St. Vincent’s docility to the Divine Providence in Realizing Lay Empowerment in Communion with the Clergy and Consecrated Persons.

Date Posted: October 10, 2018 at 08:50 AM

September 27, 2018
1 Corinthians 1:26-31; 2:1-2. Matthew 25: 31-40.

Sometime in 1624 Vincent consulted with Andre Duval, his spiritual director. Vincent told Duval about the so many people who attended the popular missions, which Vincent had been doing with some priests for several years now. Madame de Gondi was prodding Vincent to establish a community of missionaries to assure the continuity of the missions. Duval quoted to Vincent this passage from St. Luke: “the servant who knows what his master wants and does not do it will receive many strokes of the lash.” (Luke 12:47). What was the reason of Vincent’s hesitation? He couldn’t bring himself to think what Paul is saying in the first reading: that he is weak and uninfluential, and that God might be using him for greater things. 

When we look at the life of Vincent de Paul and see the breadth of his works, one thing that stands out is that these works became possible through the engagement of the laypeople. Whether they were works of charity or of mission, Vincent asked the Daughters of Charity and the missionaries to get themselves into the work only when the work could be sustained by a foundation. And setting up the foundations was the role of laypeople, like Monsieur and Madame de Gondi. 

It is through the establishment of foundation and the actual service rendered by the laypeople that they are numbered among the blessed in the gospel. The Ladies of Charity who were members of the noble families and chief magistrates directly served the poor. When they found difficulty in direct service, village girls were asked by Vincent to help them. This was the origin of the Daughters of Charity. The resources that were given as food and drink came from the laypeople. The sick were attended to by the Ladies and the Daughters of Charity. The worst form of prison in the time of Vincent were the galleys where the criminals were mixed with other poor people who had no work. Visit to the galleys was made possible because Emmanuel de Gondi was the general, equivalent to the Admiral of the Navy. Vincent became chaplain general of the galleys.  Vincent even made the royal family support the aid to the war in Alsace-Lorraine even if the war was waged by noble families against the royal court.

Vincent had even greater success with the lay people than with churchmen. Cardinal Richelieu was suspicious, for political reasons, about the initiatives of Vincent, but his niece, the Duchess de Aiguillon was a devoted collaborator of Vincent and one of the most active presidents of the Ladies of Charity in Paris. Cardinal Mazarin obstructed many moves of Vincent but Queen Anne of Austria made possible the move of the Daughters of Charity and the missionaries in Poland. 

What was the secret of what we may consider Vincent’s “success”? At a time when the laypeople were considered mere recipients of graces in the Church, Vincent made the laypeople see that they were dispensers of the goods of the Church. Example is his exhortation to the Ladies of Charity who were at the point of giving up the care of the abandoned children. He told them that the abandoned children could possibly think of God as Father if the Ladies did not abandon them. 

This partnership between the clergy, religious and the laypersons we live here in the Adamson community. Last Saturday, at the welcome party of the international students, the Apostolic Nuntio asked me, how was it that the family, meaning the Adamsons, turned over the running of the university to the Vincentians. The questioned evoked in me the sense of the touch of Divine Providence. The ideal of practical education in the minds of the Adamsons has become the vision of quality education for the youth of the country, particularly the socially disadvantaged. 

Before the Vincentians entered the field of education, our almost exclusive work in the Philippines was the training of the clergy. A work that only clerics and religious normally do. As we pass to education we can be faithful to our mission only if we are helped and work together with the lay people. So, I will say it straight, you, dear lay brothers and sisters, employees, professors and administrators, are our partners in this mission. You are the educators in this enterprise. Without you we cannot educate the youth of our country, without you we cannot do the work of the Church in forming the youth into responsible, socially aware and faith-filled citizens of this country. 

One of St. Vincent’s expression when referring to himself is that he is a “worm,” a reference to the lowest form of creature. We can take quite a positive note when we consider the worm as a lowly animal that does work beneath the ground, unnoticed by anyone. I hope I do not offend you when I think of you as worms, not of the physical features of quiggly creatures but in the precise sense that each movement of the worm nourishes the earth. Each of you have your distinct personalities and ambitions, but we have this thing in common that in each of our moves we nourish the intellectual, social, moral and spiritual lives of our students. The nourishment oozes out of our persons. 

One of the spiritual writers that I have followed is Maurice Zundel, a Swiss priest, theologian and friend of late Pope Paul VI. He died in 1975. He has written about 30 books. Maurice Zundel echoes the humble attitude of Vincent that shines through in the midst of admirable achievements. He said, “I met quite a lot of educated people, many people persuaded of their genius, quite a lot of people who knew how to speak like books, and who wrote about it -- but this has never impressed me. What has always impressed me is the humility of the good and very ordinary women, who do not regard themselves much, but who say marvelous things without knowing it because, justly, the light of God passes through their transparence.”

We are all graced by the Lord because he has called each one of us to this challenging, excruciating and noble task of molding our youth. In our exclamation of thanksgiving, in our implorations of help that we be faithful to the task, let us allow God’s brilliance to pass through and shine in us. 

Homily delivered by Fr. Marcelo Marcelo V. Manimtim, CM on the Feast Day of St. Vincent de Paul

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