The Way of St. Vincent Is Our Way. 39. Evangelized by the Poor

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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Listen, my brothers and sisters: it was those who are poor according to the world that God chose, to be rich in faith and to be heirs to the Kingdom which he promised to those who love him. James 2:5-6

This characteristic is to be kept in mind in this work of evangelization which the Congregation proposes to carry out: … some sharing in the condition of the poor, so that not only will we attend to their evangelization, but that we ourselves may be evangelized by them. Constitutions, 12, 3

If we begin with the realization that the Church is not only an evangelizer but is also evangelized, then within the Church, the poor and the humble can rejoice in a special way as our teachers and masters. They possess the wisdom of God; they believe and hope in God as their Savior; they do not trust in this world and its power but rather in the Word of God, which will be fulfilled in them to the letter of the law—for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.

1. The Poor Preserve the Meaning of True Faith

One of the richest truths that Saint Vincent learned from the poor is this: the poor and the humble live a life marked by profound faith.

It is among them, it is among those poor people, that true religion and a living faith are preserved. They live simply; they don’t examine everything minutely; they submit to order and in their extreme misery suffer patiently; some suffer from the wars, others from working hard all day long in the heat of the sun; poor vine-dressers who labor for us, who expect us to pray for them while they themselves are working to feed us… We are living on the patrimony of Jesus Christ, on the sweat of the poor. The poor feed us; let us pray to God for them, and let us not allow a single day to go by without offering them to our Lord, asking him to give the poor the grace to make good use of their sufferings1.

2. The Poor Form an Evangelizing Community

The poor and the humble are rich in the Kingdom of heaven; they accept the Word of God at once and live it; they are committed to the proclamation of this Word through the example of their lives. It is the poor who fulfill the words of Paul VI:

Those who sincerely accept the Good News, by the power of that acceptance and by the power of shared faith, gather together in Jesus’ name in order to seek together the Kingdom, build it up and live it. They make up a community which is, in its turn, evangelizing. The command to the Twelve to go out and proclaim the Good News is also valid for all Christians, although in a different way. It is precisely for this reason that Peter calls Christians ‘a people set apart to sing the praises of God’ (I Peter 2:9), those marvelous events that all of us were able to hear about in our own language. Moreover, the Good News of the Kingdom which is coming and which is begun is meant for all people of all times. Those who have received the Good News and who have been gathered by it into the community of salvation can and must communicate and spread it2.

3. The Cry of the Poor

Missionaries, as Christians and as members of the Congregation of the Mission, ought to open themselves to the individual and collective poverty of the poor. The children of Saint Vincent, concerned about the on-going and total conversion of the individual, heed the cry of the poor:

You hear rising up, more pressing than ever, from their personal distress and from their collective misery, ‘the cry of the poor.’ Was it not in order to respond to their appeal as God’s privileged ones that Christ came, even going so far as to identify himself with them? In a world experiencing the full flood of development, this persistence of poverty-stricken masses and individuals constitutes a pressing call for ‘a conversion of minds and attitudes,’ especially for you who follow Jesus more closely in this earthly condition of self-emptying. We know that this call resounds within you in so dramatic a fashion that some of you even feel on occasion the temptation to take violent action. As disciples of Jesus, how could you follow a way different from this? This way is not, as you know, a movement of the political or temporal order; it calls rather for the conversion of hearts, for liberation from all temporal encumbrances. It is a call to love3.

  • Do I allow the poor to evangelize me?
  • Do I complain about my slightest discomfort or pain, forgetting the misery in which so many of my sisters and brothers live?
  • How does the cry of the poor aid me in on-going conversion?

Prayer:

Lord Jesus, you lived in poverty, you suffered in poverty as you died naked on the cross. Grant us the grace to live this same poverty, you, who live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen4.

  1. Repetition of Prayer, July 24, 1655, O.C., xi, 120-121.
  2. Evangelii Nuntiandi, December 8, 1975, 13.
  3. Evangelica Testificatio, June 29, 1971, 17.
  4. “On Poverty,” November 21, 1651, O.C., xi, 663.

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