Rolando Gutiérrez, CM, Vice-Province of Costa Rica, continues his 400th anniversary reflections with “Clothing Oneself in the Spirit of Jesus Christ”

[1] A time to understand

There are few expressions that express so precisely the essence of the charism of Vincent de Paul as those of the Apostle, Paul (cf. Romans 13:14; Galatians  3:27; Ephesians 4:24; Colossians 3:10) … words that Vincent was insistent upon when speaking to the Missionaries about the purpose and the nature of their vocation: If the Congregation, with the help of God’s grace, is to achieve what it sees as its purpose, a genuine effort to put on the spirit of Christ will be needed (Common Rules I:3).


With a degree of certainty, we can say that service on behalf of the poor (charity-mission) has an authentic Vincentian value to the degree that we engage in the process of clothing ourselves in the spirit of Christ, conforming the whole of our existence to the life, works and sentiments of Jesus Christ, evangelizer of the poor.  It was in that manner that Vincent understood the words of clothing oneself in the spirit of Christ.


When Vincent explained this article of the Common Rules to the missionaries, he stated:  The Holy Spirit personally is poured out on the righteous and dwells personally in them.  When we say that the Holy Spirit is at work in someone, it seems that this Spirit, residing in the person, gives him or her the same inclinations and dispositions Jesus Christ had on earth, and they cause the person to act in the same way — I’m not saying with equal perfection, but according to the measure of the gifts of that divine Spirit (CCD:XII:93).


Now, how are we to understand the words, the same inclinations and dispositions Jesus Christ had?  Following the reasoning of Father Miguel Pérez Flores (“Revestirse del Espíritu de Cristo, p.39-40, CEME, 1996) Vincent himself seems to respond to our question in a letter that he sent to a missionary who was involved in the ministry of seminary formation: how fortunate you are to be the instrument of Our Lord in forming good priests … in this you do the work of the Holy Spirit, who alone enlightens and inflames hearts — or rather, this holy and sanctifying Spirit works through you, for he resides and operates in you.  He does so, not only that you may live of his divine life, but also to establish his same life and manner of working in these men, called to the most lofty ministry on earth, through which they must exercise the two great virtues of Jesus Christ, namely, reverence toward his Father and charity toward humankind (CCD:VI:413).


To clothe oneself in the spirit of Jesus Christ is to engage in the practice of the two great virtues of Christ, namely, reverence toward the Father and charity toward humankind.


Reverence toward the Father is a way to combat temptations with regard to anxiety and pastoral activism.  Like Jesus, we do not serve the poor as the result of some mere human interest nor do we serve the poor as the result of personal interest.  Such service is our life-long option.  Indeed, all of our activity is a loving response to the will of the Father.  We are mystics of action and not mere social workers.


Charity toward humankind summarizes our life in an act self-giving.  As Vincentians, our work does not consist of distributing soup and bread, but is a reflection of the love of God, the Father, who gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life (John 3:16).


[2] A time to contemplate

Mindful of the fact that Vincent de Paul followed the example of St. Paul, the apostle, who affirmed that all who were into Christ, have clothed themselves with Christ (Galatians 3:27), let us take some time to contrast our understanding of the following concepts with that of St. Vincent: clothe oneself, reverence, charity, self-giving.


You might want to discuss in a group if St. Vincent’s understanding of those concepts has changed your own understanding.


[3] A time to reflect

In a prayerful environment, you might ask yourself the following questions:

• How do I live this concept of reverence toward the Father?  Do I recognize attitudes in myself that affirm this reality in me? …attitudes that prevent this reality from becoming more deeply rooted in me?
• How can my particular branch of the Vincentian Family engage in charity toward humankind?  What must be done to move from “giving” to “self-giving”?


[4] A time for commitment

As a result of having reflected and shared on this theme, we can now ask ourselves: what must be done in order to continue the process of clothing oneself in the spirit of Jesus?  Here let us recall the words of Saint Vincent:  Doing good is not everything; we have to do it well, after the example of our Lord, of whom it is said in the gospel that he did all things well: bene omnia fecit (CCD:XII:148).


Charles T. Plock, CM

Philadelphia Province