Vincent’s Charism is Alive and Well In YOU
Huh? Bear with me! Chance’s are that if you reading this post you have some interest in the Vincentian Charism of service with those who are poor whether materially or spiritually.
A few days ago, I wrote about “Why I Am a Vincentian Priest”. Judging from the response my answer struck a chord.
For me, the answer lies in a culture I love… I speak of a very different, simple, lived culture I have experienced as a Vincentian priest trying to follow Christ, the Evangelizer of the Poor. I first experienced that Vincentian culture in my high school days over six decades ago. And it a culture that I still experience today now that I am in my 80’s… Back then I was impressed by the joy I saw in the faces and lives of my teachers at St. John’s Prep.
Today someone commented on that post
I too have been influenced by the Vincentian spirit that I witnessed at the Prep and has shaped my life ever since. My days with the Vincentians have been and are a continual joy to remember and a blessing every day of my vocation as a husband and father. Thank you, Fr. Freund, for having the courage to share your thoughts and feelings, that’s what makes St. Vincent a living influence today and everyday.
Naming the Charism In Your Everyday Life
The comment reminded me of a story, a true story. It is a story connecting the dots of one person’s life with the Vincentian Charism or culture. It is the story of a mature woman who was interested in learning more about a group of women who called themselves Sisters of Charity. She was considering becoming a “lay associate”.
In conversation with one she respected greatly, she heard the story of Vincent instructing one of the first groups of the long line of women who became known as Daughters of Charity, Sisters of Charity or some variation. She heard from this Sister the words of Saint Vincent to his early followers about how they were to have
for monastery only the houses of the sick,
for cell a hired room,
for chapel the parish church,
for cloister the streets of the city…
It was a moment of awakening for her. She burst into quiet tears, tears of recognition. After a few moments, she was able to explain what had happened.
In those words of Vincent, she recognized the lives that she and her husband had lived serving the marginalized in the south west of the United States. And, in that moment, the Sister learned a new level of meaning to those words. She realized immediately that she was not “forming” her for becoming an associate but rather merely helping her to recognize or name the charism she and her husband had been living for decades.
Pope Francis has done something similar in naming the “ordinary holiness” of “the saints next door”
Recently, I came across a beautiful biblical expression of this in an article Elijah’s Mantle in the Associate (North American Conference of Associates and Religious (NACAR)).
Elisha asks to carry on in his master’s path, which is signified by his asking to receive the spirit of his master. “Let me inherit a double portion of your spirit,”[2 Kings 2:9]. Elijah lays his mantle upon Elisha’s shoulders as a sign of companionship in the prophet’s school of disciples. The other companions acknowledge that Elisha has been granted the spirit of their master: The company of the prophets from Jericho, who were watching, said, “The spirit of Elijah is resting on Elisha” [v. 15].
The article continues,
“It is Elijah’s spirit that is communicated to Elisha, not an office or an authority. This is the core of the meaning of “communicate the charism;” it means to be caught up in the divine spirit that gives life to the communion of faith. Even more, it is the communication of a non- institutional reality; it is the sharing of faith, hope, and charity which stream from God to the human family.
What does this very brief reflection on the charism of religious life say to religious and associates about the future? It says
The charism of religious life is alive and well both inside and outside of the religious institute’s vowed membership. The health of a charism is not in the number of members who profess their vows in the institute. The health of the charism is seen in its vitality wherever it is received, nurtured and made operative.
For many religious institutes today, this is happening more and more among the laity who are associates.
So yes, you who have encountered the Vincentian culture I wrote about in “Why I am a Vincentian Priest”, the charism is alive and well as you live it with your families in your homes and in your unsung care for those of our brothers and sisters on the margins.
For picking up the mantle of Vincent I thank you! The spirit of Vincent is alive and well in you.