Reflection on a Vincentian Text

From Vincentian Encyclopedia

by: Sister Cristina Calero, DC


[This article first appeared in La Experiencia Espiritual de San Vicente de Paúl, XXXV Semana de Estudios Vicencianos, Editorial CEME, Salamanca, 2011].


Introduction

I have been asked to share with you a reflection/meditation on Vincent’s letter to one of our first Sisters: Sister Anne Hardemont. The presentation that follows is my reflection and is divided into three parts:

  • first, the presentation of the text and the context of the letter;

8second, a Vincentian reflection that attempts to discover Vincent’s spiritual experience which is in the background of this letter;

  • third, a further reflection on the meaning of this letter for us who minister today.


Presentation of the text and the context of the letter

Context:

Here we are dealing with a letter dated November 24, 1658 that Vincent sent to Sister Anne Hardemont. In May, 1658, Sister had been missioned to Ussel, an area far removed from Paris (CCD:X:381-382). Vincent and Louise sent two Sisters to this new mission, Sister Anne Hardemont and Sister Avoya --- or Eduvigis --- Vigneron (CCD:VII:254-257). They were missioned in respondse to the Duchess of Ventadour (CCD:X:381-382) who requested the presence of the Daughters of Charity (the Sisters were to care for the infirm in the hospital and other destitute individuals in that area). From the beginning the Daughters encountered many problems. On the one hand, the Sisters found it difficult to minister in a distant nation with customs that were quite distinct from their own (for example, they found the food to be very unsettling). At the same time the reality in which they found themselves did not correspond to their expectations when they arrived there to minister: there were few infirm people and the Sisters were not provided with the resources that allowed them to serve those who were infirm. The Sisters were slandered and people (even those who were supposed to be helping the Sisters) spread rumors about them. The new mission never appeared to get become firmly established and the Sisters themselves did not get along with one another (CCD:X:381-382) … the Sisters, especially Sister Anne, saw little sense in remaining there and expressed her desire to return to Paris or to go to another mission. Sister Anne had maintained correspondence with both Louise and Vincent (CCD:VII:254, 396, 446, 447, 469; VIII:493; SWLM:573 [L.595], 578 [L.604], 592 [L.610], 598 [L.617], 634 [L. 653], 575 [L.659], 643 [L.662]). Before this letter was written, Vincent had written on two other occasions to Sister Anne and one of these letters has been preserved, one that reflects the uneasiness and discouragement of Sister Anne.

Text:

Paris. November 24 [1658] [1]

Dear Sister,

The grace of O[ur] L[ord] be with you forever! I have good reason to thank God for the graces He has granted you and, through you, has granted the poor; for, from what I can see, the Duchess,' who has perceived the excellent manner in which you have acted, is very pleased with it, and I am sure that God in His goodness is also pleased.

You have had a hard time getting used to the region, but you will also have great merit before God for having overcome your repugnance and for having done His Will rather than your own. Continue this, Sister, and you will see the glory of God, you will possess your soul in patience, and if you once possess it well, Our Lord will be its Master, since you belong to Him by His mercy and you want to be His in time and in eternity. O Sister, how consoled you will be at the hour of death for having consumed your life for the same reason for which Jesus Christ gave His --- for charity, for God, for the poor! If you only knew your good fortune, Sister, you would truly be overjoyed; for, in doing what you do, you are fulfilling the law and the prophets, commanding us to love God with all our heart and our neighbor as ourselves. And what greater act of love can one make than to give oneself, wholly and entirely, in one's state of life and in one's duty, for the salvation and relief of the afflicted! Our entire perfection consists in this. It remains for you only to join zeal to action and to conform yourself to God's good pleasure, doing and bearing with all things for the same intentions Our Lord had and for which He suffered similar things. I pray that He will grant all of us this grace.

Please take care of your health, Sister, and send news of yourselves frequently to Mademoiselle Le Gras. Truly, she esteems and cherishes you tenderly. Take my word for it, honor her as your mother, and pray to Our Lord for me. I am, in His love, Sister, your most affectionate brother and servant. VINCENT DEPAUL, i.s.C.M.

This is the third letter I have written you since you have been in Ussel, not to mention one I also wrote to Sister Avoie. Enclosed is a second one for her.

Addressed: Sister Anne Hardemont, Daughter of Charity, in Ussel (CCD:VII:396-397).

