“Oceans are made of drops of water, Mountains are made of thousands of sands, Saints are made of little virtues they have practiced while they lived here on earth”. Saints are the one who have the eyes of God, and the one who seethe face of God in all. St Vincent de Paul was a great saint who had the eyes of God and who saw God in the poor. He lived his long 80 years by serving the Lord and seeing His face in the person of the poor. And he brought out a new form of religious life outside the four walls of the cloister. In 1617, he founded the Confraternities of Charity, in 1625 the Congregation of Mission and in 1633,the Company of the Daughters of Charity along with St Louise de Marillac.
A Great Beginning of the Family of Charity
It was in the year 1617 while preaching in the parish church of Chatillon that Vincent stirred the minds and hearts of the congregation to save a poor family from their serious illness, poverty and misery. The family was saved by the overwhelming response to the call of Vincent. A crowd of people came forward bringing comfort and material assistance to the unfortunate family. It helped Vincent to realize three very important things. Lots of people living in poverty needed urgent help.There were many generous people who were ready to help. Charity to be effective, to be a fire that lasts, must be properly organized. This event marks the birth of the first institution started by St Vincent de Paul, known as the Confraternities of Charity. Today it is known as the “International Association of Charities” (IAC/AIC) where thousands of women serve the poor by joining in this charity.Vincent changed his own life and the lives of many other people too. He began by encouraging others to change their lives from within as well as to reach out to the people who were in need of help.
Vincent found that the fulfilling of material need alone was not sufficient and hence, he founded the Congregation of the Mission on 25th January 1625 to fulfil the spiritual needs of the poor. This opened the way for the “Popular mission” that are carried out even today.
There came a time to begin a new way of life for the consecrated life in the history of the Church. The Company of the Daughters of Charity of St Vincent de Paul was established on 29th November 1633. It was the beginning of the “Preferential option for the poor”; it was
also the beginning of the societies of Apostolic life. In the beginning the Daughters wore the secular dress of the village girls. In 1685 they adapted the “cornette” (veil) which they wore until 1964 – Vatican council. The cornette inspired artists, painters, writers and bystanders all over the world.The Daughters of charity got the phrases like- “God’sGees”, “Angels of Mercy”, “the Swallows of Allah”, the Flying Nun”, and “Butterflies of Charity”. Every beginning is quite simple, unexpected,but it is always brought out from all eternity by the great plan of God.
Many countries… many cultures… One spirit
The Vincentians spread to many countries during the time of St Vincent and St Louise de Marillac. During their life time itself both the Priests of the Mission and the Daughters were sent to the distant mission countries of Poland and Madagascar. By 1660, the Daughters had increased to a total of 660. Today 17,000 Daughters of charity servein all the continents, including 93 countries with 75 established provinces.
At present priests and brothers of the mission serve across the world preaching the good news and witnessing to the Lord. There are 3,000 Vincentian priests and brothers belonging to 39 provinces serving in 86 countries.
Apparition of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal
18th July 1830was a great year of grace for the Vincentian Family . On this day , the Blessed Mother appeared to St Catherine Laboure, then a novice of the Daughters of Charity and spoke to her for almost two hours. She manifested her love to both of the Congrgations of St Vincent, “I love this Company” and gave a universsal invitation” – Come to the foot of the altar, there graces will be poured on those who ask for it”. On November 27, the Blessed mother gave the vision of miraculous medal–the great spiritual heritage of the Vincentian family where she at first manifested the Dogma of ‘The Immaculate Conception’ with the instruction to inscribe on the mdeal with the words “ O Mary Conceived without sin pray for us who have recourse to you” – it occurred 28 years before the apparition at Lourdes.
The Foundation of the Largest Christian Charitable Association
It was in 1833, young Frederic Ozanam inspired by Sister Rosalie Rendu DC, who was an aposle of charity in Mofettard District and learnt the net work of charity from her and founded the Society of St Vincent de Paul in Paris. Today there are two and a half million SSVP members who serve the poor all over the world.
In 1964, responding to the calls of the Church, and the signs of the time, 45,000 Daughters of Charity adopted a simplified habit keeping aside the ‘Cornette’ as a part of the adaptation. In fact, the Vincentians needed no other special charism to go to the peripheries or for Mission Ad Gentes. Because we were already into it for400 years by the great vision of St Vincent de Paul.
Vincentian Charism in the fulness of 400thAnniversary
“Go to the poor, you will find God”. – St Vincent de Paul His mission is our mission. Every continent, every country, every human need is our calling and our home. The motto, “I have come to preach the good news to the poor” and “The Charity of Christ urges us” have ever inspired the Vincentians to fly to those who are poor with the wings ofcharity. The Vincentian family is composed of some two million persons of all ages who follow his example in 156 countries and all continents. The Vincentian family is engaged in all kinds of charitable works today. From the abandoned to the service of the United Nations Organization theyare engaged in various kinds of charitable, social and pastoral ministries. No service is foreign to us. Looking back from the time of its establishment we had been in the battle field as humble care givers, nurses and even as victims. Our services are extended to the victims of epidemics, to all kinds of sick persons, the abandoned, differently abled, those affected by human trafficking, migrants, the homeless; in short, to all kinds of people in material, emotional and spiritual poverty.At present, the huge tree of Vincentian family has spread into 304 branches. This Huge family of charity is blessed with 10 saints, 108 blessed, 3 venerable and more than 115 servants of God.
The 400thanniversary of Vincentian Charism, we began with the motto, “I was a stranger and you welcomed me (Mt 25:35)”. From a small mustard seed laid in Folleville in 1617, it has grown into a huge tree of charity comprising 200branches of lay associations, congregations for men and women Consecrated life with a total number of two million members in 156 countries. The Vincentian Family also contains men and women who are not Catholicsbut serve God through various works of charity. Millions have followed the same path and lighted the way ahead of us. It is indeed a joy and privilege to trace the footsteps of St Vincent to follow the Lord.
Symposium with Pope Francis
From 12th to 15th of October, A symposium was held in Rome for all the Vincentians. In the unique setting of St Peter’s Square in Rome, more than 10,000 members of the Vincentian Family from all over the world have had a very special encounter with Pope Francis. Moreover, we are encouraged by the spiritual call of Pope Francis, on 14 October 2017, to adore, to welcome and to go around the world. In this Jubilee year we were blessed with the beatification of 60 Vincentian family members in Madrid on 11th November, 2017. However, our mission will never end until charity is globalized; until charity reaches the furthest corners of the world.