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Yesterday I offered a reflection on “The Magi School For Seekers”. It was based on a recent homily of Pope Francis. He presented the Magi as showing the path for modern-day “seekers.”

I began to think of Vincent as such a seeker.

The Magi looked beyond their horizons

The Magi were “men with a restless heart seekers after God. They were not content to plod through life but yearned for new and greater horizons.” He describes them as “setting out at the rising of the star. “In Jerusalem the Magi ask questions: they inquire where the Child is to be found.” “The Magi then defy Herod who wanted to keep the status quo and his place in it. They return “by another way” (Mt 2:12). “They challenge us to take new paths.  Here we see the creativity of the Spirit who always brings out new things.”  Finally, “they worshiped.  They recognized their God in helpless form of an infact who had no place to lay his head.”

Vincent looked beyond his horizons

St. Vincent saw a world that most of his contemporaries never saw. Faced with misery they would say “That’s just the way it is”. But he sensed that there was something wrong with what he saw. Especially when viewed against the vision and mission of Jesus bringing Good News to the Poor.

He asked himself if there was a better way of bringing good news to those who were suffering. He dared to imagine. He imagined a different world, a world where people would look out for one another. In effect they would wash one another’s feet as Jesus said would be the sign of being true disciples.

I doubt Vincent had any other plan than simply following the lead of Providence. But I also believe that it was his attentiveness to providence that allowed him to accurately read the signs of his times and to “think outside the box” of 17th-century views of ministry.

This providence led him to inspire and tap into previously unrecognized resources – laity and especially women.

Developing unrecognized resources

Vincent imagined ministry to include laypeople, especially women. In Vincent’s time, this was as radical as many things we consider radical today. Surprising as it may seem, before his time there had been no way for women to engage in any kind of ministry or service other than prayer behind the walls and doors of convents.

He entrusted St. Louise with the inspiration and formation of these women. In effect, Louise developed a feminine and a lay form of the Tuesday Conference program.

His major innovation was the “confraternities of charity”. These Confraternities were basically parish organizations dedicated to bringing good news to the poor in practical ways.  In many ways, the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul and the Ladies of Charity embody these traditions today.

Today there is a new and rapidly growing manifestation of Vincentian imagination. Somewhat spontaneously, laypeople, professionals in their fields, learning of the story of Vincent, are evangelizing other professionals. They are banding together in modern-day “confraternities” or Vincentian professional associations whether teachers, translators, counselors, media specialists, writers, musicians, etc.

Currently, there are more than 30 such groups. More about this significant development in another Vincentian Mindwalk in Vincent de Paul Staffing a Field Hospital Church

What must be done today? Use our imagination!

  • Do we look beyond the horizons of what we have always done?
  • Do we think to inspire generous and gifted laity?
  • How can we help them recognize how they share in the mission of Christ the Evangelizer of the Poor?
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