A Vincentian Reading of ''Evangelii Gaudium:'' Implied Commitments for Consecrated Vincentians

From Vincentian Encyclopedia

By: Salvatore Fari, CM

[This presentation was given during the XXXIX Vincentian Studies Week that was held in Salamanca, Spain (June 29 – July 3, 2015). This article has been translated and published on line in the Vincentian Encyclopedia with the permission of the author and Editorial CEME]

The Spanish edition of this presentation and all the presentations given during that week will be published at a later date by Editorial CEME]


Introduction

I am very happy to participate in this week of Vincentian Studies here in Salamanca. I want to thank Father José Manuel for the invitation which he extended to me and at the same time I extend my heartfelt greeting to all of you

The theme that was given to me is the following: A Vincentian Reading of Evangelii Gaudium: Implied Commitments for Consecrated Vincentians.

Because this theme is so broad I found it difficult to choose one specific element of the Exhortation for our focus. Thus I opted to develop the presentation in the following four sections: [1] the Exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium, [2] the primary themes of the Exhortation, [3] the church of Vincent de Paul, [4] implied commitments for consecrated Vincentians. I then draw some conclusions.

The Apostolic Exhortation: Evangelii Gaudium

Our reflection is based on the Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium, of Pope Francis [1].. In accord with previous practice, such an Exhortation should have been a restatement of the results of the 2012 Synod of Bishops that discussed the theme of the new evangelization. Nevertheless, Pope Francis made this Exhortation a programmatic document for his Pontificate. Thus we read: In this Exhortation I wish to encourage the Christian faithful to embark upon a new chapter of evangelization marked by this joy, while pointing out new paths for the Church’s journey in years to come (EG, #1). In other words, Evangelii Gaudium is “a map” that orients the Pope’s teachings. The many surprising affirmations that we have heard as Francis has ministered as the universal pastor (affirmations that have often been misinterpreted) find their proper explanation in this Apostolic Exhortation.

The Introduction presents the primary themes: the joy of the gospel (here there is a reference to the Apostolic Exhortation, Gaudete In Domino and Evangelii Nuntiandi, both of which were written by Paul VI). It should be noted that this is not restatement of matters that have been dealt with previously and therefore, people are simply being reminded about those statements. Rather, Pope Francis has reinterpreted and further developed those statements for the purpose of making a contribution to the Church’s self-understanding … and yes, the Church’s identification is found in the process of evangelization. That reality is expressed in a very unique manner: a Church on the verge of going out. In other words, if the Church ceases to evangelize, she is no longer Church and if Christians cease to evangelize, they are no longer Christian. In light of that reality the Pope states: I invite you to participate in a new phase of evangelization (EG, #287).

In is important to state here that this document is presented as the fruit of the magisterium of the church in Latin America (CELAM) which from the time of its creation (1955) has redacted five documents (Medellin, Puebla, Aparecida) in six general meetings … documents which provide a foundation for the teachings of Pope Francis. Here, then, we are dealing with the joy that flows from the experience of God’s love, forgiveness and tenderness … a joy that is rooted in the prophetic preaching of the Old Testament (especially the messianic passages where a new future is proclaimed) and in the New testament (Mary, as the representative of the poor, proclaims the fulfillment of the Old Testament promises). Here also we find the newly established Church (at the Last supper and in the experience of the Resurrection) giving witness to the attitude that should characterize the evangelizer. Thus, the Risen Christ is very present at the beginning of the Exhortation.

The Pope refers to the joy of the poor while very aware of the many obstacles and difficulties that they encounter on a daily basis. He speaks about the real joy shown by others who, even amid pressing professional obligations, were able to preserve, in detachment and simplicity, a heart full of faith. In their own way, all these instances of joy flow from the infinite love of God, who has revealed himself to us in Jesus Christ (EG, #7). This is the joy that is proper to all Christians..

Five chapters follow this Introduction.

The first chapter speaks about the transformation of the Church: Pope Francis immediately expresses his desire to reform the Church and calls people to conversion (and he includes himself as one who is in need of conversion). In other words, the text begins in a prophetic style, one that contains a specific prophecy (the prophet includes himself among those in need of conversion) in which the prophet experiences a personal as well as a communal calling: Let us go forth, then, let us go forth to offer everyone the life of Jesus Christ (EG, #49).

The second chapter focuses on the world and does so following the example of the Second Vatican Council. We find an echo of the words of John XXIII who spoke against the prophets of doom (EG, #84). The Exhortation then points out the obstacles that, in the thinking of Paul VI (cf, Populorum Progressio), authentic human development must confront. Even though there are many difficult situations in the present reality, and even though we know that the Church is a sinful Church, nevertheless, the Church (following the example of Paul VI in Octogessima Adviens) must engage in a process of discernment in order to discover the temptations that the people of God (the faithful as well as their pastors) must struggle with.

The third chapter presents the primary theme of the document: evangelization and its relationship to the Church. Viewing the Church from the perspective of evangelization, the Exhortation states that everyone is called to evangelize. The Church finds its identity in evangelization. Therefore, on every level of the Church and all of the Church’s structures (the most personal, individual structures as well as the institutional structures) should reveal the obligation of every person to engage in the process of evangelization.

The fourth chapter is a response to the diagnosis of a society whose communal dimension is in crisis. This chapter reveals the social dimension of evangelization as fundamental to the whole process of evangelization. This dimension is shown to be intimately related to ethics and therefore, places the inclusion of the more vulnerable members of society in the context of the common good and the need for dialogue. In this way it is hoped that peace and reconciliation will become realities in the midst of the Church and in the midst of society.

The fifth chapter highlights the spirituality that guided the Pope’s reflection on the various themes of this Exhortation. In other words, we are dealing with an incarnational spirituality that grounds the Christian commitment to transform and to humanize the world because the Kingdom of God is at hand.

The primary themes of Evangelii Gaudium'

The introduction is very important because it presents the fundamental theme of the document. Pope Francis begins with a consoling consideration: The joy of the gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus. Those who accept his offer of salvation are set free from sin, sorrow, inner emptiness and loneliness. With Christ joy is constantly born anew (EG, #1).

Joy is not an accessory to the Christian faith but rather a constitutive fundamental dimension. A Christian without joy is an oxymoron … it is like “a rich man without money” or “a genius without intelligence”. We are not talking about some superficial joy, but rather a profound experience that is able to sustain the disciples of the Lord during the most painful and difficult moments of their life. At the same time, the broadening of the horizons of Christian people flows from the joy of the people of God.

