Jubilee Year on the Occasion of the 400th Anniversary of the Origin of the Vincentian Charism

Rolando Gutiérrez, CM Vice-Province of Costa Rica invites us to reflect on being in the arms of Providence.

[1] A time to understand

Reflection: September 2017 In the Arms of Providence

Saint Vincent de Paul is recognized in history as the great apostle who organized the largest network of charity during the seventeenth century … a truly incredible work considering the limited resources that were at his disposal and even more so if we were to compare that to the many technological resources that are available to people in today’s world. Vincent was able to create this network of charity and as a result able to provide for the daily needs of thousands of poor men and women in different parts of the world (France, Italy, Poland, Scotland, Ireland, Madagascar, Tunis and Algeria).

We might pose the following question about the life and the ministry of Vincent de Paul: How did an individual, a peasant in origin, not outstanding intellectually or socially or politically … how was such a person able to develop all those different projects. Vincent provides us with the answer when he speaks about the origins of the Congregation of the Mission: Alas, my dear confreres, no one had ever thought of that! We did not even know what missions were, we were not thinking of them at all and did not know what they were all about, and that is how it can be recognized that this is a work of God (CCD:XI:162).

Vincent expressed a similar idea when he spoke about the origin of the Daughters of Charity: Sisters, you should have such deep devotion to Divine Providence and such great love for and confidence in it that if Providence itself had not given you the beautiful name of Daughters of Charity — which you must never change — you should be called Daughters of Providence, for it is Providence that has brought you into being (CCD:IX:62).

Here we discover a key element with regard to Vincentian spirituality, namely, all our works belong to God and originate in God, we are God’s humble instruments … or to say this in another way, we are children of Divine Providence.

A Vincentian understanding of the mystery of God

In light of the many sufferings that Jean Barreau experienced during the time that he served as consul of France in Algiers, Vincent wrote to him and counseled him: We cannot better assure our eternal happiness than by living and dying in the service of the poor, in the arms of Providence, and with genuine renouncement of ourselves in order to follow Jesus Christ (CCD:III:384).

Such is the manner in which Vincentians respond to their calling to clothe themselves in the spirit of Christ, a calling that finds its fulfillment in acts of renunciation that ultimately enable them to abandon themselves into the arms of Providence. Indeed, it is in the arms of Providence that they come to a better understanding that the plan is God’s plan and not their plan and it is also in the arms of Providence that the sons and daughters of Saint Vincent have their daily encounter with the Lord.

A Vincentian manner of acting

In 1655 Vincent experienced some difficult moments as he attempted to have vows approved for the members of the Congregation. After a failed attempt, Vincent wrote to Étienne Blatiron in Rome, a member of the Congregation who was directing this process: the works of God have their moment; his providence brings them about at that time and neither sooner nor later. The works of God have their moment; his Providence brings them about at that time and neither sooner nor later. The Son of God saw the loss of souls; yet, he did not advance the hour ordained for his coming. Let us wait patiently but let us act, and, so to speak, let us make haste slowly (CCD:V:3400).

Vincent’s absolute trust in divine provide is a most appropriate element during this time of the twenty-first century when the members of the Vincentian Family might be tempted to identify themselves with the various work and projects that are carried out on behalf of those who are poor rather than identify themselves with the mystic of action. The tendency toward activism, which ultimately creates some very anxious groups and/or individuals, is a reflection of a spirituality that, in reality, is lacking in everything that is Vincentian. Where there are true Vincentians there is also trust in providence and abandonment into the arms of God who is the author of all our works and the one to whom we commit ourselves … trusting that God will indeed guide and direct all our steps.

[2] A time to contemplate

As we engage in this ninth reflection of the Jubilee Year, let us turn our focus to our own life: what has been our experience of God’s providence? Our were we initiated into the Vincentian charism? How did I become a member of the Vincentian Family? What role has God played in our vocation? What are the signs that enable us to know that our service is, as Vincent stated, a work of God? Let us spend some time in reflection on our life.

[3] A time to meditate

Let us reflect on and share with one another our thoughts on the following questions:

Is our understanding of happiness related to service on behalf of the poor? How do we

understand the words: to live in the arms of divine providence?

… the works of God have their moment: what insight do those words offer us as we reflect on our service on behalf of those persons most in need? How do we make decisions and how do we carry out our various plans and projects? Do we, in realty, live as though we were dependent on divine providence?

[4] A time to commit

It would seem appropriate to make a commitment in the area of trust and abandonment: what attitude do we need to develop in order to learn how to entrust our plans and service to divine providence? Do we feel called to make some act of abandonment into the arms of God?

Translated: Charles T. Plock, CM Eastern Province, USA