The Catholic Church is not exempt from the bane of governments and indeed all organizations … “Alphabet Soup”. There are many variations within the church. One of the most common manifestations of alphabet soup is the pot full of the initials of various groups such as religious orders, lay associations. etc. These include CM, SJ, OSB. etc, as well as lay groups such as SVDP, LOC, AIC, etc.

It gets even more confusing when one reads about the “Vincentian Family.” Today over four million people follow in the footsteps of St. Vincent de Paul. The Vincentian family is large, multicultural, multilingual, and prophetic with more than 150 branches all over the world. They all share, in their own distinctive way, a desire to live as Christ bringing “Good News” to those on the margins of society. They all strive to live the Vincentian Charism or “The Vincentian Thing

What is this thing called the Vincentian Charism?

Charism is a word relatively new to many. It was not part of my vocabulary when I entered the seminary over 65 years ago or even when I was ordained in 1965.

Is it an organization, a mindset, a federation of religious organizations? The list goes on and on.

For the puposes of the discussion on this website let me suggest that it is a way of looking at things shared by a number of people.

It’s a way of looking at things as Jesus did…he was on a mission to bring good news to all, but especially to those on the margins and forgotten.

It’s a way of looking at things adopted by Saints Vincent and Louise. They saw themselves following Christ the “Evangelizer of the Poor”.

It’s a way of looking at things that has penetrated the hearts of more than four million people who bring good news to the forgotten in over 150 countries in the world today.

It ‘s a way of looking at things most often embodied in religious institutes… but by no means exclusively.

It’s all of the above and more.

We are people with a mission…to do what Jesus did. It is a way of taking seriously Jesus’ question at the Last Supper. Do you understand what I have done? If I have washed your feet you will be recognized as my disciples if you wash the feet of the poor and forgotten today.

It might be better say the Vincentian charism is a movement.

It is all of the above who commit themselves wherever they are in life.

It is each and everyone who recognizes the almost unbelievable generosity of God to themselves. It is each and every one who realizes that they can never pay God back… unless it is paying it forward in foot-washing imitation of Christ.

It is washing the feet of others in a way characterized by Vincent’s five virtues or values...

Honest (Simplicity)
Approachable (Meekness)
Self-disciplined (Mortification)
Realistic (Humility)
Hard working (Zeal for souls)

The genius of St. Vincent and St. Louise was that they invited and inspired people from all walks of life to carry on the mission of Christ the Evangelizer of the poor. Their genius was that they realized sometimes it helps to organize and do things together as a family.

If this way of looking at things attracts you please share your insights and questions.

Click below for an audio version of this Vincentian Mindwalk

Who is a Vincentian?