In light of what has just been stated, the Pope presents the problem that gave origin to the Exhortation: if joy is the distinctive characteristic of our faith, why do so many Christians seem to lack said joy; why do so many individuals give the impression that their lives appear to be a Lent without Easter (EG, #6) and why do so many individuals look as though they have just returned from a funeral (EG, #10)? The loss of joy is the result of having been ensnared by one of the greatest traps of today’s world: individual sadness (EG, #2). Christians are sad because they have renounced their obligation to evangelize. Thus, men and women who do not engage in the process of evangelization, who do not give witness to Christ, have cut themselves off from grace and, consequently, have also cut themselves off from joy. Pope Francis wants to impel all people toward the joy of the faith, a joy that is sustained by proclaiming the Good News to all parts of the world … in that way the light is able to penetrate every aspect of human existence.

The reform of the Church from the perspective of a missionary going forth (EG, #19-75)'

The first section of the document is divided into two parts: the Church’s missionary transformation (EG, #19-49) and the present situation of the world that is in need of the proclamation of Good News (EG, #50-109). The first section highlights the criteria that should guide the reform: in order to fulfill Jesus’ command, the Church must become a Church that goes forth, must move from a pastoral ministry of mere conservation to a decidedly missionary pastoral ministry (EG, #15) … all of us are called to take part in the new missionary “going forth” (EG, #20).

Therefore structural renewal is necessary: The renewal of structures demanded by pastoral conversion can only be understood in this light: as part of an effort to make them more mission-oriented, to make ordinary pastoral activity on every level more inclusive and open, to inspire in pastoral workers a constant desire to go forth and in this way to elicit a positive response from all those whom Jesus summons to friendship with himself (EG, #27).

Therefore, the diocese, the parish, every association and movement must examine themselves with regard to the manner in which they engage in the mission. Risk is part of the mission and we must frequently accept risk: I prefer a Church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets rather than a Church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security (EG, #49).

The content of the proclamation ought to be the fundamental element of faith: the beauty of the saving love of God made manifest in Jesus Christ who died and rose from the dead (EG, #36). In this way we promote a missionary style that is not obsessed with the disjointed transmission of a multitude of doctrines to be insistently imposed (EG, #35)

The second part of this section contains an analysis of the evils of our globalized world, the world in which the Church must become incarnate. The Pope has no doubts: at the center of the sufferings and sins that characterize the present era is an economic system that is unjust at its roots (EG, #59), founded on the idolatry of money and on the belief that prosperity and increased profit will resolve everything: a deified market (EG, #56). In the midst of this reality it is clear that we are dealing with the “canonization” of selfishness which creates a world in which the excluded are not “the exploited” but the outcasts, “the leftovers” (EG, #53). In other words, we must now confront a disposable culture (EG, #53). This individualism of our postmodern and globalized era (EG, #67) undermines the foundation of the family, the fundamental cell of society and also undermines every other structure of the human community.

The temptations of pastoral ministers (EG, #76-109)

The second section of the Exhortation is an examination of conscience (one that is made from the perspective of the gospel). These words were inspired by and are rooted in the first week of the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius: a profound reflection on one’s sins which in turn becomes the door through which one is able to discern the will of God.

It is impossible to understand Evangelii Gaudium unless one has engaged in such an examination of conscience. The Pope at times directs his words very explicitly to every reader so that, ultimately, they might be converted. Note the following words: Let us ask the Lord to help us understand the law of love. How good it is to have this law … We all have our likes and dislikes, and perhaps at this very moment we are angry with someone. At least let us say to the Lord: “Lord, I am angry with this person, with that person. I pray to you for him and for her”. To pray for a person with whom I am irritated is a beautiful step forward in love, and an act of evangelization. Let us do it today! Let us not allow ourselves to be robbed of the ideal of fraternal love! (EG, #101).

This section is composed of an introduction and seven responses. At the end of each response we are reminded not to put aside or ignore something important: let us not allow ourselves to be robbed of missionary enthusiasm (EG, #80); let us not allow ourselves to be robbed of the joy of evangelization (EG, #83); let us not allow ourselves to be robbed of hope (EG, #86); let us not allow ourselves to be robbed of community (EG, #92); let us not allow ourselves to be robbed of the Gospel (EG, #97); let us not allow ourselves to be robbed of the ideal of fraternal love (EG, #101); let us not allow ourselves to be robbed of missionary vigor (EG, #109). These warnings reminds us of Jesus words: A thief comes only to steal and slaughter and destroy; I come so that they might have life and have it more abundantly (John 10:10).

In the Introduction the Pope expresses his gratitude for the Church without which this is no reform but only further disputes (EG, #76): a resentful attitude with regard to the Church will result in destruction, not reform. The Pope, then, reminds us that we, as Christians, are as sinful as other people and unless we are converted, we will remain as active participants in this network of sin, in this selfish world that was described in the previous section (EG, #77).

In order to enter into the process of evangelization, we need a missionary spirituality: we should free ourselves from the selfish attitudes described by the Pope, namely, individualism, an inferiority complex with regard to the world, self-centeredness cloaked in an outward religiosity bereft of God, a defeatist attitude in having to confront the present challenges, spiritual worldliness (the open wound of the Church) and widespread corruption disguised as good. God save us from a worldly Church with superficial spiritual and pastoral trappings (EG, #97). The internal conflicts between Christians is a great scandal. In this regard the Pope states: It always pains me greatly to discover how some Christian communities, and even consecrated persons, can tolerate different forms of enmity, division, calumny, defamation, vendetta, jealousy and the desire to impose certain ideas at all costs, even to persecutions which appear as veritable witch hunts. Whom are we going to evangelize if this is the way we act? (EG, #100). Another danger is clericalism which excludes from the decision making process the indispensable experience of the majority of the people of God, the laity, men and women, young and elderly. We need to form new relationships with the people of God … no one evangelizes alone!

The Church as the totality of the People of God who evangelize (EG, #110-134)'

The third section of the Exhortation corresponds, in a certain manner, to the second week of Saint Ignatius’ spiritual exercises, that is, an attempt to discover the will of God with regard to important life decisions. In this the Pope emphasizes the fact that the proclamation of the gospel is the proper and specific vocation of the people of God and not simply a ministry for “professionals”. By virtue of our baptism we are all pastoral ministers. This section is grounded on the Pope’s “theology of the people”.

According to the Pope’s vision, the people of God are not passive subjects, some mob or mass of people who need to be guided and freed by others who are more educated and enlightened (a belief of some Marxists). Rather the people of God are active subjects who ought to be heard in matters of faith: they possess a wisdom which can only be learned through a pastoral nearness to people. We are not interested in learning from people dogmatic truths which are proper to the Church’s magisterium. The Pope states that we will not learn from people the answer to the question: who is Our Blessed Mother? … but people will tell us how they are loved by Our Blessed Mother. Therefore, in order to evangelize the contributions of the whole Church are necessary … such is merited by the beauty of her varied face (EG, #116) and herein we also discover the evangelizing power of popular piety (EG, #122). According to the Pope the origin of such diversity of gifts is the Holy Spirit and it is the Spirit who guarantees the unity of the people of God. The diversity among the people is reconciled through the power of the Spirit. Indeed, only the Spirit can raise up diversity, plurality and multiplicity while at the same time bringing about unity. When we, for our part, aspire to diversity, we become self-enclosed, exclusive and divisive; similarly, whenever we attempt to create unity on the basis of our human calculations, we end up imposing a monolithic uniformity. This is not helpful for the Church’s mission (EG, #131). Therefore, theologians must always remember that the Church and theology exist to evangelize, and not be content with desk-bound theology (EG, #133).

