One of the buzzwords among internet literati is “social media influencer.” That’s “digital speak” for someone who has an impact on what others think, say, and do.
Corporations with products to sell or politicians with points of view, vie for influencers with the ability to tell compelling stories about their product – a car, health aid, food, etc. It’s form a of “word of mouth” influence.
The Church is not without its own kind of influencers. But I am not talking about the packaged programs on billboards or social media.
I think of the “Saints next door” or “ordinary saints whose way of living is contagious. The way they live has a great impact on people’s lives.
St. Vincent as a “quiet” influencer
In his time St. Vincent’s actions led people to trust him.
In his quiet way he embodied a set of values that were contagious for people from all walks of life. He even influenced those who one might be called the influencers of his day – the clergy, including bishops, and the most influential leaders in France. In his later years, his influence spread to other mission countries.
The power of a quiet influencer
I have long known that Vincent changed the face of France and the Church 400 years ago. But it is only in my later years have I realized how he quietly influenced the Church of today!
Just look around at the most vital movements in the Church today. You will see the still-glowing sparks of the practical love of Vincent de Paul that ignited the hearts of so many women and men of his day.
Vincent’s influence impacts us
St. Vincent changed his world. In doing so he also anticipated many of the most exciting currents in our Church today…
- A lay-centered church focused more on the People of God and the poor than the hierarchy.
- Recovery of the ideal of a church of the poor.
- A concept of holiness that is more mission-oriented than a monastic emphasis on personal sanctification.
- A practical vision of the role of women in ministry.
- A commitment to forming priests who have “the smell of the sheep”.
In my later years, I am beginning to understand that Vincent was an organizer of communities. Oh, I knew his role in calling together the Congregation of the Mission and the Daughters of Charity.
It is only recently that I began to appreciate that his most important communities were among the laity. In fact, that was his pastoral gift to the church even before the latter two communities.
These lay communities were called “confraternities.” He established them everywhere Vincentian “missioners” went. One of his most significant confraternities is still in existence today in the form of the AIC. It had communities of “volunteers” in almost every country in the world.
Quiet influencers today
These “quiet” people don’t make loud noises but influence others by the way they love especially the least recognizable of God’s daughters and sons.
I was a quiet Freshman from a working-class immigrant family in his first semester at St. John’s Prep. There I met Vincentians for the first time. It was only later that I realized each of them were unique embodiments of a man named Vincent – a man who changed their world. And because he changed their world, they would, over the next few years, change my world.
In many other quiet followers of Vincent, I have experienced the glowing embers of the ideals of Vincent – following Christ the Evangelizer of the Poor with Vincent’s characteristic virtues – transparency, approachability, disciplined, realism, and hard-working.
Our call to be influencers
Who are the people you respect the most?
How have they influenced your life?
What can you learn?
Originally posted on Vincentian Mindwalk