Rolando Gutiérrez, CM, of the Vice-Province of Costa Rica, offers his Vincentian Reflection: May 2017

To Unite our Will to the will of God: The purpose of the Vincentian Vocation

[1] A time to understand

Many Vincentian scholars have utilized the phrase of the famous Jesuit essayist and poet, Henri Bremond (1865-1933), who stated that “it was not the poor who led Vincent de Paul to God but that it was God who led Vincent de Paul to the poor”.  Those words highlight the essence of the spiritual journey of this saint who even in the midst various political matters (participation in the Council of Conscience [1643-1652] and his intervention during the Fronde Wars [1648-1653]) never lost sight of the fact that he was called to do the will of God and not to accomplish some social/political plan.

How did Vincent understand this concept of doing God’s will?  We could say much in this regard but at this time we simply want to highlight the fact that Vincent related the concept “of doing the will of God” with two other concepts: perfection and happiness.

In his conference, dated October 17, 1655, Vincent responds to a Missionary who had fallen into the trap of activism and as a result neglected community prayer.  Vincent stated:

Perfection does not consist in ecstasies but in doing the will of God.  What is perfection?  I think it means something in which nothing is lacking … now who will be the most perfect of all human beings?  It will be the one whose will is most in conformity with that of God, with the result that perfection consists in uniting our will so closely to that of God that, strictly speaking, his and ours are only one and the same will and non-will, and the more someone excels on this points, the more perfect he will be (CCD:XI:286).

Twenty-five years before, around 1630 (before the establishment of the Company of the Daughters of Charity), Vincent responded to a letter that Louise de Marillac had written to him:

I shall preserve in my heart the [words]you write to me concerning your generous resolution to honor the adorable hidden life of Our Lord as Our Lord has given you the desire of doing since your youth. O my dear, how that thought savors of the inspiration of God and how far removed it is from flesh and blood! Now then, that is the disposition needed by a beloved daughter of God. Cling to it, Mademoiselle, and courageously resist any feeling you get that is contrary to it. Rest assured that by this means you will be in the state God requires of you in order to have you advance to another for his greater glory, if he so sees fit; if not, you will still be sure that you are constantly doing in this God’s holy will. That is the goal towards which we tend and towards which the saints have tended. Without it, no one can be happy (CCD:I:81-82).

Happiness is the dream of every human being and perfection is God’s desire for every human person (Matthew 5:48).  Those two realities are represented on the two sides of the coin that Vincent found and that enabled him to order his life and that of his followers in a specific direction, namely, to fulfill the will of God.

Thus, in every age there is a constant call to renew the charism.  Today, just as occurred 400 years ago, the first challenge and the only guarantee of being faithful to the mission is uniting our will to the will of God.  Saint Paul (Galatians 2:20) had a clear understanding of those words; Vincent lived those words and Louise de Marillac incarnated those words.

It would be good to recall here that Vincent, in the Common Rules (II:#), has offered us four steps that could be seen as tools that help us to unite our will to the will of God:

[1] we should conscientiously carry out what is ordered and avoid what is forbidden (obedience);

[2] we should practice indifference when there is a choice open to use in matters neither ordered nor forbiddenand we should choose the less palatable rather than the most pleasing (mortification and indifference);

[3] we should view all things as coming from God, that includes affliction and consolation of body and spirit (abandonment to divine providence);

[4] we should do all things for the purpose of pleasing God and imitating Jesus (purify our motives).

[2] A time to contemplate

For this time of contemplation we suggest placing a statue or a picture of Saint Louise in front of you.  Then let us contemplate the life of Louise and her journey to perfection and happiness.

What did Louise understand when she spoke about perfection?   How do we distinguish the concept of Vincentian perfection from the selfish and altruistic concept of perfection that is so often placed before us?
How, after so many years of desolation, did Louise become a joyful/happy woman?

[3] A time to meditate

With the image of Louise before us and recalling the four steps that are necessary to do the will of God, let us reflect for a few minutes on our life: how do I attempt to live in accord with the will of God?  How do the four steps of Saint Vincent assist me in this regard?

[4] A time to make a commitment

Continuing with the tree of commitment, we propose that the fruit of this reflection might be something very personal.  Placing ourselves in one of the four Vincentian steps that enable us to act in accord with the will of God, let us examine our life and then when we experience the invitation to take another step forward toward perfection and happiness, let us make a commitment in that regard.  What is my commitment in this regard during this Jubilee Year.

Translated by: Charles T. Plock, CM