Actually, I can remember two that stopped me in my tracks … and still nourish me today. Each, in its own way, Both broadened my vision of what it means to be a follower of Christ, the Evangelizer of the Poor.

I remember a conference of an 8-day retreat for Vincentians some 35 years ago.

The other was a presentation during a meeting of the entire Eastern Province of the Congregation of the Mission around the same time.

“Surprised to hear a Redemptorist quote your Constitutions?”

That was the question asked by a Redemptorist in a retreat conference on the August 3rd feast of St. Alphonsus Liquori, founder of the Redemptorists. I have long since forgotten the retreat master’s name… but not his question.

He answered his own question. “I am not quoting the Constitutions of the Congregation of the Mission! I am quoting words from the Constitutions of the Redemptorists!”

Until then, I did not appreciate that St. Alphonsus Liguori founded his community with the purpose of laboring among the neglected country people around Naples.

According to their rule they are “to strive to imitate the virtues and examples of Jesus Christ, our Redeemer consecrating themselves, especially to the preaching of the word of God to the poor”

Redemptorists became well known for conducting parochial missions. They were to “… invite people to a deeper love for God and a fuller practice of the Christian life.” He insisted their preaching should be down-to-earth and understandable to all who were listening.

It was a surprise to me how much this sounded like St. Vincent over a century earlier. For me,  it marked a step in my appreciation of the appeal of Vincent’s understanding of following Christ the Evangelizer of the Poor.

CM’s did not have a monopoly as our 1998 General Assembly admitted.

A challenge to imagine…

Speaking to the whole of the Eastern Province of the Congregation of the Mission, Dave Nygren opened my eyes to what could be.

What if those following Christ the Evangelizer of the Poor in an area such as New York City, used their unique gifts to impact not just their own institutions but one another? How much greater would their impact be on behalf of the poor of our day.

He then mentioned the wonderful works being done by those who claim to walk in the footsteps of Sts. Vincent, Louise, and Elizabeth, as well as Blessed Frederick Ozanam and Rosalie Rendu, to mention others.

Together they represented at that time the largest Catholic University in the US, and an extensive network of high schools and grammar schools. Beyond them were the hospitals and the parochial network of Vincent de Paul thrift shops and hubs of those visiting the homes of their forgotten neighbors of the greater metropolitan area. What a force for real and lasting change if we utilized our unique strengths in common projects!

Of course, it would mean letting go of the “working definition” of collaboration in the Vincentian family. “Let’s work together on MY project.”

It would mean involving those we hope to serve by inviting them to identify their needs and assisting them with our unique gifts to become protagonists of their own futures.

Pope Francis – Don’t be afraid to take new paths 

Pope Francis recently wrote to Redemptorists…

Renewal requires a process of “conversion of the heart and mind” (metanoia), and at the same time “a change of structures”. This sometimes implies parting from some old traditions and cultural customs – our “old jars”, which can be a “painful” process, but “necessary” if we want to become “missionaries of hope”.

 Isn’t that another way of following Christ, the Evangelizer of the Poor?

Are you willing to explore new ways of serving in a changing world?

Click below for an early audio version of this Vincentian Mindwalk