Previously, we recalled the fact that Vincent viewed events as a sign from God and, in the case of the poor, such signs are privileged. Vincent viewed events as revealing God, as revealing the will of God1.
Creativity, as a contribution of the Vincentian charism to the church’s mission, is an ability to provide new answers in light of the new needs that are discovered in events, in the place where the will of God is revealed2. In January 1651 Vincent wrote to Charles de Montchal, the Archbishop of Toulouse, and stated: we pledged ourselves to God never to ask for any foundation. We had observed God’s special Providence in our regard in establishing us himself, without any intervention on our part, in all the places where we are situated. The result is that we can say we have nothing but what Our Lord has offered and given us (CCD:IV:144).
Referring to the creativity of Louise de Marillac in responding to the needs of the poor, her first biographer writes: It is inconceivable how this pious foundress could meet so many demands of charity. She took on all kinds of needs, making no reservations, neither as regards the type of evil, nor the condition and number of people, nor the diversity of places. She helped the poor in every sickness of mind and body, in childhood, adulthood and old age. She had them served in their homes, in hospitals, prisons and galleys, in towns and in the countryside, in the armies, in peace and in foreign and civil wars. She spared no kind of help for their needs, whether for eternal salvation or temporal life. She had them given instructions, consolation, remedies, food, and with her community offered her care, her work and her life in their service3.
The instruction, Mutuae Relationes, reminds us that the charism of the founders, as an experience of the spirit, is developed by the followers of those founders and is constantly recreated and updated. Fidelity to the charism, vivacious and ingenious in its inventiveness (Mutuae Relationes, #11,12, 23), explains the fruitfulness of the Vincentian mission in the church.
The Constitutions of the Daughters of Charity and of the Congregation of the Mission, as well as the lines of action of recent General Assemblies, exhort the members to propose anew the enterprising initiative, creativity and holiness of their founders and foundresses in response to the signs of the times emerging in today’s world (John Paul II, Vita Consecrata, #37 and 71). The dynamism of the prophetic imagination makes possible the creation of new and original forms of presence and service in the church and also makes possible creativity in organizing resources (human, economic and structural resources). Vincent de Paul, near the end of his life, with fire in his words, pointed the way: Come, then, my dear confreres, let us devote ourselves with renewed love to serve persons who are poor, and even to seek out those who are the poorest and most abandoned (CCD:XI:349).
As Pope Francis has reminded us, love is always new because the center of all newness is the very desire of God who makes all things new (cf. Revelation 21:5): The heart of its message will always be the same: the God who revealed his immense love in the crucified and risen Christ. God constantly renews his faithful ones, whatever their age: “They shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not be faint” (Isaiah 40:31). Christ is the “eternal Gospel” (Revelation 14:6); he “is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8), yet his riches and beauty are inexhaustible. He is for ever young and a constant source of newness. The Church never fails to be amazed at “the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God” (Romans 11:33) (Evangelii Gaudium, #11).