Structure and Context

The letter is structured in the following manner: a heading (date and greeting) [2], the body of the letter (the central content), and the closing (recommendations: take care of your health, write to Louise, request for prayers, signature, postscript and address).

Let us pause here to analyze the central content of the text. We can ask: what is Vincent saying?

---He gave thanks to God for the many graces that the Lord had granted to Sister and for the good that she was doing for the poor. The good behavior of the Sisters pleased the Duchess and also God.

---He recognized the Sister’s difficulties in adapting to the region, but he reminded them to value that which is most important: to do the will of God rather than their own will. In overcoming their hesitations, personal rejection, personal likes and dislikes --- or as Vincent stated: having overcome your repugnance --- all of this will be viewed as worthy of merit by God.

---He encouraged Sister to persevere, for in doing so she would possess her soul in patience and the Lord would be its Master. He reminded her that she belonged to the Lord in time and in eternity.

---He invited Sister to reflect on the time of her death in order for her to see that she would be consoled for having consumed her life for the same reason that motivated Jesus to offer his life: for charity, for God, for the poor.

---Sister was not very aware of the fact that by acting in the way that she did (serving the infirm in a place where she did not want to be and in a manner that she felt was ineffective) she was fulfilling the law and the prophets who commanded her to love God and love her neighbor. Vincent recognized that Sister’s happiness could only be found in said love of God and neighbor and so he told her that she would feel overjoyed if she experienced this happiness.

---So that she would become aware of this reality Vincent asked: what greater act of love can one make than to give oneself, wholly and entirely, in one’s state of life and in one’s duty, for the salvation and relief of the afflicted?

---Then Vincent stated: Our entire perfection consists in this.

---He affirmed: It remains for you only to join zeal to action and to conform yourself to God's good pleasure, doing and bearing with all things for the same intentions Our Lord had and for which He suffered similar things. ---He concluded with a supplication that the Lord would grant all of us this grace.


Vincentian reflection (background of the text)

In order to understand Vincent’s experience of faith which was communicated in this letter, we can ask: What did Vincent think, feel and experience that led him to express himself in that manner? What convictions and experiences of faith were being communicated through the written words?

It is clear that Vincent was understanding of Sister Anne and that he wanted to help her and in fact did help her by sharing some reflections that made her confront the meaning of her faith … in doing do Vincent revealed his own experience of faith. Let us look at this in greater depth.

---Vincent recognized that the Sisters were “mediators” of God’s grace. Indirectly he recognized the mediation of the Duchess because as a result of her request, Louise and himself heard God’s call to serve the poor in that region. I find in Vincent two convictions that resulted from his experience: 1] God is concerned about those who are poor, 2] God needs mediators … some people become aware of this need and provide ways for this mediation to be accomplished (the Duchess, the Founders) and others (the Sisters) accomplish said mediation through direct service.

---The letter expressed the importance that Vincent gave to fulfilling the will of God [3] and in this case, doing God’s will was measured by the Sister’s obedience to authority. Therefore the fulfillment of God’s will, a desire to serve men and women, especially the poor, gives greater value to the Sister’s service. Thus, before God there is much merit in fulfilling God’s will rather than doing one’s own will.

---The letter contained the following words that we can interpret from the perspective of the gospel: Continue this, Sister, and you will see the glory of God, you will possess your soul in patience, and if you once possess it well, Our Lord will be its Master, since you belong to Him by His mercy and you want to be His in time and in eternity. Doesn’t Jesus tell us in the gospel: those who wish to save their life will lose it, but those who lose their life for my sake and that of the gospel will save it (Mark 8:35). The word possess in Vincent’s letter is the same as Jesus’ word save. Vincent encouraged Sister Anne to be patient which in turn would become a sign of trust and faith as well as a sign of love which is “patient” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7). Patience is that fertile soil that facilitates an encounter with the Lord and therefore leads to self-control. Patience is a dimension of happiness and involves maintaining “who one is” and “what one has”: Sister belongs to the Lord as a result of her radical commitment to God and as a result of her vocation which is a God-given grace. Vincent encouraged Sister to remain in Christ, to continue to overcome her repugnance, to continue to serve the poor as Christ did … in this way you will see the glory of God [4].

