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Praying with vincentian communities


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from Catholic Digest; used with permission.

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Praying with vincentian communities

  1. 1. prAyingPraying withthe VincentianCommunitiesTap into a spiritual tradition that can enrichyour prayer life p by Regina BeChtle, SCA 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 todayout. Each one reverently described by Sisters and Daughters of Char-an encounter — with a lonely ity, Vincentian priests and broth- ©i sto ck ph / cr e ative : D e sig nchild, a destitute family, a suffer- ers, laypersons in the Society of patient, a confused student, Vincent de Paul and the Ladies ofa jobless immigrant. Each one Charity, and young members ofsaid, 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 twoence of persons in need.” That people in 17th-century France.experience brought to mind the Vincent de Paul (1581-1660) waswords of Blessed Rosalie Rendu, a fired by passion to meet the mate-Daughter of Charity who served rial and spiritual needs of persons     
  2. 2. the bronze statue of assumptionist founderemmanuel d’alzon with a student, created bySister of Charity Margaret Beaudette, wasdedicated at assumption College in Worcester,Massachusetts, in October 2010catholicdig est. com p r    011 
  3. 3. • prayingwho were poor. With a talent for This way of Charity was rooted inorganizing others who shared Jesus’ own mission to “bring goodhis passion, he began a group of news to the poor” (Luke 4:18), topriests and Brothers, started par- set captives free, and to heal theish-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 — adaptedcolleague. Together they gath- Vincent’s innovative model for herered ordinary women eager to new community, the Sisters ofserve the poor in Jesus’ name, and Charity. As the first group of apos-taught them to find their cloister tolic (service-oriented) Religiousin city streets and sickrooms. In women founded in this country,these “Daughters of Charity” they they began schools, cared forsuccessfully created a new way for orphans, and tended the sick. Theirwomen to live their vocation in “affective and effective” charity laidthe Church, not set apart from the firm foundations for the largelyworld 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 Christ impels us,” (2 Corinthians 5:14) these founders shaped a     
  4. 4. rich spiritual heri-tage that integrates The spirit ofprayer and action. ST.VincenT de PaulIn their life experi-ences, especially as Words that capture the spiritthey encountered of Vincent, though he neverpersons in need, said them (they were writtenthey found a privi- by writer Jean anouilh for the film “Monsieurleged meeting place Vincent”) are: “You will find that charity is a heavywith God. burden, heavier than the bowl of soup and the full These pioneers basket of bread. it is not enough to give soup andhad a knack for bread: The rich can do that. The poor ... will oftenbending existing say harsh things to you, but you must keep yourstructures so that gentleness and your smile. it is only because ofthe poor might hear your love that the poor will forgive you the breadthe Good News that you give them.”of Christ’s love.  SiSTer regina BechTleThey found a wayaround, under, orthrough situationsthat seemed impossible, and kept social teaching, is respect for theturning obstacles into opportuni- dignity of every person, especiallyties. To this day, a hallmark of the those who are poor. Vincent per-Charity spirit is being “inventive ceived the world through a lensto infinity,” in Vincent’s memo- that led him to see the otherrable phrase. In today’s complex person as a unique revelationworld, this means offering “a hand of God. Christ shines throughup 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 lensas meeting immediate needs. invites us to see the face of Christ behind the surface appearanceA nother core principle of the of a homeless person who hasn’t Vincentian way, now embed- bathed in some time, a co-workerded as a keystone of Catholic whose irritating ways drive uscatholicdig est. com p r    011 
  5. 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 theirfulfill 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, becauseHe has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the path that Christ’s own charity urges us to walk. We believe thatthe poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to this kind of love truly does changecaptives and recovery of sight to the blind, to everything.let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year Here’s an example: A wealthyacceptable 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 inGod, 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 lapcrazy, or a starving child halfway of wealth, they opened his eyes toaround the world. Vincent taught a world he had never known. Thea profound theological truth: To experience changed who and whatlove the person in need is to love and how he saw. And when one’sGod. 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 theircompany. Yet another hallmark is rela- T he Vincentian way cultivates the habit of reflective living. Simple0     
  6. 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. 7. • praying prAyingpersons, and circumstances of ourordinary lives. Where to To sum it up, Vincentian spiri- learn moretuality offers us a practical, ordi- You can furthernary way of seeing, loving, and explore theserving the Christ who meets us spirituality ofin the person in need. It is a way Saints Vincentthat learns from experience, builds de Paul, louiserelationships, trusts Providence, de marillac, andacts creatively, and finds God in elizabeth Seton ineveryday moments, reflective the Praying with… series from Wordprayer, 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 fromnew York, is a spiritual director, retreat St. anthony Messenger Press.leader, and writer who co-edited the  SiSTer regina BechTlecollected 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.”     