The first dynamic principle of our Vincentian identity, which is spoken about in the Final Document of the XLII General Assembly, could be no other than the following: Jesus Christ is the center of our life and mission, the Rule of our identity, the content of our preaching and the reason for our passion for the poor (Final Document, #2.1). It is never to difficult a task to recall the irrevocable primacy of Christ in our Vincentian vocation. We are all aware of the truth that Vincent wanted to etch, in gold letters, in the hearts of all the confreres: Christ is the Rule of the Mission.[1] Christ is to be the on-going inspiration and the framework for the life of each and every missionary: Our Lord Jesus Christ is the true model and that great invisible portrait on whom we must fashion all our actions (CCD:XI:201). Missionaries, in fact, recognize that they are destined to continue the saving work of the Son of God who was sent to proclaim Good News to the poor. Therefore, they must me in a continual relationship with Christ in order to receive from Him all that they are to share with those whom they are evangelizing. For Vincent de Paul, total oneness with Christ is the very heart of the charitable-missionary vocation of the confreres: the state of the Missioners is one in conformity with the evangelical maxims, which consists in leaving and abandoning everything, as the Apostles did, to follow Jesus Christ and, in imitation of him, to do what is proper (CCD:XI:1).

The following words are an expression of the commitment that should enrich the life of the missionaries, despite their limitations and weaknesses: to progressively become like Jesus Christ, to conform their life to the person of Jesus, to clothe themselves in Jesus’ values and criteria, in Jesus’ attitudes and sentiments (cf. Matthew 11:29; John 13:15; Philippians 2:5), to enter into a process of on-going conversion so that the gospel shines forth in the life and the activity of the members of the Congregation of the Mission: The intention of the Company is to imitate Our Lord to the extent that poor, insignificant persons can do. What does that mean? It means that the Company aspires to take him as a model in the way he acted, what he did, his ministries, and his aims. How can one person represent another, if he does not have the same characteristics, features, manners, and looks? That cannot be. So, if we are determined to make ourselves like this divine model, and feel in our hearts this desire and holy affection, it is necessary, I repeat, it is necessary to strive to model our thoughts, works, and intentions on his (CCD:XII:67-68).

Today, just as yesterday, we are challenged to confront realities that are contrary to the vocation which we have received: individualism which weakens the sense of community and shared mission and inclines individuals to seek their own well-being and personal fulfillment; superficial spirituality which ultimately becomes an obstacle to human maturity, vocational integrity, a more lively faith and a renewed apostolic impulse: a weakening of identity and a sense of belonging which are signs of a superficial assimilation of the charism which in turn reveals that the charism does not influence the lifestyle of the missionaries and does not influence their ministries or works (thus the need for solid formation); distancing oneself from the world of the poor and that which is proper to the mission which flows from a desire to preserve present day structures and our heritage or from a desire to guarantee a stable future for the confreres and the provinces. All of those above referenced realities (and many others) remind the members of the Congregation that they have been called to fix their eyes on a dynamic center, a person who is no other than Jesus Christ, the one sent by the Father to bring Good News to the poor (cf. Luke 4:18) and who is mysteriously present in the little ones of this world (cf. Matthew 25:40). Such was the focus of Vincent’s contemplation and he has placed that same reality before us for our contemplation.

Only by clothing ourselves in the spirit of Christ can we become inflamed with his charity and continue to fulfill his mission. In times of secularism and crisis with regard to the meaning of life, nothing seems to be more urgent than this, namely, to return to Jesus in order to evangelize; to return to Jesus Christ who finds us and lets himself be found, every day, in the Gospel which we reflect upon, in the Eucharist which we celebrate and in the poor whom we receive and serve. Jesus Christ is the inspiring rule and the fundamental content of the New Evangelization to which we are called by the Church … in this spring-time of Pope Francis’ pontificate. Again, the Final Document of the XLII General Assembly reminds us that we are called to work to make possible a civilization of love, grounded in the Truth of Christ where there is a weakening of the capacity for reflection and for commitment, a culture of hedonism and individualism.  We seek to bring meaning which is capable of transforming persons and structures (Final Document, #1.1.b). If Jesus Christ ceases to be the inspiring principle, the evangelizing action and the socio-transformative movement, then we run of risk of falling into ideological positions and philanthropic activities. In that situation we would find ourselves deprived of the foundation that grounds us and of the broad horizon that guides us. Such a foundation and horizon is provided by faith which allows us to live and to act in the spirit of Jesus Christ and allows us to be driven by Jesus’ compassion and charity … thus, prolonging the saving mission of Christ, a mission that encompasses all human beings and all of creation.

By: Vinícius Augusto Teixeira, CM

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

[1] Vincent de Paul, Correspondence, Conference, Documents, translators: Helen Marie Law, DC (Vol. 1), Marie Poole, DC (Vol. 1-14), 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 and 14); annotated: John W. Carven, CM (Vol. 1-13b); New City Press, Brooklyn and Hyde Park, 1985-2014, volume XII, p. 110.  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, for example, CCD:XII:110.