Salvatore Fari, CM writes from Naples: During this year of 2017 we celebrate the 400th anniversary of the birth of the Vincentian charism. On January 25th, 1617 in the town of Gannes-Folleville, Vincent was called to the bedside of a dying man. The confession of that man had a deep impact on Vincent. Indeed, Vincent became ever more aware of the spiritual abandonment of the poor country people and he made a decision to dedicate his life to the evangelization of those poor country men and women. Then, on August 20th of the same year, while Vincent was pastor in the church at Châtillon-les-Dombres, he was informed about the deplorable situation of a family who were parishioners. Vincent not only decided to intervene in this matter but also came to a clearer understanding that the process of evangelizing the poor had to be accompanied with effective, organized action that would alleviate the situation of material poverty.
Pilgrims for the mission is an initiative promoted by the Vincentian Missionaries in Naples. The confreres are in possession of three reliquaries of Saint Vincent and these are publicly displayed so that people might venerate them and pray. This initiative was begun on February 1st, 2017 and will continue until January 25th, 2018.
These reliquaries contain a piece of bone (from Vincent’s rib), a piece of cloth (from Vincent’s cassock) and an original letter written and signed by Saint Vincent addressed to Louise de Marillac around 1630. The letter, preserved in the house of the Daughters of Charity (Naples)was lost and was found again some fifty years later in our house in Vergini. In that letter Vincent invited Louise to read the book that Francis de Sales had written about the love of God(CCD:I:80-81).
Chronicle concerning the event:
On January 25th, in the church in Vergini, we began the celebration of the Jubilee Year which commemorates the birth of the Vincentian charism. This Church has become a place of pilgrimage because of the Vincentian relics that are so prominently displayed. After some introductory remarks and the blessing of the reliquaries the celebration of the Eucharist was begun. Bishop Deplama, CM (bishop emeritus of Nola) presided at this celebration and in his homily highlighted the manner in which God’s mercy and grace converted Saul (a persecutor) to Paul (a missionary). This encounter with the Risen Lord changed the life of Saul who became the Apostle of the Gentiles. Indeed, Benedict XVI reminds us that Christ is transmitted only by those persons who give credibility to the gospel, by those persons who live the gospel.
The Bishop continued to say that the year 2017 is a year of salvation, a Jubilee Year for the members of the Vincentian Family. We need to be shaken up so that we do not lose this opportunity to live in God’s grace, to live our proper vocation and to give witness to a world that is so often content with mediocrity. We should not be content to ask the question: what should we do? … but rather we must go deeper and ask: who should we be? When we are grounded in our identity then our mission has meaning.
So who are we? We are restless men and women; people who continually seek to understand the different ways in which God has become part of our history. We are people who are involved in a spiritual reform, people who meditate on God and speak about God, people whose hearts are enflamed by God; people who want to breathe in God as they breathe in oxygen … people who know that God accompanies them as they journey through life. True Vincentians are not fearful of difficulties but are very aware of the value of the present moment.
Bishop Beniamino concluded by saying that the God of Jesus Christ is a God who looks with kindness upon those who are poor. Therefore, Vincentians are men and women who work together in community and in networking with other groups in order to not only assist the poor so that they might overcome their situation of oppression but also in order to raise up those poor men and women so that they might become protagonists of their own history. We have a 400 year history of holiness that we can tell to others … but today, as disciples of Vincent and not merely imitators, as creative and inventive disciples of Vincent, we also have a great history to construct.
At the end of the celebration, the superior of the community thanked the Bishop and the concelebrants, for their participation in this celebration a large number. Gratitude was also expressed to Giovanni Varriale who animated this unforgettable moment in our history.
Translated: Charles T. Plock, CM