The Way of St. Vincent Is Our Way. 30. Interested in knowing the Spirit of the Congregation

Francisco Javier Fernández ChentoCharismLeave a Comment

CREDITS
Author: Miguel Pérez Flores, C.M. & Antonino Orcajo, C.M. · Translator: Charles T. Plock, C.M.. · Year of first publication: 1986.
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30. Interested in knowing the Spirit of the Congregation

Jesus said: ‘Every scribe who becomes a disciple of the Kingdom of Heaven is like a householder who brings out from his storeroom things both new and old.”
Matthew 13:52

All the members should continually strive for a deeper knowledge of this spirit, by returning to the Gospel and to the example and teaching of Saint Vincent, mindful that our spirit and our ministries ought to nourish one another.
Constitutions, 8

It is taken for granted that every missionary has adequate knowledge of the Congregation’s spirit. What is now asked of us is to have a burning desire for a more profound and integrated understanding of the sources of this spirit, namely, the Gospel and the life and teachings of Saint Vincent.

1. Necessary Discernment

We frequently ask ourselves what are the variables and what are the constants in Saint Vincent’s doctrine. Three centuries have provided us with sufficient time for many generations to read and interpret Saint Vincent. Today, we are asked to acquire a deeper understanding, to re-read Saint Vincent and make his doctrine real in our world. This process ought to be the fruit of individual and comunal discernment. Such discernment demands study. Pope Paul VI wrote:

Since many external practices are outdated, the task of adaptation and renewal must be vigorously entered into. New forms of spirituality must be explored … and in this dynamic process we run the risk of confusing this world’s spirit with the action of the Holy Spirit. How can we safeguard that which is essential? How can we integrate past experience with current knowledge so that our evangelical life style is reinforced? The answer can be none other than an openness to the Spirit1.

Saint Vincent feared that after his death “false prophets” would arise in the Congregation:

After I have gone … there might arise among you false prophets who will announce perverse things and teach a doctrine contrary to what you have received from me … Do not listen to them2.

One way of resisting this temptation is to have a profound understanding of our heritage.

2. According to the Intentions and Desires of Saint Vincent

When the Church or a local community wishes to reform and renew itself, it must return to its sources. Thus, the Gospel is the primary and principal source. Saint Vincent clearly understood this principle in his establishment of the Congregation3. In our day, the Church has drawn together the teaching of Perfectae Caritatis and Pope Paul’s VI’s Evangelica Testificatio and summed it up in the following words:

The whole patrimony of an institute must be faithfully preserved by all. This patrimony is comprised of the intentions of the founders, of all that the competent ecclesiastical authority has approved concerning the nature, purpose, spirit and character of the institute, and of its sound tradition4.

3. Study and Apostolic Work

Since contemplation and action are complimentary, study and apostolic work should be inter-related. All our General Assemblies have recognized this reality and it is sufficient here to cite the 1968 General Assembly which stated:

Although it is unlikely that we shall ever understand our spirit in its entirety or be imbued with it in that perfection which we find in our Holy Founder, we shall seek an ever deepening knowledge of it and strive daily with all our strength to grow in it. To this end, we shall continually have recourse to the Gospel as the source of Christian life and to the example and doctrine of Saint Vincent, especially as it is contained in the Common Rules. We shall also be mindful that, in order to pursue the spirit of the congregation, it is necessary to carry on our apostolic works out of fervent love for God and neighbor, and out of a profound esteem for the human and Christian dignity of the sons and daughters of God whom we try to serve5.

  • What knowledge do I have of the spirit, the history and the spiritual heritage of the Congregation?
  • Do I put aside some time to study the spirituality and the doctrine of Saint Vincent?

Prayer:

O Lord, in your eternal plan you have raised up this Company to imitate you in your mission of service. Strengthen this poor and humble Company of the Mission in living your commands. May we grow in simplicity, humility, meekness, mortification and zeal for the salvation of souls. Thus may we become pleasing in the sight of your Divine Majesty. We ask this grace of you, Lord, in all humility, who live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen6.

  1. Evangelica Testificatio, June 29, 1971, 11.
  2. “On the End of the Congregation of the Mission,” December 6, 1658, O.C., xi, 396.
  3. Common Rule, ii, 1.
  4. Code of Canon Law, 578.
  5. Acta of the General Assembly, 1968, 12.
  6. “On Those Things Contrary to the Evangelical Maxims,” August 29, 1659, O.C., xi, 604.

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