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prAying




Praying with
the Vincentian
Communities
Tap into a spiritual tradition that can enrich
your prayer life p by Regina BeChtle, SC



A
       t a recent retreat for my       the poor of Paris for more than 50
       community, the question         years: “Never have I prayed so well
       was posed: “When have you       as in the streets.”
felt most like a Sister of Charity?”       So how might we define Vin-
One after another, stories poured      centian spirituality as lived today
out. Each one reverently described     by Sisters and Daughters of Char-
an encounter — with a lonely           ity, Vincentian priests and broth-
                                                                                 ©i sto ck ph oto.com / cr e ative : D e sig n


child, a destitute family, a suffer-   ers, laypersons in the Society of St.
ing patient, a confused student,       Vincent de Paul and the Ladies of
a jobless immigrant. Each one          Charity, and young members of
said, in so many words, “I truly       Vincentian Marian Youth and vol-
live my vocation and most surely       unteer groups?
touch God when I am in the pres-           The answer starts with two
ence of persons in need.” That         people in 17th-century France.
experience brought to mind the         Vincent de Paul (1581-1660) was
words of Blessed Rosalie Rendu, a      fired by passion to meet the mate-
Daughter of Charity who served         rial and spiritual needs of persons
                                            catholicdigest.com
the bronze statue of assumptionist founder
emmanuel d’alzon with a student, created by
Sister of Charity Margaret Beaudette, was
dedicated at assumption College in Worcester,
Massachusetts, in October 2010


catholicdig est. com                            p r    011   
•    praying


who were poor. With a talent for          This way of Charity was rooted in
organizing others who shared              Jesus’ own mission to “bring good
his passion, he began a group of          news to the poor” (Luke 4:18), to
priests and Brothers, started par-        set captives free, and to heal the
ish-based lay confraternities, and        sick in body and spirit.
developed a vast network of chari-
table services.
   Louise de Marillac (1591-
1660), a widowed mother and
                                          T   he story continued in 19th-cen-
                                              tury America when Elizabeth
                                          Ann Bayley Seton — a mother,
noblewoman, became Vincent’s               widow, and convert — adapted
colleague. Together they gath-            Vincent’s innovative model for her
ered ordinary women eager to               new community, the Sisters of
serve the poor in Jesus’ name, and         Charity. As the first group of apos-
taught them to find their cloister         tolic (service-oriented) Religious
in city streets and sickrooms. In          women founded in this country,
these “Daughters of Charity” they          they began schools, cared for
successfully created a new way for         orphans, and tended the sick. Their
women to live their vocation in           “affective and effective” charity laid
the Church, not set apart from the         firm foundations for the largely
world but finding God in its midst.        immigrant Church.
                                               The Vincentian spirit caught
                                           fire in the young nation as oth-
                                           ers like Catherine Spalding and
     Discover the                         Xavier Ross began Religious
     Vincentian family                     communities to serve frontier
     at a glance                           settlers. Priests and Brothers of
     There are more than 1 million         the Congregation of the Mission
     religious, priests, and members       preached the Gospel and formed
     of the Vincentian family,             the clergy. Laywomen and men
     (including those of the Society of    spread the Vincentian spirit
     St. Vincent de paul)                  through the Ladies of Charity and
                                           the Society of St. Vincent de Paul.
     Website:. For more information,           Believing that “the charity of
     visit famvin.org                      Christ impels us,” (2 Corinthians
                                           5:14) these founders shaped a
                                                catholicdigest.com
rich spiritual heri-
tage that integrates         The spirit of
prayer and action.           ST.VincenT de Paul
In their life experi-
ences, especially as                                Words that capture the spirit
they encountered                                    of Vincent, though he never
persons in need,                                    said them (they were written
they found a privi-          by writer Jean anouilh for the film “Monsieur
leged meeting place          Vincent”) are: “You will find that charity is a heavy
with God.                    burden, heavier than the bowl of soup and the full
    These pioneers           basket of bread. it is not enough to give soup and
had a knack for              bread: The rich can do that. The poor ... will often
bending existing             say harsh things to you, but you must keep your
structures so that           gentleness and your smile. it is only because of
the poor might hear          your love that the poor will forgive you the bread
the Good News                that you give them.”
of Christ’s love.             SiSTer regina BechTle
They found a way
around, under, or
through situations
that seemed impossible, and kept social teaching, is respect for the
turning obstacles into opportuni- dignity of every person, especially
ties. To this day, a hallmark of the those who are poor. Vincent per-
Charity spirit is being “inventive ceived the world through a lens
to infinity,” in Vincent’s memo- that led him to see the other
rable phrase. In today’s complex person as a unique revelation
world, this means offering “a hand of God. Christ shines through
up rather than just a hand out” — the features of every person,
that is, seeking long-range, sys- especially those who live in pov-
temic solutions to poverty as well erty. Looking through this lens
as meeting immediate needs.              invites us to see the face of Christ
                                         behind the surface appearance