The homily and its preparation (EG, #135-175)'

The fourth section forms the center of the whole Exhortation. We should not be deceived by the title of this section because this is not some theoretical explanation of the homily that is directed toward priests so that they might better their homilies: the reflections in these paragraphs constitute a change in the very heart of the Exhortation. In dealing with the matter of the preparation of the homily, the Pope explains the fundamental content that should be communicated, namely, the kerygma, the first proclamation of salvation, the narration of the reality that our Lord Jesus Christ took our sins upon himself and freely offered himself on the cross in order to free us from sin and death (from non-existence). Then Jesus rose from the dead in order to share with us his victory … and we share in that victory through the celebration of the Word and the sacraments.

The Pope highlights the primary function of preaching, namely, to create a thirst for God: the preacher must know the heart of his community, in order to realize where its desire for God is alive and ardent (EG, #137) and in order to proclaim words that enkindle the heart and thus avoid a preaching which would be purely moralistic or doctrinaire (#142). Furthermore, the Holy Father states: a preacher who does not prepare is not “spiritual”; he is dishonest and irresponsible with the gifts he has received (EG, #145).

The basic content of all preaching is the kerygma: In catechesis too, we have rediscovered the fundamental role of the first announcement or kerygma, which needs to be the centre of all evangelizing activity and all efforts at Church renewal ... The fire of the Spirit is given in the form of tongues and leads us to believe in Jesus Christ who, by his death and resurrection, reveals and communicates to us the Father’s infinite mercy. On the lips of the catechist the first proclamation must ring out over and over: “Jesus Christ loves you; he gave his life to save you; and now he is living at your side every day to enlighten, strengthen and free you.” This first proclamation is called “first” not because it exists at the beginning and can then be forgotten or replaced by other more important things. It is first in a qualitative sense because it is the principal proclamation, the one which we must hear again and again in different ways, the one which we must announce one way or another throughout the process of catechesis, at every level and moment (EG, #164). Without the salt of the kerygma, preaching and every form of teaching loses its flavor and is reduced to a hollow moralism, to a voluntary appeal and to human effort doomed to failure. Christianity becomes an insufferable burden and a form of hypocrisy.

The social inclusion of the poor (EG, #176-216)'

The fifth section is intimately connected to the third which highlights the need for the whole people of God to engage in the task of evangelization. In order for this task to be accomplished, certain forms of marginalization need to be overcome and a network of solidarity must be restored, especially within the Church. This will help the people of God to rediscover their vocation which is very countercurrent to the dominant trend.

Thus, there is a profound connection between evangelization and human promotion (EG, #178) which impels Christians to become involved in social and economic matters: It is no longer possible to claim that religion should be restricted to the private sphere and that it exists only to prepare souls for heaven (EG, #182). Therefore, an authentic faith --- which is never comfortable or completely personal --- always involves a deep desire to change the world (EG, #183). Pope Francis goes on to state: We should not be concerned simply about falling into doctrinal error, but about remaining faithful to this light-filled path of life and wisdom (EG, #194); in fact, the option for the poor is primarily a theological category rather than a cultural, sociological, political or philosophical one … This is why I want a Church which is poor and for the poor. They have much to teach us (EG, #198). This is not a question, however, of limiting ourselves to offering material assistance: the worst discrimination that the poor suffer is the lack of spiritual care (EG, #200). Among the excluded members of society the Pope does not forget to mention unborn children, the most defenseless and innocent among us. Nowadays efforts are made to deny them their human dignity and to do with them whatever one pleases, taking their lives and passing laws preventing anyone from standing in the way of this (EG, #213).

Peace and social dialogue (EG, #217-258)

The sixth part of the Exhortation is related to the second part in which the Pope referred to the temptations that pastoral ministers must confront: temptations of selfishness and ennui (forms of withdrawal into oneself) which paralyze Christians. The remedy for such situations is to minister on behalf of the common good and to proclaim the gospel of peace. Francis wants to highlight four principles of discernment that should guide the development of life in society and the building of a people where differences are harmonized within a shared pursuit (EG, #221).

The first principle: time is greater than space (EG, #222-225). In the mind of the Pope space is a reality that is placed before our eyes. In undertaking an activity such as evangelization, we should not allow ourselves to be drawn into the trap of wanting to control everything or of wanting to obtain immediate success on every level. Time is more important than space because authentic human activity is effective when such activity involves a process and not when it presumes to have achieved its objective. Evangelizers are patient sowers of seed and it is obvious that growth requires time: The parable of the weeds among the wheat (cf. Mt 13:24-30) graphically illustrates an important aspect of evangelization: the enemy can intrude upon the kingdom and sow harm, but ultimately he is defeated by the goodness of the wheat (EG, #225).

The second principle: unity prevails over conflict (226-230). According to Pope Francis conflict is an inevitable reality in human affairs. Conflict, then, cannot be ignored, but must be confronted. Nevertheless, we must learn how to deal with conflict so that we do not become entangled in its web: When conflict arises, some people simply look at it and go their way as if nothing happened; they wash their hands of it and get on with their lives. Others embrace it in such a way that they become its prisoners (EG, #227). The Pope is aware of a way that avoids all of this: But there is also a third way, and it is the best way to deal with conflict. It is the willingness to face conflict head on, to resolve it and to make it a link in the chain of a new process (EG, #227). Therefore, it is very obvious that unity is superior to conflict … this is a gospel criteria which is rooted in a profound personal spirituality: the locus of this reconciliation of differences is within ourselves, in our own lives, ever threatened as they are by fragmentation and breakdown. If hearts are shattered in thousands of pieces, it is not easy to create authentic peace in society (EG, #229).We can now begin to understand that it is only through a process of reconciliation that diversity, far from destroying unity, values such unity.

