Letter of the Superior General to all priests of the Mission : 25 January 2017
“My heart is overwhelmed with thankfulness and joy for this “gift from Heaven,” allowing the Congregation of the Mission and the entire Vincentian Family to celebrate, throughout the whole of 2017, the 400th Anniversary of the Vincentian Charism, which has left such deep marks of Jesus’s unconditional love on the world throughout the last 400 years and continues to do so today!
During this year, the Congregation of the Mission and the entire Vincentian Family will choose different dates for beginning the celebrations. Some already have started. Some will begin later. But there is one date that is the source, the beginning of the reason for the celebration, the beginning of the “way of Saint Vincent de Paul,” the beginning of the Vincentian Charism: 25 January 1617 in the village of Folleville in France.
It was in that small village that Vincent was touched by the tremendous spiritual poverty of people in the countryside. A few months later, he had the experience of the tremendous material poverty in the town of Châtillon that gave birth to the Ladies of Charity, today known as AIC, and who now witness so beautifully to the Vincentian Charism around the world. He began by encouraging others to change their lives from within, as well as to reach out to the people around them, who had material needs. At the same time, he experienced his own personal conversion, dedicating himself totally to the spiritually and materially poor and bringing about the collaboration of so many, who followed in his footsteps, to make the Gospel a reality “here and now” for millions and millions throughout the 400 years that have passed since that time. This mission will not end until Charity is globalized, until Charity has embraced all corners of the world and touched the heart of every person!
The theme of the Jubilee Year, which will accompany us throughout the 12 months is: “I was a stranger and you welcomed me….”
There are already numerous and incredible initiatives within the Congregation of the Mission, as well as throughout the whole of the Vincentian Family, to celebrate the 400th Anniversary of the Vincentian Charism in all corners of the world on the local, national, and international levels, and there are some initiatives still to come. All of them have in mind Jesus’s words taken from Matthew 25:31-46 so dear to Vincentians and to all those who embrace the charism of Vincent de Paul: “I was a stranger and you welcomed me….”
As we look outward to the cry of the poor, we should not forget to look inward, to the cry of the poor within us, to the poverty within us that cries for help, for freedom, for redemption. It was Vincent’s acceptance and recognition of his own poverty that led him to purify his own heart, the heart that then beat so strongly for persons on the margins of society! Vincent’s approach to the person was not the approach of a theology from “above,” but rather an approach to the person from Vincent’s own poverty, the approach of a theology from “below.” To welcome the stranger within us, to recognize that he exists in every one of us, to embrace this stranger, accept him, and then give it all to Jesus to heal our wounds, to surrender completely to Him and trust totally in His Providence: this was Vincent’s way. Let it be the way of each one of us!
The lasting fruits of these 400 years are seen in the thousands and thousands of our confreres and other members of the numerous branches of the Vincentian Family who have walked before us, lived Vincent’s way, the Vincentian Charism, to the best of their abilities. Now it is our turn.
… Let us then go forward in this Year of Grace with the words of Saint Vincent de Paul: “I wish you a young heart and a love in its first bloom for Him Who loves us unceasingly and as tenderly as if He were just beginning to love us. For all God’s pleasures are ever new and full of variety, although He never changes” (Letter 288, CCD I, 408).
May the Jubilee Year be accompanied by the intercession of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal, Saint Vincent de Paul, and all the other Blessed and Saints of the Vincentian Family!
Tomaž Mavrič, CM Superior General