Jesus made his way through towns and villages preaching and proclaiming the Good News of the Kingdom of God. With him went the Twelve, as well as certain women who had been cured of evil spirits and ailments.
Since the Congregation of the Mission and the Daughters of Charity share the same heritage, members should willingly give their assistance when asked, especially in the matter of retreats and spiritual direction.
Another work of ours as Vincentians is to minister generously to the Daughters of Charity. Both Congregations, the Little Company and the Daughters of Charity, have a common origin, purpose and spirit. From the time of our foundation, the missionaries have been a source of encouragement and strength for the Daughters of Charity. In the history of religious communities we are not the only ones who find ourselves in this situation. Other religious communities of women have drawn upon their brother communities for spiritual direction and other needs. For historical reasons which are in accordance with God’s Providence, we as Vincentians have an obligation to minister to the Daughters of Charity.
1. Attached to the Mission and Participants in the Good That Is Done Through Them
It was not Saint Vincent who asked the confreres to render spiritual assistance to the Daughters of Charity, rather Saint Louise de Marillac herself wrote to Saint Vincent and said:
It is obvious that human weakness and inconstancy and temptations against our vocation can only be overcome when our lives are rooted in basic Christian principles. I truly believe that the only way in which this Congregation of the Daughters of Charity can survive and give glory to God is if we are obedient to and dependent on the Superior General of the priests of the Mission. In this way we become pleasing to God and participants in the good works carried on by the Congregation of the Mission. May the Lord in his goodness, through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin, grant us the grace to live that same spirit which enlivens the Little Company1.
2. Why must We Assist the Daughters of Charity?
This is the same question that Saint Vincent formulated and answered in one of his conferences:
Did not the Son of God come to preach the gospel to the poor, to ordain priests, etc.? Yes. Did he not allow women to share his work? Yes. Was it not Jesus’ intention to lead these women to perfection? Yes. Did he send them to assist the poor? Yes. So then, if our Lord worked in this way and did so to give us an example, would we not be doing what is right if we follow him? Is there anything that seems to contradict Jesus’ plan if we take charge of these women who assist the sick poor? You know that in the early history of the Church, Deaconesses were appointed, and these women performed marvelous works in the Church of God. It was their duty to organize the women and to teach them how to conduct themselves during the liturgical assemblies. In this way, God was served equally by both sexes. Therefore, as members of the Congregation of the Mission, do we not have an obligation to give women their rightful place in the Church? If we act in this manner God will be glorified and served. All of this is done in fulfillment of God’s plan. For God sent his Son Jesus into the world to serve the poor. Yet this same Jesus organized a group of women to assist him in this work. How blessed are we when we help in the organization of these women so that they might render service to God and to the Church through their work with the poor2.
3. It Was God’s Plan That this Little Company Should Come into Existence and Assist the Daughters of Charity.
Several missionaries asked Saint Vincent about the ways in which they should render spiritual assistance to the Daughters of Charity. Saint Vincent answered Fr. de la Fosse:
We do not look down upon you rendering assistance to the sisters; on the contrary, we encourage it and we praise it … but not everything that is plausible for others is to be done by us. It must be remembered that the Daughters are not religious. They are sisters who come and go as lay persons; they are connected to the parishes where they live. Therefore when we aid the Daughters of Charity we are merely fulfilling God’s plan. Yes, the Little Company has come into existence to assist the Daughters of Charity. In this way God utilizes us as a means of preserving this Congregation of Sisters which he has established for the good of the Church3.
- When my superiors ask me, am I willing to assist the Daughters in their spiritual formation?
- Am I prudent and responsible in my relations with the Daughters?
- Have I studied the rule and the spirit of the Daughters of Charity so that I am better able to orient them in their service with the poor?
God our Father, you filled your priest Saint Vincent with the strength of the apostles to work for the salvation of the poor and the instruction of the clergy. May we who follow the example of his life be driven by unceasing charity to continue the mission of your Son in the world. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen4.