---As we continue to analyze the text we discover Vincent’s image of Jesus Christ: one who consumed his life for charity, for God and for the poor. This was also a conviction that was the result of Vincent’s experience. On June 7, 1660 when speaking about the Congregation of the Mission, he expressed the same idea: To wear oneself out for God, to have happiness and strength only to consume them for God, is to do what Our Lord Himself did, who exhausted Himself for love of His Father (CCD:XIIIa:195; cf., CCD:IV:349-350, VII:355-358; cf., John 5:19-30, 7:6, 16-18). Consuming oneself for the love of the Father and spending “one’s happiness and strength” on behalf of those who are poor are expressions of the two great virtues which Vincent discovered in a very clear manner in Jesus Christ: reverence toward His Father and charity toward humankind (CCD:VI:413).

---It seems to me that the text expresses much more: in Vincent’s experience of faith, God, charity and the poor are not three separate entities to which people dedicate their life. While they are distinct realities they are experienced as a unity [5] because charity is an expression of God’s love for us and an expression of our love for God and for the poor. To say charity is to say God and the poor (it is to say God because God is love, God is free, radical love; it is to say the poor because they are the objective of God’s love which is poured forth into our hearts by the gift of the Holy Spirit … such love has to be gratuitous because God has loved us as we are. Therefore, if God has loved us in this manner, that is, if God has loved us freely [6], then as Scripture says, we ought to love one another (1 John 4:11). We can only love in the way that God has loved us, freely … that is the way we must love those who do not appear to merit such love. Our love for God is not free and cannot be such, because God is worthy of everything. God has loved us first, has created us and redeemed us. True love of God is expressed to the degree that we love those who can give nothing in return, those who are most poor (our masters who are terribly suspicious and demanding … words spoke by Vincent to Sister Jeanne in the film known by everyone). Therefore we love the poor because God loves them and because they are poor … not because they are good or deserving of love. Our God shows partiality and opts for those who are poor not because they are better but because that is how God is (Cf., Deut. 10:16-18; Ps. 146:7-9; Ex. 3:7-10). In the Scriptures God is revealed as infinite, free love and therefore God is faithful and partial. As we love those who are poor and less fortunate, we make our love for God effective and real. Therefore, charity, God and the poor cannot be separated.

---For Vincent de Paul the greatest act of love is the total giving of self for the salvation and relief of the afflicted --- to consume one’s life for the sake of charity. In the experience that Vincent communicates to us we find a unity between the offering of a total gift to God (to give one’s self completely) and serving the poor (ministering for the salvation and the relief of the afflicted). This unity is affirmed by the words in one’s state of life and in one’s duty.

---What did Vincent want to say when he wrote those words? I understand those words to mean that charity is a state of being and as such it refers to a lifestyle, an identity, a duty that one exercises, a manner of acting that expresses one’s “form of being”. When we find these as possibilities in our life then we will live in a unified manner, but this will only happen if we live in fidelity to our proper spirit. When it is impossible to exercise this duty, that is, when we are unable to engage in direct service on behalf of the poor, then, charity remains on the level of being, a state of life/identity.

---With the word “state” Vincent reflects the experience of having discovered a new form of evangelical life: the life of charity. In that state we find our perfection, our proper way to love God and neighbor, our way to follow Jesus Christ and to fulfill the law and the prophets.

---In order to live in this state one must join zeal to action, that is, one must act in accord with God’s will, desiring what God desires and therefore conforming one’s will to God’s will and allowing God to act … one’s only perspective should be that of pleasing God (CCD:XII:119-120). How is this possible? This is possible if we unite ourselves to the Lord’s intentions, acting and suffering in the same way that Jesus acted and suffered [7].

---Here we are not talking about doing what the Son of God did on earth but rather acting in the same way that Jesus acted [8]. In order to act as Jesus acted we must enter into his sentiments (cf., Philippians 2:5), clothe ourselves in his spirit, in the spirit of perfect charity (Cf., CCD:XII:84, 992-97, 148-149).

Vincent, with complete humility, recognized that this was grace and that we need to ask for this grace (we should never forget that the prayer of supplication is proper to those who serve) [9].

In light of the essential ideas contained in the letter, I want to highlight and reflect on that which in my opinion is most important and which pertains specifically to the Company: the experience of living one’s vocation in a state of charity. Living in this way enables us to live with integrity as Daughters of Charity.

Vincent de Paul, together with Louise de Marillac, established a new form of evangelical life within the Church, one that was defined by the expression “a state of charity”. In this way we give witness to God’s love by loving the neighbor and by doing so in the midst of the various difficulties that we encounter as we serve the poor. This new form of evangelical life is characterized by this dimension of service and therefore this new lifestyle is distinct from religious and the Company finds itself in the midst of the Church and giving witness to a new way of following Jesus Christ.