The third principle: realities are more important than ideas (EG, #231-233). In the mind of Pope Francis, ideas that are developed by the human person are at the service of communication, understanding, and praxis (EG, #232). Therefore, when ideas lose their relationship to reality, they also lose their effectiveness and are reduced to empty, dangerous rhetoric. This principle is grounded on the event of the Incarnation of the Lord that helps us to see that the Church’s history is a history of salvation, to be mindful of those saints who inculturated the Gospel in the life of our peoples and to reap the fruits of the Church’s rich bimillennial tradition, without pretending to come up with a system of thought detached from this treasury, as if we wanted to reinvent the Gospel. At the same time, this principle impels us to put the word into practice, to perform works of justice and charity which make that word fruitful. Not to put the word into practice, not to make it reality, is to build on sand, to remain in the realm of pure ideas and to end up in a lifeless and unfruitful self-centredness and Gnosticism (EG, #233).

The fourth principle: the whole is greater than the part (EG, #234-237) and it is also greater than the sum of its parts (EG, #235). This principle leads us to broaden our horizons and see the greater good which will benefit us all. But this has to be done without evasion and uprooting. At the same time we need to sink roots deeper into the fertile soil and history of our native place, which is a gift of God. We can work on a small scale in our neighborhood,, but with a larger perspective (EG, #235). The reality is complex, not like a circle in which every line is equally distant from the center. Therefore, if we want to understand reality we must view it from the periphery and not from the center. That is also a gospel criteria: The Gospel has an intrinsic principle of totality: it will always remain good news until it has been proclaimed to all people, until it has healed and strengthened every aspect of humanity, until it has brought all men and women together at table in God’s kingdom. The whole is greater than the part (EG, #237).

Spiritual motivations with regard to the missionary endeavor (EG, #259-288)

The last section of the Exhortation is clearly related to the first section: in order to accomplish its missionary transformation, the Church needs a profound spirituality that sustains her, that is, it needs evangelizers fearlessly open to the working of the Holy Spirit (EG, #259), who cultivate an interior space (EG, #262) and who pray.

This spirituality is primarily Christ-centered and in fact, the primary reason for evangelizing is the love of Jesus which we have received, the experience of salvation which urges us to ever greater love of him (EG, #264). That experience impels us to proclaim to the world the greatness of Jesus’ love which is maintained through prayer: in union with Jesus, we seek what he seeks and we love what he loves (EG, #267).

This spirituality is also ecclesial: the love of Christ teaches us to recognize that we are a people (EG, #268), teaches us to reach out to others, especially those who are most wounded and broken, those who reveal the Lord’s wounds (EG, #270). Clearly Jesus does not want us to be grandees who look down upon others, but men and women of the people (EG, #271). The mission of communicating God’s love to our sisters and brothers is the reason for our existence: I am a mission on earth; that is the reason why I am here in this world (EG, #273).

The Holy Spirit is the true protagonist of the mission because it is the Spirit who makes the resurrection of Jesus present in our life. It is the Spirit who frees us from the temptation of believing that everything is useless and that nothing will change: the Spirit of the Risen Lord renews the universe and calls forth seeds of that new world; even if they are cut back, they grow again, for the resurrection is already secretly woven into the fabric of this history, for Jesus did not rise in vain (EG, #278).

There is another protagonist in the mission: Mary, the mother of evangelization. There is a Marian “style” to the Church’s work of evangelization. Whenever we look to Mary, we come to believe once again in the revolutionary nature of love and tenderness (EG, #288)

The Church of Vincent de Paul

In light of what we have said we can easily conclude that Pope Francis, through his teaching, has highlighted and has once again brought the Church of Vincent de Paul into the daylight.

In his pastoral experience, during which he had direct contact with the poor country people (in Clichy, on the de Gondi estate, in Chatillon), Vincent de Paul became aware of the fact that behind the harsh exterior of these country people there was a desire for renewal, a willingness to recover a Christianity that had been lost … and that reality surprised him. Later, as Vincent reflected on his experience, he stated:

  • If there's a true religion . . . what did I say. wretched man that I am ...! God forgive me! I’m speaking materially. It’s among them, among those poor people that true religion and a living faith are preserved; they believe simply, without dissecting everything; they submit to orders and are patient amid the abject poverty they have to suffer as long as it pleases God, some from the wars, others from working all day long in the great heat of the sun; poor vine dressers, who give us their labor, who expect us to pray for them while they wear themselves out to feed us! [2]
  • What I retain from my experience of this is the discernment I’ve always made that true religion-true religion, Messieurs, true religion-is found among the poor. God enriches them with a lively faith; they believe, they touch, they taste the words of life. You never see them in their illnesses, troubles, and food shortages get carried away with impatience, or murmur and complain; not at all-or rarely. They usually remain at peace during trials and tribulations. What’s the reason for that? It’s faith. And why? Because they’re simple, God gives them in abundance the graces He refuses the rich and wise of this world (CCD:XII:142).

The referenced texts reveal Vincent’s spirituality when relating it to the country people who, for the most part, were forgotten by the official Church: I’ve seen those poor men treated like animals (CCD:X:103).

It is there that we discover that first element with regard to Vincent’s concept of church. Vincent, in accord with his conversion, put forth a new way of envisioning the church: not as an ecclesial body composed of bishops /princes and abbots but as the people of God among whom true religion and a living faith are preserved (CCD:XI:190).

As a result of his ministry/service, Vincent experienced himself as gifted with a specific charism, namely, the evangelization of the poor. In fact, it was that charism that Vincent wrote about in his letter that was addressed to the Pope and in which he explained the service that the Congregation could provide in reviving the faith of the Christian people: You must make it understood that the poor are being damned for want of knowing the things necessary for salvation, and for lack of confession. If His Holiness were aware of this necessity, he would have no rest until he had done all he could to set things right. It is the knowledge we had of this situation that brought about the establishment of the Company, so as to remedy it in some way. Those words were addressed to M. Francois du Coudray, who had been sent to Rome in order to obtain approval of the Congregation.

According to Saint Vincent, the Missionaries ought to participate in the movement that attempts to spread Jesus’ love, a movement that began at the time of his baptism, that is, at the time that he was invested with a messianic and evangelizing mission. They (that is, the Missionaries) ought to follow the example of the disciples [3] and thus continue the evangelizing mission of Jesus as they share with the people their gift of preaching.

The Missionaries were to be zealous and were to be motivated by a missionary vision. The fact that they were poor was not important. In Vincent’s thinking, the awareness of poverty guaranteed the success of the evangelization process. This was so because God, in accord with his divine plan, had decided to identify himself with the poor and to serve the poor in order to constitute the Church. For, in instituting the Church, He took pleasure in choosing poor persons, idiots, and sinners to found it and to implant it throughout the world with instruments so chosen in order to make His own power more manifest. He overturned the wisdom of the philosophers through poor fishermen, and the power of Kings and Emperors through the weakness of those who, when they were insulted, humbled themselves and prayed for those who cursed them, and, if someone struck them, they made themselves the victors by turning the other cheek. In like manner, most and almost all those whom God calls into your Company are either poor, of a low social class, or not very brilliant in knowledge (CCD:XI:120).

