Spirituality can be described as an energising vision or a way of seeing the world. Vincentian Spirituality is the particular expression of spirituality that builds on the tradition of St Vincent de Paul, St Louise de Marillac, Blessed Frederic Ozanam and Blessed Rosalie Rendu.
These people incarnated a way of following Jesus and we are called to walk in their footsteps.
Some people sum up what motivated these people and what motivates those who walk in their footsteps as the Vincentian Question, namely, ‘What must be done?’. This was a question that was put to Vincent in the face of the need which confronted him and it is a question that echoes down through the years ‘What must I/we do?’ in the face of the need that is in front of us.
The key aspects of St Vincent’s spirituality are:
• To love God, our Father, with the sweat of our brow and the strength of our arms – that is to put our love into action by providing practical help to people who are suffering.
• see the face of God in the people we serve and to pray for them.
• To share the compassionate love of God with all those we serve.
That is to say that Vincentian spirituality is a spirituality that unites action with contemplation, prayer with direct service.
St Vincent said: I must not judge a poor peasant man or woman by their appearance or their apparent intelligence, … But turn the medal, and you will see by the light of faith that the Son of God, who willed to be poor, is represented to us by these poor people.
When Frederic and his companions came along, they took the foundation of Vincentian spirituality that had been built by Vincent and Louise and their followers up to this point and developed it.
Frederic said of the people he served:
We should fall down at their feet and say with the apostle: You are our masters, and we will be your servants. You are the visible images of this God whom we do not see, but whom we believe we love in loving you.
Frederic and his companions lived out their Vincentian spirituality as lay people who married and had careers but also had Vincentian spirituality at the centre of their lives through their membership of the Society.
The Rule tells us that:
The vocation of the Society’s members, who are called Vincentians, is to follow Christ through service to those in need and so bear witness to His compassionate and liberating love. Members show their commitment through person-to person contact.
The centre of Vincentian spirituality is the conference because Society members reflect together on their experiences of serving people in need and finding God there. Their shared experiences and reflections are a source of strength and growth for them in their journey.
James Cormack CM wrote:
In every person called to serve, the gift of compassion is a live and growing trait. Compassion is not born full-grown in any of us, and it must be nurtured in order that it might grow. It must be encouraged and called forth.
Members in conference support each other in putting this compassion into practice and growing in love.
The essential Vincentian virtues of simplicity, humility, meekness, mortification and zeal, are the tools that Vincentians use to help them put their spirituality into action.
Simplicity can be described as being honest and authentic. Zeal is the passion and the energy that we put into our mission. Meekness means being gentle and approachable especially to the people that we serve. Humility involves being reasonable and down to earth. Mortification is the selflessness that is required to be of service to others.
Together Society members grow in these virtues as we serve and prayer together. Vincentian spirituality supports us Vincentians to live out our mission: The Society is a lay Catholic organisation that aspires to live the gospel message by serving Christ in the poor with love, respect, justice, hope and joy, and by working to shape a more just and compassionate society. ♦
Sr Therese Haywood DC is the National Council’s Spiritual Adviser