English Homily – 13 October 2017
Vincentian Symposium

“Remember always to welcome the stranger, for by doing this, some people have entertained angels without knowing it” (Heb.13:2) This single verse captures clearly our reason for being here today. And how good it is to be here my brothers and sisters to celebrate one with another 400 years of the existence of our wonderful charism that was given to us by God through the person of St. Vincent DePaul.

I am most grateful to our Superior General, Fr. Thomas Mavric for inviting me to celebrate together with all my brothers and sisters of the Vincentian Family of English speaking part of the world.

I’m delighted to see this wonderful turnout of Pilgrims. We have come from all over the world to give thanks to God, our Almighty Father for the great love that God has manifested in the person of St. Vincent DePaul and that continues to be manifested from generation to generation by way of our evangelizing and serving the poor. We are gathered in Rome, the heart of our Catholic Church to which St. Vincent DePaul was most dedicated to bringing about its mission of ushering in the Kingdom of God. This is in a historical moment of which all of us are so grateful to have the opportunity to be a part. The celebrations in these days of our symposium are but the culmination of a year and a half of celebrations honoring St. Vincent DePaul and many of his followers who have kept the legacy of evangelizing and serving the poor so very much alive. Our celebrations are meant not only to give honor and glory to God for the wonderful things the Lord has done in and through us, but also as a way of encouraging us to continue to move forward together in this great charism with which  God has blessed the Church. 400 years ago marked the beginning of the Confraternities of Charity, today is known as the International Association of Charities, as well as the start of the Congregation of the Mission. With these two gifts, God has given to the world and to the poor in the person of St. Vincent de Paul and his Family a legacy of compassion that brings to life both affective and effective Charity.

Our theme for this year of celebration and in particular this symposium is “welcoming the strangers”. Two years ago the  VFCC presented me and subsequently the Vincentian Family executive committee, their proposal for the 400th anniversary. The recommendation, that “We welcome the Stranger” was very timely,  especially in Europe, where thousands of immigrants and refugee seekers were being turned away. Boarders were closed in a number of countries, fences and barricades were raised to keep people out! The theme continues to be profoundly prophetic beyond the European frontiers. In the USA, under the new presidential administration, many immigrants live in fear that they will be deported after having lived in the USA and contributing significantly to its economy, culture, and life for many years. They are being treated as criminals. Numerous numbers of families are continually threatened of being forcefully separated.  Walls are being built to close frontiers and keep out “the stranger”. The scripture passage of today’s gospel from Mathew, “I was a stranger and you welcomed me,” has fallen on many a deaf ear around the world, even among us who claim to be followers of JC  and profess the Catholic faith. Instead of extending hospitality, the refugees and migrants experience rejection, hatred, violence, discrimination and outright racism.

Where has our sense of human compassion and solidarity gone? We, as a Vincentian Family are called, as well as challenged, to rekindle a sense of solidarity,  a basic paradigm of the human condition. In his passion, death, and resurrection Jesus Christ rescued humanity from the depths of destruction. He saved us from being completely lost by his single act of selfless solidarity. We, as followers of Jesus Christ in the spirit of St. Vincent DePaul are impelled to foster solidarity in our hospitality to the stranger.

“All are Welcome in this Place” is the hymn we opened with and with which we will close this Eucharist today. The verses speak eloquently of our duty to love and serve the marginalized who are God’s beloved.

St. Paul’s letter to the Romans 12: 1-13 is rich in wisdom. “We do not conform ourselves to the standards of this world, but let God transform ourselves inwardly by a complete change of attitude”(12:2). Though we are many, we are one body in union with Christ and inspired by the charism of Vincent de Paul, Louise de Marillac, Frederick Ozanam and by many other saints, blessed and venerable persons of our Vincentian Family. We have worked tirelessly for the Kingdom of God and have spent ourselves joyfully, trying to be patient, especially in troubled times.  Let us too pray at all times for another and especially for our world and it’s most vulnerable yet precious members, our Lords and Masters, the Poor. In the final verse of our reading from St. Paul, he challenges each and every one of us to open our homes to the stranger. Who knows, when we do so, we just might be entertaining angels!

Gregory Gay, CM

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