A    nother core principle of the of a homeless person who hasn’t
     Vincentian way, now embed- bathed in some time, a co-worker
ded as a keystone of Catholic whose irritating ways drive us
catholicdig est. com                                   p r    011         
•    praying                         prAying

                                                   tionship. Because we belong to
             faVoriTe                              each other, even to those “others”
                                                   who may at first seem different
        VincenTian                                 or unfamiliar, we try to cultivate
              PraYerS                              a hospitality of the heart that val-
    Some of the Vincentians’ favorite              ues relationships and community
    prayers are quotes from Scripture              above efficiency and productivity.
                                                   Becoming friends with people on
“    Let us bear one another’s burdens, and thus the margins, getting to know their
fulfill the law of Christ” galatianS 6:2           names and stories, may lead us far
                                                   beyond our comfort zone, but it is
“    The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because
He has anointed me to bring glad tidings to
                                                   the path that Christ’s own charity
                                                   urges us to walk. We believe that
the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to    this kind of love truly does change
captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to    everything.
let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year      Here’s an example: A wealthy
acceptable to the Lord.” luke 4:18-19              downtown lawyer decided to vol-
                                                   unteer at a nursing home. So did
“    The Charity of Christ impels us.”
2 CORinthianS 5:14
                                                   several women from the poor-
                                                   er neighborhood nearby. After
                                                   the volunteers pushed residents’
“    God is love, and all who live in love live in
God, and God in them.” 1 JOhn 4:16
                                                   wheelchairs, they would eat lunch
                                                   together, swapping stories and
                                                   family pictures. As the women
          SiSTer regina BechTle
                                                   from the edge of poverty became
                                                   friends with the man from the lap
crazy, or a starving child halfway of wealth, they opened his eyes to
around the world. Vincent taught a world he had never known. The
a profound theological truth: To experience changed who and what
love the person in need is to love and how he saw. And when one’s
God. Let the poor teach you, he way of seeing and acting changes,
would counsel, and count your- so does one’s way of praying.
selves privileged to be in their
company.
     Yet another hallmark is rela-          T         he Vincentian way cultivates the
                                                      habit of reflective living. Simple
0                                                     catholicdigest.com
Love is inventive
                       to infinity.              St. Vi n c e n t de Pa u l




 questions like “Where is God in         than “either-or.” In the family of
 this experience? How is God being       God, everyone belongs; at the
 revealed in the people and situa-       table of Charity, there is room for
 tions that fill my day?” can start      everyone.
 us on the path of contemplative             Trust in Providence led the
 awareness. Prayer rooted in reflec-     great figures of our tradition to
 tion on real life deepens our sense     take huge risks with little certitude.
 of connectedness with others. It        They sought to do God’s will and
 attunes us to discern God’s lead-       trusted mightily that God would
 ing in each moment, so we might         give them the necessary wisdom
 see and “do what is before us to        and resources. Providence sustains
 do,” in Vincent’s words. Reflective     their followers today, who continue
 living invites us to pay attention      to accomplish extraordinary things
 to the present moment, and so to        with characteristic humility (hones-
 the grace that unfailingly awaits       ty), simplicity (single-mindedness),
 us there. “Keep well to what you        and zeal (passion and hard work).
 believe to be the grace of the
 moment,” advised Elizabeth Seton.
“Only do your best and leave the
 rest to our dear God.”
                                         V   incent de Paul did not set out
                                             to develop a formal teach-
                                         ing on prayer or the spiritual life.
     The way of Charity calls for col-   Rather, he offers us a spiritual way
 laboration. In service of Christ’s      that is ordinary, down-to-earth,
 mission, we gather collaborators        rooted in real life — ours and that
 and encourage inclusive commu-          of the people we serve. It invites us
 nities. Our spirituality invites us     to enter into the mystery of God-
 to build bridges rather than walls,     in-our-midst, to look for manifes-
 to be people of “both-and” rather       tations of God within the events,
catholicdig est. com                                  p r    011           1
•     praying                        prAying

persons, and circumstances of our
ordinary lives.                              Where to
   To sum it up, Vincentian spiri-           learn more
tuality offers us a practical, ordi-                         You can further
nary way of seeing, loving, and                              explore the
serving the Christ who meets us                              spirituality of
in the person in need. It is a way                           Saints Vincent
that learns from experience, builds                          de Paul, louise
relationships, trusts Providence,                            de marillac, and
acts creatively, and finds God in                            elizabeth Seton in
everyday moments, reflective                 the Praying with… series from Word
prayer, and simple people. CD                among us Press, 15 Days of Prayer
                                             With… series from liguori Press,
regina Bechtle, a Sister of charity of       and A Retreat With… series from
new York, is a spiritual director, retreat   St. anthony Messenger Press.
leader, and writer who co-edited the          SiSTer regina BechTle
collected writings of St. elizabeth Seton.

       qnext month praying With the franciscans




     Don’t eVen think about it
     anyone who uses the phrase “easy as taking candy from
     a baby” has never tried taking candy from a baby.


