To the members of the Vincentian Family
Messengers of Peace
M. Vincent, kneeling down, began this prayer: “O Savior of our souls, who, by your love, willed to die for all people, who in some way left your glory to give it to us and, by this means, make us like gods, rendering us like you as far as that is possible, imprint charity on our hearts that one day we may be able go and join that beautiful Company of Charity which is in heaven. This is the prayer I offer up to you, O Savior of our souls” (SV X, 474).Lent 2005
Dear sisters and brothers,
May the grace and peace of Our Lord Jesus Christ fill your hearts now and forever!
Let this season of Lent be a special time of grace to help you reflect on and deepen your commitment to following Jesus Christ, Evangelizer and Server of the poor. One of the rich traditions to help us live out that reflection and continue our own personal processes of conversion is an exam of conscience. So I would like to make the letter this Lent an examining of conscience based on different aspects of our lives, beginning with the general and working toward the particular.
The Word of God (Hebrews 4:12-16)
Do I see the Word of God as dynamic, as an important part of my daily reflection?
Do the daily readings of the Eucharist move me to want to change my life?
Do they help me to deepen my commitment to following Jesus?
Prayer and Meditation (Hosea 2:16)
“So I will allure her, I will lead her into the desert and speak to her heart.”
Our time for private prayer and meditation is a time in the desert, as are these 40 days of Lent.
Do I see it as an opportunity to deepen my communion with God?
Am I sensitive to God’s presence in that moment of prayer?
Do I let God speak to my heart?
Do I understand that private prayer is a privileged place, a space to discern the movement of God in my life?
In my prayer, am I humble before God?
Do I let go and trust in God?
Do I allow God’s mercy to purify my heart? (Paraphrasing a remark from Bishop Oscar Romero, martyr of El Salvador: Personal prayer is the process by which God takes us into the deepest part of our being, deep down into our hearts and there God speaks to us of his love for us).
The Sacraments, particularly the Eucharist (John 6:48-58) and Reconciliation (Luke 15:11-32)
In this year in which we are celebrating in a special way the Eucharist, our Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, invites us to reflect on its significance in our lives, and so the following questions:
Do I participate actively in the Eucharist or am I often distracted?
Do I listen attentively to God’s Word during the Eucharist and allow God’s Word to confront my own life before I approach the altar of the Lord to receive Communion?
Do I open my heart up to the Lord’s mercy and forgiveness?
Do I receive the Lord in the Eucharist with fervor?
Do I see the Eucharist as food for the journey?
Do I allow it to nourish me in order that I might carry out my mission?
Do I truly understand the Eucharist as a communal celebration?
With regard to Reconciliation, the scripture text is the parable of the loving father (prodigal son).
When was the last time I took advantage of receiving God’s mercy in the Sacrament of Reconciliation?
Do I prepare myself for this sacrament?
Do I at times keep hidden some of my more serious sins?
Characteristic Virtues: Humility, Simplicity, Charity
Humility (Luke 18:9-14)
Do I recognize my dignity as a daughter or son of God, having the humility to see the gifts God has given me and do I use those gifts for his glory or for my own vanity?
Am I able to recognize my own limits, my weaknesses, my shortcomings, my failings before others?
Am I able to forgive others and ask forgiveness for my offenses?
Simplicity (Luke 18:15-17)
Is my heart only for God?
Am I transparent, sincere in my dealings with others?
Do I seek the truth or do I sometimes hide the truth so that my real nature will not be known?
Charity (Luke 10:29-37)
Do I not only love God with all my heart, but my neighbor as well as myself?
Do I attempt to make my love both affective and effective?
Is my love infinitely creative or am I afraid to love?
Is my charity towards others paternalistic or maternalistic?
Do I see my charity as liberating others or do I create dependencies?
Do I work in solidarity with others, so that our charity might be a charity that is political in the sense of changing unjust structures, speaking out against those structures that keep the poor oppressed, hindering them from knowing God’s true love for them?
