Rolando Gutiérrez, CM, Vice-Province of Costa Rica, continues his Jubilee Year reflections with his October 2017 thoughts on  Love is Inventive to Infinity

Reflection: October 2017: Love is Inventive to Infinity

[1] A time to understand

Few words of Vincent de Paul are as well-known as the words that entitle this tenth reflection: love is inventive to infinity.  Their origin is found is a series of motivations that Vincent presented to a dying missionary and perhaps we could that those are some of Vincent’s most moving words with regard his eschatological vision (a vision expressed from the perspective of a theology of mercy).


With regard to those words that are used so frequently: What, in the context of the Vincentian charism, do they really mean?  Let us look at this more closely: Furthermore, since love is inventive to infinity, after being affixed to the infamous stake of the cross to win the hearts and souls of those by whom he wishes to be loved — not to mention all the other innumerable schemes he used for this purpose during his time spent among us — foreseeing that his absence could cause some forgetfulness or cooling off in our hearts. He wanted to avoid this danger by instituting the most august sacrament, in which he is as truly and substantially present as he is in heaven above (CCD:XI:131).[1]


Those words are part of a message of comfort, strength and hope concerning Jesus’s ministry that was revealed in his saving mission and that is continued through the sacramental action of the Church … an action which the dying missionary had participated in throughout his life.  In other words, we are dealing with a reality that is rooted in God’s salvific love, a reality that is guaranteed by the person of Jesus revealed the depths of that love during his earthly ministry.


For a spirituality with a tradition of four centuries, Vincent’s invitation to be inventive to infinity goes far beyond the search for novel pastoral methods.  It could be said that that this inventiveness unto infinity is in reality the consequence of a series of events rooted in a trinitarian spirituality, lived from the perspective of an incarnational Christology that then results in a creative mission of evangelizing the poor corporally and spiritually (CCD:IX:50).


According to Vincent, Jesus’ creativity is rooted in his love and the best example of that divine creativity is found in the sacrament of the Eucharist.


The same could be said with regard to Vincent’s creativity: the Confraternities, the two congregations, the popular missions, the missionary catechism, the little method, retreats for the ordinands, the Tuesday conferences, ministry in seminaries, conferences to the Missionaries and the Daughters of Charity, participation in the Council of Conscience, intervention during the time of the Fronde Wars … all of these are examples of Vincent’s creative search for the best means of evangelization … means that sprang from a creative heart rooted in the saving mystery of the Trinity.


This Jubilee Year provides us with an opportunity to experience anew the call to be inventive unto infinity, understanding the no pastoral project or service on behalf of the poor will be truly Vincentian unless it flows from the heart of God wherein lies true love of those in need.


[2] A time to contemplate

Reread the text at the beginning of this reflection:

  • Are we able to place ourselves among the hearts and souls of those persons from whom Christ expects to be loved? What images can we find in our life that make us experience ourselves as beneficiaries of Christ’s mercy as well as messengers of that same mercy?


[3] A time to mediate:

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

  • Are we a community that is inventive to infinity? What are we lacking in the area of personal and community creativity?
  • Is our service on behalf of the poor inventive or are we stuck in doing the same things as always?
  • Are we in tune with the opportunities for service that the Vincentian Family is offering to us, for example, service involving systemic change, service that involves collaboration with the wider Vincentian Family, the recently launched project on behalf of homeless individuals and various other initiatives.


[4] A time for commitment

Let us focus on the call that we have received:  what does God expect of us?  What do the poor need from us? Today, just as four hundred years ago, the infinitely inventive commitment that we ought to embrace is one that is expressed in specific concrete action and that reveals the reality of the Kingdom of God as the sole focus in our life and our ministry: to seek first of all the reign of God in ourselves and to procure it in others! How far would a Company that lived this teaching of advancing God’s glory more and more further its own happiness! What good reason would it not have to hope that everything would turn to its advantage! If God were pleased to grant us this grace, our happiness would be incomparable (CCD:XII:151).


Let us commit ourselves to this creativity because the fire of love burns in the heart of all Vincentians and the Kingdom of God is their happiness.  What concrete commitment can we make?




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.