     100 yearS of Walking
     a wise old man celebrating his 100th birthday got a
     visit from a local television reporter. “are you able to get out and walk
     much?” the reporter asked.
          “Well,” said the man with a wry smile, “i certainly walk better today
     than i could a hundred years ago.”


                                                   catholicdigest.com

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Praying with vincentian communities

  • 1. prAying Praying with the Vincentian Communities Tap into a spiritual tradition that can enrich your prayer life p by Regina BeChtle, SC A t a recent retreat for my the poor of Paris for more than 50 community, the question years: “Never have I prayed so well was posed: “When have you as in the streets.” felt most like a Sister of Charity?” So how might we define Vin- One after another, stories poured centian spirituality as lived today out. Each one reverently described by Sisters and Daughters of Char- an encounter — with a lonely ity, Vincentian priests and broth- ©i sto ck ph oto.com / cr e ative : D e sig n child, a destitute family, a suffer- ers, laypersons in the Society of St. ing patient, a confused student, Vincent de Paul and the Ladies of a jobless immigrant. Each one Charity, and young members of said, in so many words, “I truly Vincentian Marian Youth and vol- live my vocation and most surely unteer groups? touch God when I am in the pres- The answer starts with two ence of persons in need.” That people in 17th-century France. experience brought to mind the Vincent de Paul (1581-1660) was words of Blessed Rosalie Rendu, a fired by passion to meet the mate- Daughter of Charity who served rial and spiritual needs of persons       catholicdigest.com
  • 2. the bronze statue of assumptionist founder emmanuel d’alzon with a student, created by Sister of Charity Margaret Beaudette, was dedicated at assumption College in Worcester, Massachusetts, in October 2010 catholicdig est. com p r    011 
  • 3. praying who were poor. With a talent for This way of Charity was rooted in organizing others who shared Jesus’ own mission to “bring good his passion, he began a group of news to the poor” (Luke 4:18), to priests and Brothers, started par- set captives free, and to heal the ish-based lay confraternities, and sick in body and spirit. developed a vast network of chari- table services. Louise de Marillac (1591- 1660), a widowed mother and T he story continued in 19th-cen- tury America when Elizabeth Ann Bayley Seton — a mother, noblewoman, became Vincent’s widow, and convert — adapted colleague. Together they gath- Vincent’s innovative model for her ered ordinary women eager to new community, the Sisters of serve the poor in Jesus’ name, and Charity. As the first group of apos- taught them to find their cloister tolic (service-oriented) Religious in city streets and sickrooms. In women founded in this country, these “Daughters of Charity” they they began schools, cared for successfully created a new way for orphans, and tended the sick. Their women to live their vocation in “affective and effective” charity laid the Church, not set apart from the firm foundations for the largely world but finding God in its midst. immigrant Church. The Vincentian spirit caught fire in the young nation as oth- ers like Catherine Spalding and Discover the Xavier Ross began Religious Vincentian family communities to serve frontier at a glance settlers. Priests and Brothers of There are more than 1 million the Congregation of the Mission religious, priests, and members preached the Gospel and formed of the Vincentian family, the clergy. Laywomen and men (including those of the Society of spread the Vincentian spirit St. Vincent de paul) through the Ladies of Charity and the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. Website:. For more information, Believing that “the charity of visit famvin.org Christ impels us,” (2 Corinthians 5:14) these founders shaped a       catholicdigest.com
  • 4. rich spiritual heri- tage that integrates The spirit of prayer and action. ST.VincenT de Paul In their life experi- ences, especially as Words that capture the spirit they encountered of Vincent, though he never persons in need, said them (they were written they found a privi- by writer Jean anouilh for the film “Monsieur leged meeting place Vincent”) are: “You will find that charity is a heavy with God. burden, heavier than the bowl of soup and the full These pioneers basket of bread. it is not enough to give soup and had a knack for bread: The rich can do that. The poor ... will often bending existing say harsh things to you, but you must keep your structures so that gentleness and your smile. it is only because of the poor might hear your love that the poor will forgive you the bread the Good News that you give them.” of Christ’s love.  SiSTer regina BechTle They found a way around, under, or through situations that seemed impossible, and kept social teaching, is respect for the turning obstacles into opportuni- dignity of every person, especially ties. To this day, a hallmark of the those who are poor. Vincent per- Charity spirit is being “inventive ceived the world through a lens to infinity,” in Vincent’s memo- that led him to see the other rable phrase. In today’s complex person as a unique revelation world, this means offering “a hand of God. Christ shines through up rather than just a hand out” — the features of every person, that is, seeking long-range, sys- especially those who live in pov- temic solutions to poverty as well erty. Looking through this lens as meeting immediate needs. invites us to see the face of Christ behind the surface appearance A nother core principle of the of a homeless person who hasn’t Vincentian way, now embed- bathed in some time, a co-worker ded as a keystone of Catholic whose irritating ways drive us catholicdig est. com p r    011 