Apostolic Life (2 Corinthians 5:14a)
One of the uniquenesses about our Vincentian spirituality is our call to serve, especially the poor and the most abandoned. We have a number of rich traditions that help us to be able to carry out that apostolic activity.
Do I see my apostolic works and mission as part of the great whole of bringing about the Kingdom of God, which is a Kingdom of justice, peace, love and reconciliation?
Am I faithful in the commitments that I have made in my mission?
Do I follow through on these commitments or are they only lived out halfheartedly?
Do I see evangelization and service of the poor at the heart of my apostolic life, even though I might not be involved directly in the service of the poor?
Do I nourish my apostolic life with contemplation of the experiences I have with the poor?
Do the poor really reflect to me the face and love of Christ?
Do I have a true passion for Christ and at the same time a passion for humanity, especially the poor?
Relationship to the Local Church (1 Corinthians 12:12-28a)
Do I consider myself an active part of the local Church, as a collaborator of the bishop?
Do our apostolic plans coincide with the apostolic plans of the local Church where I am located or at times are my apostolic activities and those of my association carried out in a parallel fashion with the activities of the local Church?
The Vincentian Family (Luke 4:18-19 and 2 Corinthians 5:14a)
Do I know members of other branches of the Vincentian Family?
Do I even care to know them?
Do I encourage the members of my own association to collaborate with other branches of the Vincentian Family?
From time to time do I reflect on the first callings that we received from Fr. Maloney, seeing ourselves as a Vincentian Family, a great army that can harness its forces to do wonderful things for the poor?
Do I recognize the autonomy of each of the branches of the Vincentian Family?
Do I at times tend to think that my branch is better than others?
Where tensions exist among the different branches of the Family, do I make an effort to work toward reconciliation?
Relationship with the Youth (Luke 24:13-35)
The Vincentian Family has highlighted and made this year for us the “Year of Youth.”
Do I make an effort to reach out to young people, making attempts to understand them, to listen to them, to share with them my faith, to share with them my hopes?
Do I make an effort to invite young people into the life of my association or am I too wrapped up in doing my own thing and not having any time to give, especially to young people?
Relationship to the World (Matthew 5:1-12)
In the society in which we live, as well as direct service to the poor, do I make efforts at changing structures, especially those unjust structures which oppress the poor?
Do I allow the attitudes of the world, such as nationalism, racism, and other discriminations, affect my way of dealing with God’s people?
Do I show a willingness to want to work with other groups that struggle for justice, work for peace?
Do I believe in might makes right or do I truly think that an essential aspect of an evangelical way of living is the non-violent way?
Do I see myself as a citizen of the world, as being more important than a citizen of any particular country?
Faithfulness to Our Calling (Mark 10:35-45)
Do I show a concern for the others whom I am called to serve?
Do I carry out responsibly the duties that have been entrusted to me?
Do I try to help others, animate others in their works? Am I a team player?
Do I give good example, especially to the younger members of the association?
Do my particular friends and I close ourselves off to other people, making it difficult for others to come near to the association?
Do we pray together in our association?
Am I an active participant in that prayer?
Am I loyal to my association?
Do I show confidence in the God who leads us to serve Jesus, Evangelizer and Servant of the Poor?
Do I respect the dignity of the other members of my association?
Do I have a respectful attitude toward our Lords, the poor?
This time of Lent is a time to open yourselves up to God’s mercy, but at the same time to be aware of your own limitations and your own sinfulness. It is true that we think and act in ways contrary to the Gospel. Anyone who says he/she is in no need of conversion, being without sin, is a liar, as St. John clearly states, or even worse yet, is blind to his/her own situation. The season of Lent is a time when God, in his mercy, forgives you his children for having strayed from your own identity as members of the Vincentian Family. May you be willing to share with the Lord your failings and sins and at the same time acknowledge God’s mercy.
Your brother in St. Vincent,
G. Gregory Gay, C.M.
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