Lent in the Vincentian Charism: Challenges and Opportunities in a Changing World

Lent is a time of deep reflection, spiritual renewal and preparation for the paschal mystery of Christ. For the missionaries of the Congregation of the Mission, founded by St. Vincent de Paul, this time takes on a special connotation, inviting a deeper exploration of their charism oriented towards the poor and marginalised. However, living Lent today presents unprecedented challenges, while offering unique opportunities for growth and service in the Vincentian charism.

Challenges of Lent Today

In today’s context of rapid social, economic and technological change, Vincentian missionaries face significant challenges in living Lent. Growing secularisation, indifference to spiritual matters and the global ecological crisis pose profound questions about the practice of faith and service to the poor. The spread of social media and hyper-connectivity, while useful tools, often distract and alienate from contemplation and inner silence, essential elements of Lenten spirituality.

Opportunities of Lent for the Vincentian Charism

Lent, however, represents a time rich in opportunities for Vincentian missionaries to deepen their spirit of service and charity, inspired by the Paschal Mystery. The centrality of conversion of heart and renewed dialogue with God emerges as a call to live their commitment to the less fortunate more authentically, promoting a deeper and more generous sharing of material and spiritual goods.

The Lenten Letter 2024 emphasises Eucharistic adoration and deep love for Jesus, recalling that St. Vincent de Paul was a ‘Mystic of Charity’.

The “Vincentian Lent” invites to an inner journey of questions and reflections, placing humility and the preferential option for the poor at the centre, following the example and teachings of St. Vincent.

The ‘School of the Poor’: A Path of Learning and Service

In the heart of Lent, Vincentian missionaries are invited to immerse themselves in the “school of the poor”, a concept that transcends mere material assistance to become a true path of spiritual and human learning. This “school” is not found in books or classrooms, but in the streets, in humble homes, in places where poverty manifests itself in all its forms. It is here that missionaries are called to sit, listen and learn.

Learning from the poor means recognising in them the living presence of Christ, who identifies with the smallest and the suffering. This encounter transforms one’s vision of the world and one’s mission: no longer do we ‘give’ to the poor, but we receive from them lessons in dignity, hope, resilience and deep faith. Lent thus becomes a privileged time to rediscover the value of humility, listening and solidarity, essential elements of the Vincentian charism.

On this journey, missionaries are called to live a conversion that starts from the heart and translates into concrete actions of justice and charity. The “school of the poor” teaches that every gesture of service, every word of comfort, every action of sharing is a step towards the realisation of the Kingdom of God here on earth. Through this learning, missionaries become witnesses of a hope that does not disappoint, bringing light into the darkness of poverty and exclusion.

Living Lent in the ‘school of the poor’ therefore invites deep reflection on the meaning of being Christ’s disciples in today’s world. It is a commitment that requires courage, creativity and a faith rooted in God’s transformative love, a love that becomes closeness, listening and sharing. In this spirit, Lent reveals itself not only as a time of preparation for the Easter mystery, but as an opportunity to renew one’s vocation in the service of the little ones, following in the footsteps of St Vincent de Paul and making the Gospel tangible in everyday life.

Approaching the poor

At a time of challenges and opportunities, Lent is a privileged time for Vincentian missionaries to rediscover the heart of their charism and renew their commitment to those most in need. Through prayer, fasting, almsgiving and meditation on the Passion of Christ, it is possible to approach the reality of the poor with a more open and merciful heart, bearing witness to the Gospel with authenticity and courage. In this way, Lent becomes a journey of personal and community conversion, an opportunity to grow in love and service, following in the footsteps of St Vincent de Paul in a world that needs witnesses of Christian hope and charity more than ever.

Girolamo Grammatico
Communication Office