“The poor are our Masters” – St. Vincent de Paul
The spirituality that Sisters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul try to live out is rooted in the life and the teaching of St. Vincent de Paul and St. Louise de Marillac who have met the Lord in the poor as they contemplated Jesus Christ preaching the Good News to the poor. Following the footstep of those saints, we, the Sisters, are serving Christ by the practice of love for the poor and the afflicted which is seen in the act of Good Samaritan asking for no returns.
A way of St. Vincent de Paul, Apostle of the Poor
St. Vincent was born in 1581 in the village of Pouy in Gascony, France, into a peasant family.
After his study in the school run by Franciscan, he got ordained to the priesthood in 1600. In the remarkable year of 1617, he experienced a profound spiritual conversion during his ministries to the poor, which led him to realize that serving the poor is to serve God. He, thereby, walked into the life thoroughly dedicated to God through the service for the poor.
St. Vincent organized and facilitated conferences and retreats for clergy for their renewal, established seminary and the Congregation of the Mission for the better ministry to the poor and founded Confraternities of Charity and Daughters of Charity in order to serve the poor in more organized way. At the heart of these accomplishments abided a firm belief that “all human beings created in the image of God have the same dignity”. This faith led him to dedicate himself with his own charism based on ‘serve Christ in the poor’.
Vincent de Paul, at the age of 79, returned to the Lord on September 27 in 1660, was canonized in 1737 and in 1885, Pope Leo XIII named him Patron of All Charitable Works.
A way of St. Louise de Marillac, Companion of the Mercy of God
Louise was born out of wedlock in the prominent Marillac family in 1591, France. She was never able to feel her mother’s warmth. Unfortunately, she also lost her beloved father when she was only 13. Louise, then, was entrusted to the hands of his uncle and was sent to a technical institution. She spent her adolescence in there and had her first experience of poverty. Meanwhile, she was able to learn practical skills such as cooking and sewing, which was a great help in serving the poor and the community life in her future.
At the age of twenty-two in 1613, she got married to Antoine Le Gras, but her marriage did not last any longer than twelve years due to the illness of her husband. Whereas she had to encounter the painful part of human experience, she also went through spiritual conversion which made her realize God’s calling for her. During the Mass on the solemnity of Pentecost in 1623, she was liberated from all her anxieties through an internal movement that is called “Experience of Illumination”. Meanwhile, Vincent de Paul was introduced to her as a spiritual director. The Experience and the relationship with Vincent finally formed her into a great collaborator of God in serving the poor.
In 1633, she founded Daughters of Charity with Vincent de Paul to serve the spiritual and corporal need of the poor. It was the first non-cloistered women religious institute in the Church devoted to the charitable work.
Her earthly life ended on March 15 in 1660. She was canonized on March 11, 1934, and declared Patroness of Christian Social Workers in 1960.
A way of charity
Charity, the center of the Gospel, is to open our heart to the poverty of the world. The acts of charity in which God embraced the poor and offered himself to them through Christ is the sign that reveals Him and His mighty power.
Spirituality of Sts. Vincent and Louise
The life and the service of Sts. Vincent and Louise are rooted in their full trust in God’s providence. They heard the cry of the poor in the midst of life’s events, understood God’s providence and their mission. Their spirituality was embodied as they were practically participating in the reality of the poor through the effective care and service for the spiritual and corporal needs.
Characteristics of the spirituality of St. Vincent de Paul
– Service for the poor
– Trust in God’s providence
– Love that is universal and integrated
– Solidarity and collaboration
– Practical vision of the reality
“Her actions are not her own, but those of Jesus Christ: she serves the sick with the love of Jesus Christ; the meekness of Jesus Christ governs her speech when faced with contradiction, she practices the patience of Jesus Christ, she has the obedience of Jesus Christ… Her actions are not those of a mere creature, but of Jesus Christ Himself.” (Coste, CCD IX, 332)
Following the example of our patron St. Vincent de Paul, Sisters of Charity are to devote their life to both affective and effective love in order to constantly discover Christ in the face of the poor through faith in God’s providence.