The Way of St. Vincent Is Our Way. 6. The poor are evangelized

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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6. The poor are evangelized

Go back and tell John what you have seen and heard; the blind see again, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, the Good News is proclaimed to the poor.
Luke 7:22

The purpose of the Congregation of the Mission is to follow Christ, the Evangelizer the Poor. This purpose is achieved when, faithful to Saint Vincent, the members, individually and collectively … work at evangelizing the poor, especially the most abandoned.
Constitutions, 1, 2

Christ and the poor were very close to Saint Vincent’s heart. He never turned his eyes from them, neither in his spiritual life nor in his apostolic activity. The contemplation of Jesus led Saint Vincent to the poor, and in the poor he saw Jesus. Indeed, Jesus and the poor were Saint Vincent’s reason for existence. He wished to continue Jesus’ work of preaching the Good News to the poor. Saint Vincent desired, therefore, that the Congregation of the Mission live for the evangelization of the poor, thus continuing the mission of Jesus.

1. The Congregation of the Mission Defines Itself by Dedication to the Poor in Imitation of Jesus

Saint Vincent insisted that the evangelization of the poor was something special to the Company. It provoked this simple question: do not other missionaries do the same? Saint Vincent responded:

Of course, but there does not exist in the Church a Company that has as its single goal, the evangelization of the poor, and there is no other group so dedicated to the poor that it refuses to preach in the cities. This is precisely the commitment of our missionaries. Their special gift is to dedicate themselves to the poor in imitation of Jesus … How great is this gift! And the fact that we have been called to accompany the poor and to participate in the mission of the Son of God, is something beyond our understanding … Yes, to evangelize the poor is a great mission because it is the mission of the Son of God. What greater motive could there be for giving praise and thanks to God?1

2. Turn the Coin Over

The religious, pastoral and social situation of the poor made Saint Vincent question himself. As a result of his experience, he dedicated himself to the poor because, in their poverty, they were God’s chosen ones. They were the “sacrament” of Jesus. So Saint Vincent suggested that his missionaries look at the poor with the eyes of faith and not stare at them, seeing only their physical appearance.

We should not judge the poor by their exterior appearance, nor by their mental capacities, because frequently they do not appear to have the mind of educated people, but rather are vulgar and gross. But if we turn the coin over, then, through faith, we will clearly see that they are representatives of the Son of God who came into this world as a poor person. There were times when Jesus did not appear to be a human person: to the non-believer he seemed insane, to the Jews he was a stumbling block, and yet he presented himself as the Evangelizer of the poor: ‘he sent me to proclaim Good News to the poor.’ Oh my God, how beautiful are the poor if we consider them as children of God and esteem them in the same way as Jesus esteemed them.2

3. We Seek out Those Who Are Most Poor

For Saint Vincent, the poor farmers were the “chosen ones”, and according to the Common Rules, the Congregation should make the same choice. Therefore, the Congregation should desire to extend its evangelization to all the poor, but especially to the most abandoned, the country poor. This idea is close to the thinking of Saint Vincent.

The Little Company of the Mission dedicates itself to serve the poor, who are God’s ‘chosen ones’. Because of this love for the poor, we have reason to hope that God will love us. Therefore, let us go forth and work with renewed love in service of the poor; let us seek out the most poor and abandoned. Let us realize that the poor are our masters and that we are unworthy to render them our humble service.3

  • Do I know any poor people well enough to know their names?
  • Do my commitment, my likes, my plans give centrality to the evangelization and the service of the poor?

Prayer:

Our Lord and God, increase the fruit of our labor for the salvation of the poor. Shower us with your blessings. We are like a tree planted by your own hand. Fortify us, your poor missionaries, in our work. We know you are our reward; extend to us your great mercy. We ask this in the name of Jesus who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.4

  1. Ibid., 387.
  2. “On the Spirit of Faith,” undated, O.C., xi, 725.
  3. “On Love for the Poor,” 1657, O.C., xi, 273.
  4. O.C., III, 219.

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