The “being” and the “mission” that give form to this distinct way of life are expressed in our very name. In the Rule that was approved by the Archbishop of Paris we find the following words: They will be mindful that they are called Daughters of Charity, that is, Sisters who make profession of loving God and the neighbor (CCD:XIIIb:126). Therefore our profession does not revolve around the evangelical counsels which would place us in the same situation as religious, a state that has been traditionally referred to as a state of perfection [10]. Later these religious men and women would dedicate themselves to apostolic works, including work with the poor, but their identity was still derived from the profession of the evangelical counsels and not from their apostolic ministry. On the other hand, our identity arises from the practice of true love through which we give ourselves totally to Christ in the person of the poor. At a later time we accepted the evangelical counsels and took vows but the evangelical counsels do not determine the identity of the Company. This reality places even greater demands and responsibilities upon us and requires a true commitment if we do not want to lose our true identity as a community that is salt for the Church and the world. Our founder has warned us: It is so important that you be more virtuous than nuns. And if there is one degree of perfection for members of religious Orders, Daughters of Charity need two because you run a great risk of being lost if you are not virtuous (CCD:X:527-528; Cf., CCD:X:116-118).

The exercise of charity and service on behalf of the poor does not consist of acting in accord with some model that is outside of and distinct from ourselves but rather consists of acting in accord with the inspiration of the spirit of love of Jesus Christ, which is the same as the love of the Father. We are always asking for God’s blessing so that we might act in this way. Thus we act not only like Jesus Christ but Jesus Christ acts within us. In this way we are (or we ought to be) Jesus Christ for the poor (thus we do not simply discover Jesus Christ in the poor). As a result the Company’s specific experience of faith, (that is, as a result of an encounter with Christ in the poor), and also as a result of the process of evangelization through charity, the encounter of the poor with Christ becomes possible. Here we are dealing with sanctifying those activities by seeking God in them and doing them in order to find God in them, rather than to see that they get done (CCD:XII:112). We are also dealing with the fact that the poor are with God: Do you know, Sisters, that I have heard that those poor men are so grateful for the grace God is giving them that, when they see how we come to help them and consider that those Sisters have no other interest in doing this than the love of God, they say that it is quite clear to them that God is the protector of the poor. See what a blessing it is to help poor people recognize the Goodness of God! For they see plainly that He is the one who is having this service rendered to them. Thus they experience deep feelings of piety and say. “O my God, now we acknowledge that what we formerly heard preached is true, that You are mindful of all those who need help and never abandon us when we are in danger, since You take care of poor wretches who have so greatly offended Your Goodness” (CCD:X:411)

Our perfection then is found in living a life of charity. Living in “a state of charity” determines the lay character of the Company which is understood as living her vocation and mission in the midst of the world, that is, giving oneself completely to God in service of the poor and living a lifestyle characterized by responding to God’s will as expressed in the needs of those who are poor. We can never forget that the reason for the lay character of the Company is not cultural and even less is it “worldly” or negative. Rather it is based on the very nature of God who became incarnate: God so loved the world that he became flesh (he entered the world at a specific time and in a specific place) … God became incarnate in Jesus of Nazareth who for our sake became poor although he was rich (2 Corinthians 8:9). Therefore in the gospel we are often exhorted to act as Jesus acted and to put aside certain things: it shall not be so among you. In both positive and negative terms the gospel speaks to us about a new way of “being and living”, a way that God chose in Christ in order to save the world. Christ, in turn, opted in a preferential way for the poor and though the gift of the Holy Spirit, Jesus has communicated this same option to us who have accepted this as the proper charism of the Company (Cf., Luke 4:18ff.).

Charity is fundamentally a question of “being”, and not simply an activity. Charity must be revealed in every aspect of the life of the Daughter of Charity: in their service on behalf of the poor, in their interior life, and in their community life. Charity must be revealed at every time and in every stage of the life of each Sister. Charity is not only an activity but it is also a form of “being”. Even though charity is primarily oriented toward service on behalf of the poor and is identified as a manner of acting … it is never “a means in order to be” but rather it is a “form of being”. When this becomes an habitual manner of living, life then becomes coherent and one lives with integrity. As we live in this manner we make it possible to have an existential encounter with God because God is love and those who remain in love, remain in God and God in them (1 John 4:16). “To remain”, is that not a reference to a “state” of being? To say Daughter of Charity is to say Daughter of God, Daughter of God’s love. Love then explains the total surrender of self to God and also explains why we serve Christ in the poor and why we live a common life. Love is the key to living “a holistic life”.

