29. Animated by missionary zeal
I am the Good Shepherd; I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for my sheep. And there are other sheep I have that are not of this fold. These I have to lead as well. They too will listen to my voice and there will be only one flock and one shepherd.
The Congregation, furthermore, tries to express its spirit in five virtues drawn from its own special way of looking at Christ, namely, simplicity, humility, gentleness, mortification, and zeal for souls. Speaking of these five virtues, Saint Vincent said: ‘The Congregation should pay special attention to developing and living up to these five virtues so that they may be, as it were, the faculties of the soul of the whole Congregation, and that everything each one of us does may always be inspired by them’ (Common Rules, ii, 14).
Zeal reveals the missionary character of a community, just as a lack of zeal is a clear sign of a community’s decadence. Without zeal there is no unifying project that creates enthusiasm in the present and future members of the Congregation of the Mission. It seems that Saint Vincent was satisfied with the over-all zeal of his missionaries.
1. To Say Missionary Is to Speak of One Who Has Been Called by God to Save Souls
Missionary zeal is a sharing in the redemptive zeal of Jesus who came to give his very self so that the world might have salvation:
To say missionary is to speak of one who has been called by God to save souls. For our goal is to labor for their salvation, in imitation of our Lord Jesus Christ who is the only true Redeemer and who perfectly fulfilled that loveable name—Jesus, that is to say, Savior. He came down from heaven to earth to exercise this office; he made it the motive of his life and death; and he unceasingly exercises this function of Savior by communicating to us the merits of the Blood which he has shed. While he lived on earth, he directed all his thoughts to the salvation of humankind. And he still continues in the same sentiments because he finds therein the will of his Father. He came, and he comes every day to us, for that purpose, and he has taught us by his example all the virtues consonant with the office of Savior. Let us then give ourselves to him so that he may continue to exercise this function in us and by us1.
2. We Have Been Called to Bring the Love of God to the World
Saint Vincent said: “If charity is a fire, then zeal is its flame.” Zeal consists in the pure desire to become, in a balanced and enthusiastic manner, pleasing to God and useful to one’s neighbor. Saint Vincent would not admit to an indiscreet zeal. All the conditions placed on zeal cannot take away from it that which is proper to it: warmth. Saint Vincent used this comparison: “If love is the sun, zeal is its ray.”
Now, if it is true that we are called to spread God’s love in all directions, if we are bound to kindle it among the nations, if it is our vocation to spread this divine fire throughout the world, if that is so, my brothers, how could I myself not burn with divine fire? How could I not be enkindled with a love of those with whom I dwell; how could I not edify my own brothers by practice of this love and lead my dear confreres to the practice of the acts that proceed from this love? … How could we hope to bring this love to the whole world if we don’t have it ourselves? You cannot give what you don’t have2.
3. What Has Reduced You to Such a State?
Saint John of the Cross said, “Love comes from love.” Saint Vincent de Paul said: “Charity produces charity.” Zeal is the greatest manifestation of charity and only the zealous person becomes involved in total loving and total self-giving, without measuring the price:
Missionaries ought to be very happy if they can become poor through having practiced charity toward their neighbor. Indeed, they have nothing to fear if they become poor in this way, unless they mistrust God’s goodness and the truth of his Word. If, however, God has permitted them to be reduced to the necessity of having to act as curates in villages to earn a living, or even if some of them are compelled to beg their bread or dress in rags in the freezing cold of winter, and if, in such a condition, someone were to ask them: ‘Poor priests of the Mission, what has reduced you to such a state?’ What happiness, my confreres, if they were able to reply: ‘It was charity.’ Oh! how highly such poor priests would be esteemed before God and his angels3.
- Am I enthusiastic in my pastoral work or just a dutiful administrator
- What is uppermost in my pastoral work: missionary zeal or interest and goals foreign to the missionary?
O Savior, O my dear Savior, may your Divine Goodness be pleased to deliver the Congregation of the Mission from the spirit of slothfulness, from the pursuit of comfort, and grant the Company an ardent zeal for your glory so that it may embrace all things with joy and never pass up an opportunity of serving you. We are made for this. Indeed, for a real missionary, a person of God, a person who has the Spirit of God, all things are possible. Therefore, with still greater reason should the Congregation be wholly animated and borne along by your Spirit. We desire your goodness, O Divine Savior: grant us a great, wide, profound heart. We pray in your name Lord Jesus, who live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen4.