The members of the Confraternity of Charity and the Daughters of Charity collaborated in the process that gave growth to the Church among the poor. These individuals prolonged the mission of Jesus Christ who lived in the midst of the poor, who loved them and who healed their physical and spiritual wounds. In order to act in this manner people had to engage in the service of charity: Now, no one can doubt that this work is good in itself, for it is such that I see nothing greater in the entire Church of God; I see nothing more lofts for Sisters. To be continually engaged in the service of your neighbor. O Dieu! What a work! And is there anything more noble that to cooperate with God in the salvation of souls, which you strive to do while administering remedies to them (CCD:IX:357).

It can be said that Vincent viewed the Church from the bottom up, that is, Vincent viewed the Church as a church of the people, a church that had to be-evangelized and reformed in accord with the demands of charity.

In fact, the various Vincentian institutions (the Congregation preaching popular missions, the Confraternity of Charity, the Daughters of Charity, the ministry in seminaries and with the ordinands, the Tuesday Conferences) embraced the same perspective, namely, rooting Christianity among the people.

Through their explanation of the faith and their emphasis on general confession, the Missionaries reconciled people with God and at the same time healed broken social, family and community relationships and also resolved conflicts that had resulted in long-standing hatred. Because the Congregation preached the popular missions at no expense to the people and because the Missionaries did not appeal to some advantage of their social status and also did not expect any recompense from their ministry, they were, in fact, highlighting the importance of freeing the ecclesiastical vocation from structural bonds of economic and/or political advantage.

All of this was not merely some ideal that was proclaimed in an abstract manner. A true missionary movement took place: between the years 1625-1660 more than 800 popular mission were preached by the Missionaries in Paris. During this same period it has been estimated that more than 1,600 popular missions were preached by the Missionaries throughout France.

These Missionaries, gathered together in community around Vincent de Paul and traveling to countless towns and villages, could be said to have been engaged in a situational pastoral approach and as a result they were able to restore to the Church its image of being a Church of the people.

At the same time the spread of the Confraternity of Charity enabled the Church to come to a deeper understanding of its vocation with regard to the poor and, more specifically, with regard to the laity (especially women). The Confraternities enabled people to exercise a role that expanded their understanding of Church. The Church could no longer be viewed as just the hierarchy, but had to acknowledge and affirm the ministry of the laity.

As the people of God were formed with regard to the need to establish bonds of solidarity with the weaker and more vulnerable members of society, these same individuals became more conscious of their role as Christians, as active subjects. The formation of the clergy assured the presence of priests/pastors in the midst of the parish community … in this way the people of God were no longer abandoned. There was no lack of priests and, in fact, their number was quite significant: between the years 1628-1660 some 12,500 ordinands made their retreat at Saint-Lazare. As a result of Vincent’s activity, the French Church began to discover its soul which in turn enabled the Church to animate and encourage people.

We present here by way of example the situation of Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet (1627-1704) who became a famous orator in the French Empire. Before his ordination he made his retreat at Saint-Lazare (March 16, 1652) and he became an active participant in the Tuesday Conferences. Counseled by Vincent de Paul, Bossuet decided to exercise his pastoral ministry in Metz rather than remain in Paris and seek some higher ecclesiastical position. There in Metz, with the help of his fellow priests who participated in the Tuesday Conferences, he organized one of the most famous mission that Vincent ever gave (1658).

It was in the school of Vincent de Paul that Bossuet learned about the love of the poor and of those who were viewed as the least of all. In 1659 he wrote an interesting sermon, On the Eminent Dignity of the Poor in the Church, in which we can hear an echo of Vincent’s thoughts. He stated that in the Church of the poor, the poor men and women should not be viewed as unfortunate individuals who need our assistance. Rather in their misery these same men and women are the primary members of the Body of Christ and they are the first born members of the Church. Although the Lord Jesus said that the first will be last and that the last will be first, this will not be fully accomplished until the general resurrection at the end of time. It is then that the just whom the world has despised will occupy the highest places in heaven, while the wicked and impious who have already had their rule over the earth will find themselves shamefully relegated to the farthest reach of the darkness. Yet this admirable reversal of the human condition had already begun in this life, and we are seeing the first signs of this in the Church … As I see it this contradiction and reversal is evident in three ways: first, in the world the rich enjoy all the advantages of their wealth and power, while in the kingdom of Jesus Christ the preeminence belongs to the poor who are the first-born of the Church and her true children. Secondly, in the world the poor are submissive to the rich, and it seems that the only reason that they are born is to be servant. On the contrary, in the holy Church, the rich find that they can be admitted only on the condition that they themselves serve the poor. Thirdly, the advantages and privileges of this world benefit only the powerful and the rich, while the poor have no claim on any part of these for their living. However, in the Church of Jesus Christ the advantages and blessings of the kingdom of heaven are reversed for the poor, and the rich have no right to share in these advantages and privileges, except through the poor [4] .

Thus, it could be said that the Mission, which is intimately related to Charity, was a formational movement of the Spirit that was proclaimed and heard by the people of France … it was an invitation to remember their history.

The Church of the people was the object of Vincent’s concern, especially during the time of the civil war (the Fronde) when the poor suffered the effects of the internal struggle among the powerful. Putting aside his principle of not engaging in political matters, Vincent approached Cardinal Mazarin in order to obtain peace. The cardinal, however, suspected that such was a trap that was intended to deny him the greatness that he sought. Vincent then wrote a very descriptive letter to Pope Innocent X and requested his intervention: Your Holiness, offer, dedicate, and devote to you myself and our entire little Congregation of the Mission, of which I, though most unworthy, have been appointed Superior General by the Holy Apostolic See. Confident of your paternal affection, with which you graciously hear and receive all your children, even the least, dare I also make known to you the very pitiful state of our France, which is most deserving of compassion?' The royal house is divided by dissensions; the people are split into various factions; cities and provinces are ruined by civil wars; farms, cantons, and towns are destroyed, ruined, and burned. The farmers cannot harvest what they have sown and no longer plant anything for the coming years. Soldiers do as they please; the people are exposed not only to their thefts and pillaging, but also to murder and all kinds of torture. Most of the country people are perishing of starvation if not by the sword. Not even priests escape the soldiers' hands; they are treated with inhuman cruelty, tortured, and killed. Young women are raped, and even nuns are victims of their lust and fury. Churches are profaned, plundered, and destroyed; those left standing are, for the most part, abandoned by their pastors, so the people are deprived of the sacraments, Mass, and almost all other spiritual assistance. But what is horrible to think and even worse to say, the Most Blessed Sacrament of the Body of the Lord is treated very unworthily, even by Catholics. In order to get possession of the sacred vessels, they throw the Holy Eucharist on the ground and trample it underfoot. I dare not, and even cannot, say what is done by heretics, who have no faith in this mystery. It is a small thing to hear or read these things, they must be seen and ascertained with one’s own eyes (CC:IV:445-446).