It is good to remember that all too often we affirm (superficially and not whole-heartedly) that “being” is more important than “doing”. Nevertheless, it is not inconceivable to view and situate “being” on the margins of “doing”. Human beings are dynamic individuals who form themselves as a result of what they do. We become what we do (in positive terms, we freely form ourselves; negatively, we become alienated) [11]. Therefore the accomplishment of the mission to which we are called is not done independently of who we are (our being) [12]. Thus we cannot confuse the mission with specific tasks and furthermore as a consequence of being a member of the Company, of being a Daughter of Charity, we need to experience ourselves participating in the mission of the Company. Only in this way can we live full lives that move beyond the specific services that we carry out and that also move beyond a specific stage in life or some physical situation in which we might find ourselves. If there is no dichotomy between the total giving of self to God and serving Christ in those who are poor, then there can be no dichotomy between being a member of the Company and participating in its mission. Therefore, with Mother Guillemin we can say: each gesture of a Daughter of Charity is truly at the service of the poor, since it is the entire Company that is dedicated to them, and everything within it is conceived with this end in view (Circular Letter, February 2, 1968). Also we can affirm the words of our Constitutions which state that the sick and elderly Sisters truly share in the mission (Constitutions, #35b).

But in order for our “doing” to be mission, it is necessary that our activity be impregnated with Jesus’ attitudes and spirit. Thus our activity ought to unite us with our neighbor through charity in order to be united with God himself through Jesus Christ (CCD:XII:108). Therefore given the motivation and the objectives of our service on behalf of the poor, given also the vision of faith of those who are poor and the spirit with which they live their lives and finally given the social and theological understanding of “servant” which is proper to us and our common life which is for the mission … all of this gives our service on behalf of the poor a “mystical” quality.


Reception of the text (meditation)

The central message of this letter refers to the consumption of life for the sake of charity, God and the poor. But the fact that Vincent began this letter by giving thanks to God and then near the end of the letters offers prayers for God’s grace makes me think that only from the perspective of gratitude can one totally give oneself to God. If we are aware of this and if we have experienced gratitude (gifts and blessings) we in turn can become a gift and a blessing to those who appear to be cursed in this world: our impoverished brothers and sisters. Without this perspective of gratitude we cannot offer up our lives freely and joyfully. Indeed, it will appear that someone has snatched our life from us. Let us learn from the Lord so that we can truly say: no one takes life from me but I lay it down of my own (John 10:18).

Vincent said: If you only knew your good fortune, Sister, you would be overjoyed.

Through the intercession of Saint Louise and Saint Vincent we continually call upon the Lord in order to know our good fortune (Jesus told the Samaritan woman: if you knew the gift of God (John 4:10). We need to be aware of our good fortune in order to live out that which is essential and thus rejoice in who we are. May our self-offering be an act of thanksgiving, like that of Jesus who took the bread, said the blessing, broke it and gave it to his disciples (Luke 22:19). Our life is always a response to the God who loved us first [13]. The poor, the Church and the world need “joyful servants” not “masters” or organizers or tired executives who are stressed and sad.

Vincent said: give [yourself], wholly and entirely, in [your] state of life and in [your] duty. These words inspire me to inquire about the manner in which we give ourselves to God and to inquire about the manner in which we serve and fulfill the mission: Do we share or do we divide? There is an authentic manner of offering ourselves, one that expands our horizons and enables us to produce fruit, one that gives unity to our life and enables us to share our lives. There is another manner of giving ourselves, one that is inauthentic and lacks discernment, one that divides and tears us apart, one in which we lose control and are shattered. To give oneself wholly and entirely is the difficult task of charity, the difficult task of serene yet passionate love, the difficult act of charity that arises from gratitude and not from some compulsion to serve or to act out of personal fulfillment and/or self-satisfaction.

Through the intercession of Saint Louise and Saint Vincent we continually call upon the Lord to enable us to offer ourselves wholly and entirely, in the manner that Jesus offered himself. His body, which he handed over, was not divided but shared … every single part of his life, every moment of his time and every aspect of his service … each and every one of these is Jesus, wholly and entirely. So too every piece of bread that is shared in the Eucharist is the whole Christ who handed himself over to death and was raised to new life forever. Charity and the Eucharist are joined together by an unbreakable bond.

