We have not yet finished savouring and enjoying the fulfilment of “an old dream of God: to dwell with men“, the one that would be placed in our hands, in our minds and in our will, and already the Lenten Season surprises us at our doorstep. Lent is a time which, by its nature and purpose, brings us many visions, many illusions, and many memories, as well as many occupations and concerns. Among its many meanings, this Season brings to mind that we are dust, a reality that exposes our fragility and the brevity of our lives. It is a Time that reminds us, moreover, of our sinfulness. ó n condition. It reveals to us that we have made mistakes and that, in so doing, we will lose the way of life and of the Kingdom, even compromising others in our sin. The Season of Lent also reminds us that, even if our sin is enormous, Christ has redeemed the best of us and saved us because God’s forgiveness is unlimited. So we need to convert, to put ourselves back in the door and become again the person God expects of us. Indeed, if Lent is a time of many resonances, it is at the same time a great opportunity to make it a way out. But how can we make it a way out for us?

“Go forth from your country and from your father’s house” (Gen 12:1). Tradition has always accepted this verse as an invitation to the members of the Church to go out. To go out of ourselves, to leave customs and traditions, to give up what we have already achieved, all that we are so proud of and which gives us a certain security, and to do without all that to which we have devoted so much effort throughout our lives. But, although the Church exhorts us to go out, we cannot deny how difficult it is to move and to risk seeking new horizons, to take new paths and explore new references. Because of this, we often fall into the temptation to conform to what is there, to what is established, forgetting, however, that “to conform is to begin to die. Conformism is the beginning of the end” (Francesc Torralba). At present, it seems that conformism is the most widely consumed drug[1] . Conformism has often won in our Church, killing creativity in its mission and feeding mediocrity in the practice of faith and charity. It also prevents us from building a synodal Church, that is to say, a Church that goes out, listening attentively and reciprocally, in which each one has something to learn from the other. In this way, one listening to the others, and all listening to the Holy Spirit, the Spirit will fill us with truth[2] .

This Lent, for our good, let us go out of ourselves. Human beings are truly fulfilled when they are open to transcendence, to others and to what is new in the Gospel. We are called not to be content with what is going on around us. Today’s world needs alert, courageous Christians and Vincentians who challenge evil and injustice. Vincentians who are bold and motivated to bring “the fragrance of Christ to the world” (2 Cor 2:15). (2 Cor 2:15) What a beautiful and fascinating task to be fragrance of Christ “in the face of bitter disappointment at so many broken dreams, in the face of worry at the challenges that concern us, in the face of discouragement at the poverty of our means[3] ! Having said that, how can we be the fragrance of Christ from a Vincentian perspective? We can be if we are bearers of the fragrance of the poor. That is, if we serve them conscientiously by being with them and for them. We can achieve this by soiling our feet in the history of the poor, in their daily activities, in their dreams, in their joys, in their sorrows and in their pains. By doing so, the world will be able to perceive in us Vincentians the smell of the poor Christ that delights the sense of smell. According to Vincent de Paul, by serving the poor, Jesus Christ is served. And if you go to the poor, there you will find God (cf. IX, 240-241).

At present, both in the world and in the Church, there is a growing need for Vincentians who care more and more for God’s favourites: the poor, the distant, the sick, the elderly. Vincentians who are concerned about the care of the Common Home, the environment that cries out because of the damage we cause it due to the irresponsible use and abuse of the goods that God has placed in it[4] . Vincentians who are not indifferent to anything in this world. May their concern include even the great impact of climate change that is increasingly damaging the lives and families of many people. An impact that is already being felt in the areas of health, jobs, access to resources, housing, forced migration, etc.[5] . Climate change is one of the major challenges facing society and the global community[6] . As the Holy Father rightly reminds us, no one can ignore that in recent years we have witnessed extreme phenomena, frequent periods of unusual heat, drought and other groans of the earth which are only some palpable expressions of a silent illness that affects us all[7] .

Our world and our Church definitely need more Vincentians who look to the God of Jesus Christ, because he has better plans and something different to offer, something they have not yet embarked on. We need to insist on a group of Vincentians willing to go out “from where they are to reach what they are not yet and have not yet achieved” (St. John of the Cross). We need Vincentians who want to walk with others without crushing them, who trust in the Vincentian charism and in the Gospel; who want to relive the mystery of Christ from St. Vincent de Paul. Finally, Vincentians who want to share with others the beauty of Christ present in the Vincentian charism.

By Jean Rolex, C.M.

[1] Francis (2019). Address at the Stations of the Cross held during World Youth Day (WYD) in Panama. Retrieved from https://www.informador.mx/internacional.

[2]  Francis (2021). “For a synodal Church: communion, participation and mission”. Retrieved from https://opusdei.org/es/.

[3] Pope Francis’ message for Lent (2022).  Let us not grow weary in doing good. Retrieved from https://es.catholic.net/op/.

[4] Laudato Sí. Encyclical letter of Pope Francis (2015) on care for the common home. Retrieved from https://www.vatican.va/.

[5] Laudate Deum. Apostolic Exhortation of Pope Francis (2023) on the climate crisis. Retrieved from https://www.vatican.va/.

[6] United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Global Climate Change Background, 2019

[7] Laudate Deum. Apostolic Exhortation of Pope Francis (2023) on the climate crisis. Retrieved from https://www.vatican.va/.