In conclusion, Vincent ministered on behalf of the people’s church. It was through the popular missions and through the spread of his charitable activity and the formation of the clergy that Vincent served the people’s church. By instilling the clergy with a zeal to remain faithful to their mission and to the practice of charity (two building blocks of Christian spirituality that sustained the life of holy pastors), Vincent was able to change the reality of the poor country people. It was this change that enabled the people to discover the dignity of their Christian faith.

Commitments for a Vincentian

There is no doubt that the Exhortation extends a call to every person who has been baptized, in other words, an invitation that is extended to all of us. Here I refer to the four explicit references to the consecrated life:

  • EG, #78: Today we are seeing in many pastoral workers, including consecrated men and women, an inordinate concern for their personal freedom and relaxation.
  • EG, #100: It always pains me greatly to discover how some Christian communities, and even consecrated persons, can tolerate different forms of enmity, division, calumny, defamation, vendetta, jealousy and the desire to impose certain ideas at all costs, even to persecutions which appear as veritable witch hunts.
  • EG, #107: Many places are experiencing a dearth of vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life. This is often due to a lack of contagious apostolic fervour in communities.
  • EG, #169: The Church will have to initiate everyone – priests, religious and laity – into this “art of accompaniment” which teaches us to remove our sandals before the sacred ground of the other (cf. Exodus 3:5).

Here we find the two primary challenges that we must confront: to live with a passion for Christ and to live a community life, a fraternal life that accepts conflicts.

To live with a passion for Christ

It becomes more and more important for us, consecrated Vincentians, to live with a strong passion for Christ. We should be fascinated by the person of Jesus and should feel and experience within us a thirst for Jesus’ love and a desire and yearning to follow him. Indeed, it is Jesus who fully satisfies our thirst for life. Therefore, as consecrated persons we need to go out to the geographical and existential peripheries and there we are to be compassionate toward the most abandoned members of society.

In our Vincentian Family we have wonderful examples of Missionaries and Daughters of Charity and of their faith in Jesus Christ who became poor. These men and women ministered in close proximity to the poor and excluded members of society … they were concerned about the integral development of those forgotten members of society. What can we say about their ministry, so often a silent and hidden ministry? What can we say about the ministry of so many Missionaries and Daughters (both past and present) who engaged in the struggle on behalf of the liberation and the promotion of so many poor people.

At the same time we must also recognize the fact that in our life, as consecrated men and women, there is always the risk of mediocrity, the danger of becoming comfortable in a way that distances us from a more radical living of the gospel … a lifestyle that ought to characterize our life as consecrated individuals.

In the Book of Revelation (2:4-5) the Lord rebukes the church in Ephesus for having abandoned its first love and exhorts them to reflect on their current situation. He calls them to repentance and to do the works that they once did. Is not this same rebuke and invitation extended to us today?

Pope Francis calls the risk of mediocrity and lukewarmness the venial corruption of men and women religious. In an article that was written in 1991, Father Jorge Mario Bergoglio, a Jesuit (now, Pope Francis), developed the theme of corruption: corruption is a reality that infects politics, the economy and society … it also threatens the Church. This article was republished in 2005 when the author was the Archbishop of Buenos Aires and at that time the theme of corruption seemed most relevant.

Pope Bergoglio states: You hear about people and institutions that are visibly corrupt and that have begun to decompose, losing their identity, their capacity to exist, to grow, to approach fulfillment, to serve the whole of society [5]. What then, does Pope Francis means when he speaks about corruption? Corruption is not an act but a state, a personal and collective state, to which people get accustomed and in which they live. The values (or non-values) of corruption are integrated into a real culture, with a capacity for its own systematic doctrine, its own language, and its own particular way of acting.

The culture of corruption gathers proselytes to bring them down to the level of admitted complicity. This is a culture that has forgotten transcendence and attempts to make transcendence, immanence: it is a culture that has lost a reference to God, lost a sense of ultimate meaning, lost an ability to see something “beyond.”

In that same article Pope Francis refers to a special form of corruption that he calls the venial corruption of religious. This is a dangerous form of corruption because it weakens prophetic boldness which characterizes consecrated life. When Pope Francis speaks about the corruption of consecrated individuals, he is not referring to grave and serious cases (which certainly exist in religious life), rather he is referring to those everyday states of corruption which I call venial, but which bring the flow of religious life to a halt [6] .

The soul becomes closed to generosity and as a result people react badly when they are asked and/or invited to do something more. When someone tries to help a person who is in that state, the amount of resistance is incredible. They become like the Israelites who were enslaved in Egypt and had become accustomed to the loss of freedom. They could not imagine another way of life. The same can be said about those whose soul is closed. They do not want problems: they are afraid that God will intervene and lead them along paths that are beyond their control. They prefer the realism of less to the promise of something more. In the apparent realism of preferring less, a subtle process of corruption is already at work: people sink into mediocrity and lukewarmness …this is the clear but fatal sclerosis of the heart [7] .

The Pope presents some specific examples: some people live the consecrated life as a self-contained fulfillment of their personalities. Many of them will find this self-fulfillment in job satisfaction, others in their success in work, others in the pleasure they derive from being highly regarded. Others will seek fulfillment by utilizing the modern means of technology to fill up the emptiness that their souls experience (a new car, the latest phone, some new technological gadget). Still others will seek fulfillment by having an intense social life (they love going out, taking holidays with friends, attending lunches and receptions, etc.).

Pope Francis utilizes another expression when he refers to corruption: spiritual worldliness. This phrased was borrowed from Father de Lubac who spoke about a form of paganism in ecclesiastical disguise. Father de Lubac described spiritual worldliness as that which presents itself practically as a detachment from the other kind of worldliness, but whose mood and even spiritual ideal would be, instead of the glory of the Lord, man and his self-perfecting. Spiritual worldliness is nothing other than a radically anthropocentric attitude [8] .

We must be sincere with ourselves and with God. We must ask questions: Have we allowed ourselves to become mediocre men and women? Have we lost our passion for life? Jesus tell us: If salt loses its taste, with what can it be seasoned? It is no long good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot (Matthew 5:13). The Pope then concludes with the following words: Many men and women go through life in venial corruption, which clashes with their consecration ... Such hearts are corrupt. Someone there is daydreaming and wishing he could bring the dead part of his heart back to life; he hears the Lord’s invitation … but no, it’s too much trouble, too much like hard work. Our inner poverty needs to make a bit of an effort to open a space to transcendence, but the sickness of corruption holds us back … And our Lord does not tire of calling, “Do not be afraid.” Don’t be afraid of what? Don’t be afraid of hope … and hope does not disappoint (cf. Romans 5:5) [9] .