It remains for you only to join zeal to action and to conform yourself to God’s good pleasure. We are called to unite our will with God’s will and to live in a state of charity as a manner of being (a lifestyle). We are called in this manner because charity is the very being of God and the spirit of Jesus Christ who entered into our history. We should not search for Jesus on the fringes of our history and furthermore we will not encounter Jesus there, on the margins of history. Let us look at our reality with the vision of God, of Jesus Christ and of the poor.

From the perspective of our proper spirit are we able to serve through evangelization and to evangelize through service? Indeed we live “in communion” with Christ who is present in the poor in order that today we might incarnate “his mode of being” (John Paul II, Mane nobiscum Domine, #25) thus risking our lives at this present time and yet knowing that God risked his life in the history of humankind.

Through authentic testimony and a joyful life will we be able to provoke questions and generate surprises and awaken people to the desire to follow the Lord in his Church? … in this specific church with its lights and shadows, risks and fears, always “on the way”, called to fidelity, called to be renewed and converted to the Lord … a Church which because of its sinfulness enables us to feel at home and not excluded, enables us to embrace those who are socially excluded and condemned.

From the perspective of our specific reality, namely, that we are an ageing community, with great institutional leverage, with fears interwoven with a lack of confidence concerning the future … yet at the same time we are a community with heart and soul, with a proper spirit that is joyfully shared in community, that breathes the love of God and the love of neighbor, that is consumed in service on behalf of our sisters and brothers who are most in need, that has profound hope, that is light and salt because it is inflamed with the charity of Jesus Christ crucified …. from this perspective are we able to communicate the heritage that we have received, presenting the vocation of following Jesus Christ as a member of the Company?

Through the intercession of Saint Louise and Saint Vincent we continually call upon the Lord to grant us this grace because what is at stake is the fulfillment of the will of God: charity, God and the poor.

Brothers and sisters, humbly and simply, without any inferiority or superiority or any other complex, let us live that which we are!

?

Footnotes:

[1] Because of the postscript this letter it could not have been written in 1659.

[2] The date is in brackets because Brother Ducourneau, Vincent’s secretary, wrote it on the back of the letter.

[3] Louis Abelly, The Life of the Venerable Servant of God Vincent de Paul, translated by William Quinn, F.S.C., New City Press, New Rochelle, New York, 1993, Volume III, p. 40.

[4] Saint Irenaeus said that the glory of God is the human person fully alive. Therefore Sister Anne’s life and happiness depends on her fidelity. But Archbishop Romero also said that the glory of God is seen in the fact that the poor life and life with dignity. Therefore the life of the sick poor in Ussel depends on Sister Anne’s fidelity.

[5] “Distinguish without separating!” This is pivotal to the root of our Christian Faith (One God, three persons; Christ, one person, two natures; the human person, body and soul; prayer and commitment, action and contemplation, community and mission … How many problems could be resolved if we only applied this principle.

[6] Cf. Hosea 2:21-22, 25, 11:1-9, 12:10; 14:5; Isaiah 43:4, 49:14-16, 54:8; Jeremiah 31:3; Exodus 7:5, 17, 10:12, 14:18-40, 16:6, 12; Deuteronomy 4:37, 7:8, 10:15; Psalm 138:8; Zephaniah 3:17; 1 John 4:8.

[7] In a later letter sent to the same Sister (one that is much harsher than this letter) Vincent stated: In the name of God, Sister, be patient; try to enter into the sentiments of this letter, and make up your mind never to do your own will (CCD:VII:449).

[8] As the Father has sent me, so I send you …. As the Father has loved me so I have loved you … Love one another as I have loved you …

[9] Our situation and our title is servants of the poor … and for Saint Vincent this is the most beautiful and honorable title that one could have (CCD:IX:256).

[10] In Louise’s words: Perfection is not to be found here but in the practice of true charity (SWLM:580 [L.581]).

[11] Cf., J.M. Ilarduia, Comunidad en Diez palabras claves sobre Vida Consagrada, Verbo Divine, Estella, 1999, p. 253-254.

[12] It is important to avoid an affirmation that is all too common, including in Constitutions … here I refer to words that state that the plan of life for religious tends in the direction of “being” and not in the direction of “action”. J.M.R. Tillard, El proyecto de vida de los religiosos, Publicaciones Claretianas, Madrid, 1974, p. 61.

[13] Cf., Constitutions, #29b: As a response of love to a call of Love …. ?

Translated: Charles T. Plock, CM