The heart of Saint Vincent continues its pilgrimage through France and with each step, the heart of St. Vincent moves further away from Paris. From the South of France, Sr. Marie Brigitte Baloge, D.C. reports on what happened during the visit.
At the request of the Daughters of Charity of Ydes (Cantal) and in collaboration with the AIC in Saint Flour and the Vincent de Paul Society in Aurillac and Ussel (Corrèze), the reliquary was received and remained in Auvernia from May 25th until May 28th, 2017. There is no doubt that Louise de Marillac rejoiced from her place heaven as the heart of St. Vincent journeyed to these places where our Founders had so many varied experiences.
Very early on the feast of the Ascension we traveled along the road that would bring us to Ydes, Saint Flour … in the background was the rising sun and the mountains of Cantal.
Hundreds of members of AIC from Aurillac and Arpajon were waiting for us in the vestibule of the Cathedral … a Gothic building made with volcanic rock and whose height of 892 meters makes it the tallest cathedral in Europe. After some initial greetings, we began the Mass that was presided by the bishop of that place, Bruno Grua.
Many faithful who still remember the Daughters of Charity who ministered in that area until the 1990’s and who are appreciative of the ministry of the AIC volunteers who labor there on behalf of the poor … many of these individuals came to celebrate the feast of the Ascension and to venerate the reliquary of the heart of Saint Vincent.
The emotion was palpable and expressed in simple gestures: bowing, making the sign of the cross, writing an intention on paper … Yes, that tenderness which, until his final day on earth, St. Vincent offered to others, especially those persons most abandoned and forgotten … that same tenderness we experienced in this holy place. Each of the participants was able to write some words that welled up in their hearts: a petition or some words of gratitude, some need, some words of joy or thanksgiving. Those prayers would later be presented to God during evening prayer at the chapel of the Miraculous Medal. At the conclusion of the Eucharist there was an opportunity to venerate the reliquary of the heart of Saint Vincent and thus, to renew one’s commitment to follow in his footsteps. Yes, people opened their hearts and allowed themselves to be transformed by Jesus.
The celebration was followed with a community gathering in the Jacobins Room where we marked this event with the cutting of a “birthday cake”. There was then a time for prayer which included praying the Rosary, selected readings from the works of Saint Vincent and Saint Louise, some hymns and finally, a Vesper service.
During the second day of the pilgrimage we visited a woman who is 102 years old and lives outside the town with her daughter: a powerful experience of the same tenderness that Saint Vincent manifested to those persons who were abandoned and forgotten. There we prayed for all elderly persons who had become dependent on others and at the same time we prayed for those family members who care for their elderly parents/relatives.
On the third day, we left Cantal in order to travel to Corrèze and Ussel, the place where Vincent sent the first Daughters in 1658. The beginning of that mission was difficult but the Daughters remained there until 2012. There we met with members of the Saint Vincent de Paul Society and Father Vincent Damien, pastor of the parish, celebrated Mass for all of us.
On Sunday, the parishioners of Santa Marie in Sumène Artense gathered together in the Church in Ydes. Many members from the Conferences in Aurillac joined us there as well as people from Champs, Lanobre, Saignes, Vebret, Champagnac, and Antignac. There was an entrances procession during which time we sang: throughout the day, let love be your song. Many people prayed before the reliquary and offered various petitions.
After sharing a meal in Saint Vincent’s Center, the film Monsieur Vincent was shown. Pierre Fresnay performed in this film in such a manner that Vincent’s charism came to life once again. We were able to come to a deeper understanding of Vincent’s struggle against poverty during the XVII century. This film presents the precarious situations of the people in a most realistic manner and there are few films that develop the history of France during that era in such an honest and transparent manner.
As the heart of Vincent travels to Vincent’s birthplace, we give thanks to God for this opportunity for prayer and sharing. We have been touched and will now attempt to make real the tenderness of God in our daily encounters with people.
We also give thanks to Sister Stanislawa and Sister Maria Teresa who facilitated this unforgettable and powerful moment of prayer.
Before arriving at the Berceau, we paused at Chateau l’Évéque and there with great joy we celebrated the Eucharist with the Sisters and with those persons who serve and minister at that house.
Charles T. Plock, CM