Living in community by “soothing conflict” [10]

From the perspective of the image of the Blessed Trinity, the concept of communion and unity is one of the fundamental elements upon which Vincent de Paul established his works (we recall here that on various occasions Louise de Marillac exhorted the Daughters of Charity to live in the image of the Trinity).

In Vincent’s writings we find numerous references to this vision of the church-communion: All of us make up a mystical body, but we’re all members of one another ... Every part of us is in such sympathy with one another and so interconnected that the pain of one is the pain of the other ... let’s rejoice when we hear the voice of our neighbor who rejoices, for he represents Our Lord to us; let’s rejoice at his successes, happy that he surpasses us in the honor and esteem of the world, in talent, grace, and virtue ... The first Christians had the custom of visiting one another, sympathizing with and consoling one another. Those duties of friendship have come down to us and have a Christian foundation; that’s what they did, and we still do it. Nothing similar is done among the Turks or the Indians, or even among the Jews; they uncover their heads only to greet one another. Originally, then, these things were gestures of charity; unfortunately, they’ve been cut off from their source. The way they’re practiced now is usually an abuse of them because they’re done to impress others, to put on airs through self-interest or from natural affection, and not because of unity of spirit and the feeling the Son of God came to establish in His Church, by which the faithful, as the members of Jesus Christ and having the same spirit He did, are joyful or sad with the joy or the sadness of their brothers and sisters (CCD:XII:221-223).

The Synod on the New Evangelization had asked religious to be witnesses of the humanizing power of the Gospel through a life of brotherhood. Taking a cue from this call, the Pope was asked a few questions about how religious should live together as brothers: “How can we keep commitments of the mission as well as those of community life? How can we combat the tendency toward individualism? How should we act toward brothers in difficulty or who live or create conflict? How can we combine justice and mercy in difficult cases?”

Pope Francis recalled the fact that the previous day he had met with the prior of Taizé, Frere Alois: There are Catholic, Calvinist, Lutheran, etc. monks at Taizé…. They all live a real life of brotherhood together. They are an impressive apostolic role model for young people. The fraternal community has an enormous power to call people together. The illnesses of the community, on the other hand, have power that destroys. The temptation against fraternity is that which is the most disruptive to progress in consecrated life. Sometimes living fraternally is difficult, but if it is not lived it is not productive. Work, even that which is “apostolic” can become an escape from fraternal life. If a person cannot live brotherhood he cannot live religious life.”

Religious brotherhood — continued the Pope — with all its possible diversity, is an experience of love that goes beyond conflicts. Community conflicts are inevitable: in a certain sense they need to happen, if the community is truly living sincere and honest relationships. That’s life. It does not make sense to think of living in a community in which there are brothers who are not experiencing difficulties in their lives. Something is missing from communities where there is no conflict. Reality dictates that there are conflicts in all families and all groups of people. And conflict must be faced head on: it should not be ignored. Covering it over just creates a pressure cooker that will eventually explode. A life without conflicts is not life. The stakes at play are high. We know that one of the fundamental principles of Pope Francis is that “unity is superior to conflict.” His words to religious should be read in light of Evangelii Gaudium, #226-230, where he wonders about “the acceptance of bearing conflict, of resolving it and transforming it into a link that leads to a new process” (EG, #227).

It is important to recall that for Bergoglio personal fulfillment is never an exclusively individual undertaking, but collective, communitarian. Conflict in this sense can, and even should evolve in a process of maturation.

“It is true,” — Pope Francis continued — “sometimes we are very cruel. We all experience the temptation to criticize for personal satisfactions or to gain personal advantage. Sometimes the problems in the brotherhood are due to fragile personalities, in which case the help of a professional, a psychologist, should be sought. There is no need to be afraid of this: one need not fear necessarily succumbing to psychologism. But never, never should we act like managers when dealing with conflicts in the brotherhood. We should involve the heart.

We should treat brothers: with Eucharistic tenderness. We need to caress conflicts … Eucharistic tenderness does not mask conflict but rather helps us to confront it like people [11] .

To evangelize that which is human

The Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation of John Paul II, Vita Consecrata, states: Consecrated persons, because of their specific vocation, are called to manifest the unity between self-evangelization and witness, between interior renewal and apostolic fervor, between being and acting, showing that dynamism arises always from the first element of each of these pairs (Vita Coinsecrata, #81)

We could express that same idea in the following words: consecrated life states that evangelization begins with oneself and that evangelization of others is to be viewed from the perspective of the evangelizing process of oneself. We are not separating “oneself” from “being present for others” nor are we proposing some chronological movement. In fact, there is a close relationship between growth in following Jesus Christ and gifting the gospel to others … communicating the faith. As one follows Christ more closely, one grows in faith and that growth in faith implies the proclamation of the gospel to others. At stake in all of this is the truth and sincerity: those who evangelize are wholly involved in this process, involved in a radical manner, that is, they live the gospel that they proclaim to others.

The Exhortation goes on to state: the first missionary duty of consecrated persons is to themselves and they fulfill it by opening their hearts to the promptings of the Spirit of Christ (Vita Consecrata, #25). From this perspective there is something contagious, almost spontaneous, about the process of evangelization, something that goes beyond one’s intention. Real life produces real life. The signs of the gospel are contagious in themselves and therefore renewing life through a genuine encounter with Jesus Christ is, in itself, evangelizing.

We must be on guard about a process of evangelization that emphasizes the need to bring the faith to others and the need to increase church membership but says nothing about allowing others to evangelize us, nothing about the need for self-transformation, nothing about the dynamic of others reaching out to us or others leading us to Christ. In fact, we only encounter Christ through the instrumentality of others. The “other”, whom we evangelize, is also the one who evangelizes us, even though that individual is a non-believer, is ignorant with regard to the gospel or is poor. Mysteriously we are evangelized without knowing it. If we maintain a sense of allowing ourselves to be evangelized, we will develop relationships characterized by reciprocity and we will give new life to the centrality of grace in the process of evangelization.

In the background of all of this is God. Christ is the first evangelizer. Much of the present day evangelization is characterized by unilateral, rational processes and an excessive centralization of plans and activity and objectives that must be achieved. Often, however, we do not take ourselves into consideration, especially with regard to our openness to being evangelized (in fact, we usually attempt to flee from ourselves so that we do not have to engage in such reflection). An excessive and anxious concern to proclaim the gospel to others can mask the reality that we ourselves have grown weary with the process of conversion and self-evangelization. At the same time we can begin to convince ourselves that others have nothing to share with us or else, they are incapable of sharing with us. Excessive unilateralism can detract from God’s action … excessive talk about God can make it difficult for us to hear God speaking to us. In summary, we have to admit the truth about evangelization and in this sense consecrated life has a function to exercise, a prophetical and critical function. That function can be a sign and demand with regard to the truth about evangelization.

