St. Vincent dePaul and the Vincentian Spirit

Today is the feast of St. Vincent de Paul, one of my great heroes. Although my training as a spiritual and retreat director is in the Ignatian tradition, I feel a strong affinity to the spirituality of the Vincentian family.

The Vincentian spirit, in the words of Robert Maloney, C.M. (former Superior General of the Congregation of the Mission), “flows from a vision of Jesus Christ as the Evangelizer of the Poor.” Maloney explains that the vision offered by Vincent to his followers “is a vision of Christ not as a teacher (as might be the vision of a Christian Brother), nor as healer (as might be the vision of a community dedicated to hospitals), but as the Evangelizer of the Poor.” The call of the Vincentian spirit is to enter into the journey of Jesus, who opens his public ministry by announcing, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me; therefore he has anointed me. He has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor, to proclaim liberty to captives, recovery of sight to the blind and release to prisoners, to announce a year of favor from the Lord.”

Although I describe this as the call fo the Vincentian spirit, following in the footsteps of Christ the Evangelizer of the Poor is not an invitation open only to those who explicitly call themselves followers of Vincent. Chapter 25 of Matthew’s Gospel, and the Church’s teachings on the preferential option for the poor, make abundantly clear that all of us who call ourselves followers of Christ have a shared vocation to “bring glad tidings to the poor.”

I try every day in my prayer to take time to pray to St. Vincent. Today I pray in a special way to be guided by his spirit. At the same time, I pray particularly for the work of all of my Vincentian friends, and express gratitude for all they have taught me.