our safety, has also resulted in many people living more alone. In many countries, there are large numbers of older people living alone. Many of them do not have contact with their children or other relatives who could help them understand and provide them with a perspective for this difficult moment that we are experiencing.
The mission that we, as members of the Vincentian Family have is to try to make ourselves more present in their lives and give them the support they need and in this way we can then live this difficult moment together.
Saint Vincent de Paul lived at a time of great change in the world. France had become a world power, but it was also a place of great poverty, abandoned children and countless individuals who suffered ruin caused by war. In the midst of that situation, Vincent heard God’s call to fulfill the greatest mission of his life: to help those who suffer. Vincent de Paul is viewed by the Catholic Church as the patron saint of all charitable works, and today the work of Vincent de Paul is seen as a model for providing assistance to humble families and for engaging in the struggle against poverty in the world.
Blessed Frederic Ozanam also experienced great change in the world. In the same France as Saint Vincent de Paul but more than 200 years later, Frederic Ozanam lived in a country that has been devastated by war and revolution. Consequently, there was great hunger. Frederic also heard God’s call to fulfill the greatest mission of his life, and it was precisely at that moment that Frederick Ozanam and his friends were challenged to put into practice the teachings of Jesus Christ. Replace words with actions. Inspired by scripture and the working model of Saint Vincent de Paul, Frederic and his friends began, in a very simple way, to make their first home visits and engaged in efforts to change the plight of the poor.
The Holy Spirit of God made the work of Frederic Ozanam and his friends spread throughout the world, becoming an important network of charity.
From the time of Frederic Ozanam to the present day, the world has continued to undergo great change. The First and Second World Wars, pandemics, natural disasters, and so many other difficult times that forced Vincentians to look again at the reality they were experiencing. New ways of practicing charity, new ways of proclaiming the Gospel, new ways of recruiting members for the many different branches of the worldwide Vincentian Family, new forms of action to struggle against the many forms of poverty that have plagued humanity… So now we must think about the manner in which we can continue our ministry in this new situation of the COVID-19. We must think about how we can comfort so many families who have lost loved ones without physically embracing them. We must think about how we can help our Vincentian brothers and sisters who, in the midst of this pandemic, have also lost relatives or their jobs, and are in the same situation today as so many other families in need.
Today, we are called by God to fulfill our greatest mission. Young people and members, who are not in a high risk group, can make visits. They can wear masks and maintain physical distance and approach the people they visit with love and affection. Words should sound as authentic as possible: Be calm! Everything will pass! Have trust ! We are in this together! If you need me, you can call me! … At the end of the visit and on the way home, we must be careful with our personal hygiene, so as not to become transmitters of the virus.
If you are unable to make a face-to-face visit, today we have resources that Saint Vincent de Paul and Blessed Federico Ozanam did not have. We can call by phone, we can send text or voice messages, we can also make video calls… Today we have technology in our favor and now, more than ever, we must use it to break down the barriers of social isolation that keep people apart.
Now is the time when we must show that the Worldwide Vincentian Family has been and will always be at the side of those who suffer. Today, in addition to our material and spiritual assistance, words of comfort, of optimism are expected of us. Christ is present today in the poor, who are our Lords and Masters, but he is also present in those Vincentian brothers and sisters who at the present time cannot go out to attend to the poor and who certainly miss them very much. Let us unite to overcome social distancing and face our greatest mission, so that in the future, in about 100 or 200 years, other Vincentians will be able to look back on history and see that we, in this moment of world pandemic, were able to rethink our ways of providing assistance … if God has chosen us to live at this moment, it is because God is confident that we can fulfill this mission.
Praised be Our Lord, Jesus Christ!
Consocio Sidney Batista França,
Conferencia de San Pedro – Jacaraípe (Brasil)