Consecrated life is a call to live with people in a radical manner, a call to give a face and an expression to the reality of God’s presence. Our Vincentian mission begins with human demands and with sharing with others: sharing with the infirm, the poor, children and young people. In an era characterized by a process of secularization and relativity, marked by the withdrawal of the person into him/herself and by a profound anthropological crisis … in the midst of this reality a mission like ours is very important. Our mission gives a central place to the human person and focuses on that which is human. Our mission helps people understand the richness of humanity while promoting and encouraging an encounter with Christ. Each of us must live our vocation in harmony with Christ because it is in this way that we prolong Christ’s humanity.

Without this movement our mission renounces its prophetic function and, in the end, it becomes irrelevant.

Conclusion

Our life, as consecrated men and women, with its lights and shadows, is an intense experience of life … here, of course, we would exclude any lack of involvement in history and/or any lack of concern for the destiny of humankind. Our life is servitium Dei et hominis (service of God and service on behalf of our brothers and sisters) … our life is a witness to integrity and responsibility.

Even today our life as consecrated men and women ought to be constituted by witness to the gospel, by service and by a prophetic ministry, by courage and a certain “sane madness”. The human community needs our witness and our involvement with people. Our mission is one of service on behalf of the common good: we are not simply concerned about some redistribution of material well-being but rather we promote the value of the person, the value of every person.

I am sure that many people recognize us because of the good that has been done through our numerous charitable and educational institutions. That highlights the fact that people are drawn to those who are committed and who are faithful to their commitments.

The frontier … that is how I like to define consecrated life. It is the place of the unforeseen and of the new and original; it is the place where things are not taken for granted; it is a laboratory equipped for the configuration of new men and women, always hopeful for the future. It is the place of inclusion, a place that is free from prejudice and close-mindedness; it is the place where the bread of charity is broken and shared with so many people who hunger for God.

In the image of the Good Samaritan we discover Jesus’ invitation to open ourselves to others and to be less preoccupied about our own perfection … rather we are called to reach out to others. The lives of the priest and the Levite who passed by the wounded man and did nothing … their lives were sterile; they spoke in a language that said nothing; they were agents of an empty, professional language about God. The Samaritan, on the other hand, is placed before us as an individual on a journey who knows how to pause, how to care for another human being, how to extend a gesture of kindness and tenderness.

We are Vincentians and as such we do not distance ourselves from the din and the clamor of life, from the tears and expectations of so many people who live and die on the peripheries of the world: the holiness of our vocation is rooted in our ability to create “Good Samaritan networks” of communication that reach out to all people and that awaken the consciousness of humanity.

Footnotes

[1] The official date of the publication of the Apostolic Exhortation was November 24th, 2013, the solemnity of Christ the King and the conclusion of the Year of Faith. On that day, at the conclusion of the Eucharist and before praying the Angelus, the Pope gave a copy of the document to thirty-six representatives of the Church and society (this included representatives of the five continents and it seemed as though the Pope empowered all people to participate in the joy of encountering Christ. There was a bishop, a priest and a deacon chosen from among most recently ordained (their country of origin was Australia, Tanzania and Latvia). There were also some men and women from various religious congregations, individuals who had been recently confirmed, a seminarian, a novice, a family, a catechist, a blind person (to whom the Pope gave a CD), some young men and women, representatives from various movements and confraternities. From the cultural world the Pope gave the document to two artists (a sculptor and a painter) in order to highlight the beauty of creation. Two newspapers reporters were included among the group in order to underline their role in the process of evangelization. The text was officially presented in the Vatican Press Office on November 26th, when the document was made public.

[2] VINCENT DE PAUL, Correspondence, Conferences, Documents, translators: Helen Marie Law, DC (Vol. 1), Marie Poole, DC (Vol. 1-14), James King, CM (Vol. 1-2), Francis Germovnik, CM (Vol. 1-8, 13a-13b [Latin]), Esther Cavanagh, DC (Vol. 2), Ann Mary Dougherty, DC (Vol. 12); Evelyne Franc, DC (Vol. 13a-13b), Thomas Davitt, CM (Vol. 13a-13b [Latin]), Glennon E. Figge, CM (Vol. 13a-13b [Latin]), John G. Nugent, CM (Vol. 13a-13b [Latin]), Andrew Spellman, CM (Vol. 13a-13b [Latin]); edited: Jacqueline Kilar, DC (Vol. 1-2), Marie Poole, DC (Vol. 2-14), Julia Denton, DC [editor-in-chief] (Vol. 3-10, 13a-13b), Paule Freeburg, DC (Vol. 3), Mirian Hamway, DC (Vol. 3), Elinor Hartman, DC (Vol. 4-10, 13a-13b), Ellen Van Zandt, DC (Vol. 9-13b), Ann Mary Dougherty (Vol. 11, 12 and 14); annotated: John W. Carven, CM (Vol. 1-14); New City Press, Brooklyn and Hyde Park, 1985-2014; volume XI, p. 190; future references to this work will be inserted into the text using the initials [CCD] followed by the volume number, followed by the page number, for example, CCD:XI:190.

[3] The Congregation of the Mission came into existence as a result of the urgent need to evangelize “the poor country people.” The life of the Missionaries ought to imitate the lifestyle of the Apostles who were gathered together by Jesus: The state of the Missioners is one in conformity with the evangelical maxims, which consists in leaving and abandoning everything, as the Apostles did, to follow Jesus Christ (CCD:XI:1). Therefore, it can be seen that the lifestyle of the Apostles was the principle that inspired the structures of the new Congregation. In his November 7th, 1659 conference, Vincent told the Missionaries: we have the consolation of being in the state in which Our Lord and the Apostles were (CCD:XII:301).

[4] Bossuet, Jacques R, “On the Eminent Dignity of the Poor in the Church: A Sermond by Jacques Bénigne Bossuet, Introduction and Translation by Edward R. Udovic, Vincentian Heritage, Volume 13, #1 (1992), p. 45-46.

[5] Jorge Mario Bergoglio, The Way of Humility: Corruption and Sin – On Self-Accusation, translated by Helena Scott, Ignatius Press, San Francisco, 2014, p. 9.

[6] Ibid., p. 49.

[7] Ibid., p. 54.

[8] Ibid., p. 55, footnote #25.

[9] Ibid., p. 56.

[10] Dialogue of Pope Francis with the Union of Superiors General, Rome, November 29, 2013. Text can be found at: http://www.laciviltacattolica.it/articoli_download/extra/Wake_up_the_world.pdf

[11] All the above paragraphs are taken from the dialogue of Pope Francis with the Union of Superiors General, Rome, November 29, 2013. Text can be found at: http://www.laciviltacattolica.it/articoli_download/extra/Wake_up_the_world.pdf


Translated, Charles T. Plock, CM