Be united with one another, and God will bless
you. But let it be by the charity of Jesus Christ,
for any union which is not sealed by the blood
of Our Savior cannot perdure. It is therefore in
Jesus Christ, by Jesus Christ, and for Jesus
Christ that you ought to be united with one
another. The Spirit of Jesus Christ is a spirit of
union and of peace. How can you attract people
to Christ if you are not united with one another
and with him?
St. Vincent de Paul
(Abelly, book II, c. 1, 145)
On this memorial of St. Vincent de Paul who is the patron of charitable organizations and co-founder of the Congregation of the Mission and Daughters of Charity, we recall God’s greatest gift to us in our life which is one of service and stewardship to our brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus and God our Father. Growing up as a peasant with a lowly life with many siblings, St. Vincent had a unique intellectual ability and saw the role as a future cleric as a means for a better life. He was declared a saint under Pope Clement XII and Pople Leo XIII declared him patron of all charitable causes.
Unbeknownst to this lowly servant of God, Vincent was moved in working with the impoverished in the 17th century in small French parish towns and hearing confessions where his charism in serving the most needy was enlightened by the Holy Spirit to start a great movement that is thriving today. Vincent himself in first becoming a priest at the age of 19 had no idea how his life would change from his early preconception of obtaining a better life with the comfort of an educated scholar and cleric. In ministering to galley slaves and poor peasants during much of his ministry, the call to service of God’s most needy was brought to fruition. There is some legend according to Vincent himself that he was enslaved for a short period by Barbary pirates in his travels and was indebted due to some expenses owed.
In many respects, the passage from the Book of Acts is a good passage to reflect upon regarding living in an intentional Christian community:
“Awe came upon everyone, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. All who believed were together and had all things in common, they would sell their property and possessions and divide them among all according to each one’s need” (Acts: 2:43-45).
How do we live the Christian life today? Do we donate our unwanted possessions to the St. Vincent de Paul charity or do we make an extra effort to do more? Living as Christians within an intentional Christian community context requires extra effort. As James’s epistle reminds us of, “all good giving and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no alteration or shadow caused by change” (James 1:17). Living as intentional Christians and having intentional Christian communities require us to step out of our comfort zone to do more and recognize Christ Jesus in our neighbor regardless of our station in life or theirs.
Open my eyes
Open my eyes that I may see the deepest needs of men, women and children
Move my hands that they may feed the hungry;
Touch my heart that it may bring warmth to the despairing;
Teach me the generosity that welcomes strangers;
Let me share my possessions with people in need;
Give me the care that strengthens the sick;
Help me share in the quest to set prisoners free;
In sharing our anxieties and our love,
Our poverty and our prosperity;
We partake of your divine presence. Amen.