  • 5. praying prAying tionship. Because we belong to faVoriTe each other, even to those “others” who may at first seem different VincenTian or unfamiliar, we try to cultivate PraYerS a hospitality of the heart that val- Some of the Vincentians’ favorite ues relationships and community prayers are quotes from Scripture above efficiency and productivity. Becoming friends with people on “ Let us bear one another’s burdens, and thus the margins, getting to know their fulfill the law of Christ” galatianS 6:2 names and stories, may lead us far beyond our comfort zone, but it is “ The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the path that Christ’s own charity urges us to walk. We believe that the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to this kind of love truly does change captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to everything. let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year Here’s an example: A wealthy acceptable to the Lord.” luke 4:18-19 downtown lawyer decided to vol- unteer at a nursing home. So did “ The Charity of Christ impels us.” 2 CORinthianS 5:14 several women from the poor- er neighborhood nearby. After the volunteers pushed residents’ “ God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God in them.” 1 JOhn 4:16 wheelchairs, they would eat lunch together, swapping stories and family pictures. As the women  SiSTer regina BechTle from the edge of poverty became friends with the man from the lap crazy, or a starving child halfway of wealth, they opened his eyes to around the world. Vincent taught a world he had never known. The a profound theological truth: To experience changed who and what love the person in need is to love and how he saw. And when one’s God. Let the poor teach you, he way of seeing and acting changes, would counsel, and count your- so does one’s way of praying. selves privileged to be in their company. Yet another hallmark is rela- T he Vincentian way cultivates the habit of reflective living. Simple 0      catholicdigest.com
  • 6. Love is inventive to infinity.  St. Vi n c e n t de Pa u l questions like “Where is God in than “either-or.” In the family of this experience? How is God being God, everyone belongs; at the revealed in the people and situa- table of Charity, there is room for tions that fill my day?” can start everyone. us on the path of contemplative Trust in Providence led the awareness. Prayer rooted in reflec- great figures of our tradition to tion on real life deepens our sense take huge risks with little certitude. of connectedness with others. It They sought to do God’s will and attunes us to discern God’s lead- trusted mightily that God would ing in each moment, so we might give them the necessary wisdom see and “do what is before us to and resources. Providence sustains do,” in Vincent’s words. Reflective their followers today, who continue living invites us to pay attention to accomplish extraordinary things to the present moment, and so to with characteristic humility (hones- the grace that unfailingly awaits ty), simplicity (single-mindedness), us there. “Keep well to what you and zeal (passion and hard work). believe to be the grace of the moment,” advised Elizabeth Seton. “Only do your best and leave the rest to our dear God.” V incent de Paul did not set out to develop a formal teach- ing on prayer or the spiritual life. The way of Charity calls for col- Rather, he offers us a spiritual way laboration. In service of Christ’s that is ordinary, down-to-earth, mission, we gather collaborators rooted in real life — ours and that and encourage inclusive commu- of the people we serve. It invites us nities. Our spirituality invites us to enter into the mystery of God- to build bridges rather than walls, in-our-midst, to look for manifes- to be people of “both-and” rather tations of God within the events, catholicdig est. com p r    011 1
  • 7. praying prAying persons, and circumstances of our ordinary lives. Where to To sum it up, Vincentian spiri- learn more tuality offers us a practical, ordi- You can further nary way of seeing, loving, and explore the serving the Christ who meets us spirituality of in the person in need. It is a way Saints Vincent that learns from experience, builds de Paul, louise relationships, trusts Providence, de marillac, and acts creatively, and finds God in elizabeth Seton in everyday moments, reflective the Praying with… series from Word prayer, and simple people. CD among us Press, 15 Days of Prayer With… series from liguori Press, regina Bechtle, a Sister of charity of and A Retreat With… series from new York, is a spiritual director, retreat St. anthony Messenger Press. leader, and writer who co-edited the  SiSTer regina BechTle collected writings of St. elizabeth Seton. qnext month praying With the franciscans Don’t eVen think about it anyone who uses the phrase “easy as taking candy from a baby” has never tried taking candy from a baby. 100 yearS of Walking a wise old man celebrating his 100th birthday got a visit from a local television reporter. “are you able to get out and walk much?” the reporter asked. “Well,” said the man with a wry smile, “i certainly walk better today than i could a hundred years ago.”       catholicdigest.com