12. Pioneers in new ways
Never try to suppress the Spirit or treat the gift of prophecy with contempt; think before you do anything; hold on to what is good and avoid every form of evil.
2 Thessalonians 5:19-20
… the Congregation of the Mission, faithful to the Gospel, and always attentive to the signs of the times and the more urgent calls of the Church, should take care to open up new ways and use new means adapted to the circumstances of time and place. Moreover, it should strive to evaluate and plan its works and ministries, and in this way remain in a continual state of renewal.
The purpose of the Congregation of the Mission lies within the Church’s mission of evangelization. The Congregation calls all its members to live this purpose and make it more visible. This effort requires creativity.
1. He Almost Totally Changed the Face of the Church
Henri de Maupas, eulogizing Saint Vincent, said: “He almost totally changed the face of the Church.” Is this the exaggeration of a eulogist? Perhaps. But no one could deny the boldness of Saint Vincent’s apostolic courage, his organizational skills, and his ability to breathe new life into antiquated apostolic methods. Some might question certain aspects of Saint Vincent’s resourcefulness, but the genius that created or recreated spiritual and apostolic activities is unquestionable.
Comforting a dying brother, Saint Vincent told him that “the love of God is infinitely inventive and creative.” To demonstrate this he reminded him of all the things God’s love has done for us. This “infinite inventive love” is the same love which continually aids the Congregation of the Mission.1
2. Do Not Suppress the Spirit
This is the exhortation of Saint Paul the Apostle to the community at Thessalonika. The context of his appeal is the community. He addresses the manner in which community is recreated. The creative capacity of the Congregation of the Mission, whatever it may have been in the past, is directed to a future that leads to new roads by which its God-given charism will endure.
The principles of decentralization, subsidiarity, relative autonomy, and co-responsibility, established by the Constitutions, have this purpose in mind. Some concrete directions have been added to these general principles.
- #19 and 25 of our Constitutions ask for the renovation of the local community.
- #14, 15 and 16 of our Constitutions ask for a true renewal of the Congregation’s ministries.
- #22 and 79 of our Constitutions call for respect towards individual initiatives.
- #17 and 18 of our Statutes call for a search for new ways of living poverty.
3. Paul VI’s Advice to the Congregation of the Mission
Creativity and new ways of being should be expressed in the goals and spirit of the Congregation. Since #19 of the Constitutions calls us to respect and heed special initiatives, therefore, whatever our creativity produces is of great interest to us.
Let us listen to what Paul VI said about good adaptation:
The religious life, if it is to be renewed, must adapt its non-essential elements to certain changes which, with growing rapidity and to an increasing extent are affecting the conditions of the life of every human being. But how is this to be attained while maintaining those ‘stable forms of living’ recognized by the Church, except by a renewal of the authentic and integral vocation of your institute.2
It is also worthwhile to call to mind the advice which Paul VI gave to the Congregation of the Mission in 1968 before we began the work of revision and adaptation of our normative texts.
Be faithful to the evangelical traditions and norms established by Saint Vincent.
Be faithful to the study of human beings in the modern world so as to meet their physical and spiritual needs.
Be faithful to the Church, which we, as children of God, as apostles and servants, ought to love and esteem and serve.3
- Am I open to initiatives of others?
- What is more important to me: the objective value of initiatives, projects, plans, etc., or the prejudices I have toward those who propose them?
- Do I collaborate with the initiatives of others as if they were my own?
Oh God, our Father, the only font of all perfect gifts, stir up in us your love; enliven our faith; make our hope grow so that the seed of good within us may develop and mature. This we ask through our Lord Jesus, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.