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How would you put into words “encountering Jesus” in the marginalized? Fr. John Prager, CM began a presentation to the Vincentian Family in Latin America with

“The Vincentian charism and Vincentian spirituality are centered on an encounter with the poor Christ present among those men and women who are poor.”

I have been quite stimulated by his unpacking of the elements of Vincentian spirituality. The following are key excerpts that might stimulate and challenge you too.

God leads us into the midst of the world

We do not bring Christ to the world! Quite the contrary … it is God who leads us into the midst of the world. To separate ourselves from or to attempt to escape from the world is not a Vincentian way of acting. Vincentian spirituality is a commitment with the world. The problems of the world are our problems.

We are in the world as people who are bearers of the gospel message. To evangelize is not only to catechize and celebrate the sacraments. Rather evangelization is liberation from every evil that oppresses humankind

God waits for us among the poor

The poor have value in themselves: I do not reach out to the poor simply because Christ is present there. I reach out to the poor because they are my brothers and sisters who are suffering. They are a priority in the Kingdom of God and therefore, I care for the poor because they have a personal human dignity.

Christ calls us to serve the poor, not only “the good poor”:

We are speaking about “the good poor”, those who go to Mass, live a good moral life, share from their own poverty. I believe, however, that the call is to serve the poor, good and bad alike. We cannot ask people if they are worthy or not of our service and then care for them according to their response.

It is often those who are not loveable who will put us in contact with our own sinfulness and weakness … those who are not loveable invite us to be compassionate.

Christ invites us to participate in his mission

To be a missionary is to leave one’s proper world and one’s secure place in the world in order to enter the world of the other… to accompany the poor with the gospel.

Here we are not necessarily referring to some geographical change but rather to be a missionary is to adapt oneself to the reality of the poor.

It is here that the Vincentian virtues take on an important role:

  • the humility to listen and to accompany without ordering;
  • the simplicity to understand my true motives with regard to mission;
  • the mortification to sacrifice something of myself for the good of those who are poor;
  • the gentleness to resolve cultural clashes;
  • charity and evangelical zeal expressed in a desire to enter into a new world.

Prayer is not something we do for God but rather is something that God does for us. God questions us, strengthens us and points out the path of love and justice and freedom.

Charity is not simply works and projects. Rather it is an encounter between brothers and sisters. Gustavo Gutiérrez says: You say you love the poor; what are their names?

It is very possible to serve the poor without listening to them, without giving them our time and our life.

When in your life have you been most aware of and even challenged by these dimensions

(Fr. Prager has been Provincial of the Province of Ecuador and currently serves as the Director of the Daughters of Charity there.)

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