Turn the Medal Over – Reflection: August 2017 

Reflection: August 2017 Turn the Medal Over

Fr. Rolando Gutiérrez, CM, Vice-Province of Costa Rica, continues his monthly reflections.


[1] A time to understand

As we enter into the eighth month of this Jubilee Year during which time we celebrate the four hundredth anniversary of the origin of the Vincentian charism, I propose that we focus our attention on one of Vincent’s conferences entitled, the spirit of faith:


I must not judge a poor peasant man or woman by their appearance or their apparent intelligence, especially since very often they scarcely have the expression or the mind of rational persons, so crude and vulgar they are. But turn the medal, and you will see by the light of faith that the Son of God, who willed to be poor, is represented to us by these poor people; that he scarcely had a human face in his passion, and passed for a madman in the mind of the Gentiles and a stumbling block in the mind of the Jews. With all that. he describes himself as the evangelizer of the poor: He sent me to bring good news to the poor! How beautiful it is to see poor people if we consider them in God and with the esteem in which Jesus Christ held them! If, however, we look on them according to the sentiments of the flesh and a worldly spirit, they will seem contemptible (CCD:XI:26).[1]


Vincentian realism:  The Vincentian charism is primarily realistic.  Vincent recognized that the poor are often crude, vulgar and contemptible in appearance.  There is a danger of viewing ourselves as Vincentians whose faces are covered with a mask of sentimentality and as such, we attempt to soften the harsh reality of poverty by referring to the poor as our lords and masters (which they are, [cf. CCD:X:266]) without analyzing the realities that create those situations of poverty.  As a result, we find ourselves doing the same things that we have been doing year after year.  Vincentian realism is the first requirement if we are to turn the medal over.  Vincentians must learn to call things as they are, and must also know themselves and their limitations with regard to serving the poor.  As Vincentians we must also understand how various systems lead to on-going impoverishment.  Unless we do these things, we become entertainers who act and do things on the behalf of the poor without ever deepening our understanding of what it means to be a true and authentic Vincentian.  Let us not be afraid to confront the reality of the poor whom we serve nor the reality of our own poverty!


The light of faith:  We are not dealing with some type of personal conquest but rather we find ourselves standing before the gift of faith which enlightens the human spirit and enables us to understand that in serving the poor we are serving Jesus Christ.  Perhaps we have repeated these words so frequently that their profound significance has become lost!  Indeed, to place ourselves at the service of those countless crude, vulgar and despicable men and women is to listen to the voice of Jesus, who tells us: whatever you did for one of these least brothers or sisters of mine, you did for me (Matthew 25:40).  Without an authentic living out of our faith, it becomes impossible to live this mystical experience of action.  Therefore, the faith with which we receive the Eucharist is the same faith that enables to turn the medal over in order to discover Jesus Christ in those poor men and women whom we serve.  Indeed, we can be certain of this fact because while our senses sometimes deceive us, the truths of God [will] never deceive (CCD:IX:199).


Finally, we recall here the words of Pope Francis and his invitation to become pastoral ministers who renounce self-absorption (Evangelii Gaudium, #8 and #94) and in light of those words we can understand that turning the medal over means, first of all, that our service on behalf of the poor is not some honorary title … indeed we cannot call the poor our lords and masters and at the same time feel as though we are “above” the poor because we have our “daily bread” and they do not.  Turning the medal over is more than a change in attitude.  Rather it implies a community commitment, it implies that the poor are included on our list of friends, it implies sitting at the able and sharing with them in the same way that we would do with any other of our friends.


[2] A time to contemplate

Let us recall to mind the encounter with some person in need which has influenced the manner in which we (individually and as a community) have lived our Vincentian charism.  What images and/or memories do you recall?  What is the impact of Vincent’s words that were referenced at the beginning of this reflection?  Reread those words of Vincent de Paul and let us spend some time in contemplation on those words.


[3] A time to mediate:

Let us mediate upon and enter into dialogue on the following questions:

  • How realistic has our Vincentian service been? Are we able to accept our limitations so that we do not become an obstacle to the larger community or an obstacle for service on behalf of the poor?  Do we take time to analyze the root causes of poverty?
  • Do the poor see us as people of faith? Do they experience us as their friends?


[4] A time for commitment

After we have discussed this theme in our group let us commit ourselves to clothe ourselves in an attitude that will help us to turn the medal over.  Let us reflect on our manner of serving the poor:  what step can we now take as we continue to clothe ourselves in the spirit of Jesus Christ, evangelizer of the poor?  Perhaps the words that Vincent spoke to the Daughters of Charity will help us in this regard: [your] chief concern will be to serve the sick poor, treating them with compassion, gentleness, cordiality, respect and devotion (CCD:X:267).




Charles T. Plock, CM

Philadelphia Province

[1] CCD:XI:26 refers to: Vincent de Paul, Correspondence, Conference, Documents, translators: Helen Marie Law, DC (Vol. 1), Marie Poole, DC (Vol. 1-13b), 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. 2-13b), 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); annotated: John W. Carven, CM (Vol. 1-13b); New City Press, Brooklyn and Hyde Park, 1985-2009.  Future references to this work will be inserted into the text using the initials [CCD] followed by the volume number, followed by the page number.




2 Responses to Turn the Medal Over – Reflection: August 2017 

  1. The Rev. Dr. Edward Ambrose "Ed" August 29, 2017 at 1:31 pm #

    Your focus seems to come from Vincent’s Christ-like heart & through your heart. May the Holy Spirit infect us with such pure love!

    Ed Ambrose,AA, St. Joe’s 1957

  2. Fr. Pratap Misal, CM August 29, 2017 at 4:45 pm #

    Excellent reflection dear Fr. Rolando.
    Fr. Pratap.
    North Indian Province