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Vincentian Convictions and Gestures with regard to Mercy

Holy year of MercyVincentian Convictions and Gestures with regard to Mercy

 By: Father José Antonio González P. CM 

Pope Francis, with the publication of the Bull, Misericordiae Vultus, has called us to live the Jubilee of Mercy.  The Pope tells us that the jubilee is a special occasion to recall to mind the fact that God can only be understood as a mystery of mercy.  The Trinitarian communion and the revelation of God’s love can only be viewed as an eternal act of mercy.  As a result of the mercy that dwells in our hearts, we, too, can enter into communion with God, with ourselves, and with our brothers and sisters.  Pope Francis refers to mercy as the bridge that connects God and man, opening our hearts to the hope of being loved forever despite our sinfulness (Misericordiae Vultus, #2).  Every Christian ought to live his/her life from this perspective of mercy.

Vincent de Paul, when speaking about mercy, affirmed that that virtue was lived by the Missionaries and that this was done only as the result of an effort to develop such an attitude in a continuous and constant manner:  we practice mercy and must do so all our lives: corporal mercy, spiritual mercy, mercy in the rural areas, mercy when we are at home with regard to the retreatants, and with regard to the poor, by teaching them the things necessary for salvation, and in so many other circumstances God presents to us[1].

Three Convictions

Vincentian mercy is sustained by three convictions which ultimately become the foundation of our being and our activity: Jesus, the poor and the community.

[1] Jesus is the source

  • Jesus is the face of the Father’s mercy and his presence in the midst of human history, his life-giving words, his plan with regard to the Kingdom and his love for the poor can only be understood as a radical expression of the love of God the Father for all of humankind. All of God’s love has been given to us in Christ.
  • In light of that reality Vincent spoke to the Missionaries about the urgency to conform their lives to Christ and to his Spirit. Therefore, as we as Vincentians clothe ourselves in the same sentiments and gestures as Jesus and as we allow ourselves to be guided by the Spirit so then we allow the mercy of God to become the perspective from which we understand and live our life.

[2] The poor, our life and our task

  • In the poor we find a privileged expression of divine mercy. In the eyes of Vincent de Paul the poor are the privileged beneficiaries of God’s loving mercy; those who are poor reveal to us true religion and the meaning of gratitude.
  • The situation, however, in which the poor find themselves transforms mercy into a vocation of service. Vincentian mercy is expressed in action that integrates affective and effective love and that restores dignity to those forgotten and abandoned members of society.

[3] The community, fraternity and strength

  • Mercy is rooted in Trinitarian communion and is lived out in the ecclesial community. We cannot communicate God’s profound mercy to humankind and to those who are poor if we do not love one another and live together with one another as a family of baptized persons, as a community of consecrated individuals.
  • The fraternal communion in our parish and local communities as well as in our ministry as a Vincentian Family, is a clear expression of the extent to which the divine mercy can be revealed through us … a mercy that unites and that sends people forth.

Three gestures

In this year of grace, Vincentian mercy ought to be expressed in three significant gestures:

[1] To view and behold

  • To view others with kindness and joy is a gesture of mercy. To view others with tenderness is to affirm their existence and to state that they are always visible to God and always loved by God … it is to tell them that they are important … important not because of what they can acquire in this consumer society but important because of who they are and who they can become.  To communicate mercy through the manner in which we view other people is to shed tears of joy with those who triumph and to shed tears of pain with those who continue to suffer.

[2] To embrace

  • Vincentian embrace reflects the warmth of fraternity and the power of solidarity. Mercy is God embracing humankind who has been orphaned.  During this time of grace, we freely and graciously embrace those who experience the painful loneliness of a self-centered society, those who heroically struggle in order to establish justice in our midst, those who have been deemed as not worthy of any form of service, and those who need to experience God’s true love.

[3] To journey

  • The Year of Mercy involves a journey. We journey toward the door which is Christ, while at the same time we exit through the same door in order to proclaim God’s mercy.  Mercy leads us to journey toward the outer limits, toward the peripheries, toward those places where our poor brothers and sisters live.  To journey with another is to suffer with those who are hospitalized and imprisoned, to suffer with those who are enchained in misery by human injustice, and to suffer with those who have lost hope.  To journey is to walk together as a Church with all those who share the same baptismal and ministerial vocation, with all those who share the same charism and the same vocation of service.

This Year of Mercy is a wonderful opportunity for us as Vincentians to reaffirm our convictions and renew our service on behalf of those who are poor … and to do this in a manner that enables us to communicate, in an affective and effective manner,

God’s love.

Translated: Charles T. Plock, CM 

[1] 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. 328-329.

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