Vol. 167 No. 39 - September 24 - September 30, 2016
St Vincent de Paul, a priest in 17th century France, was moved by compassion, and went about caring and serving the poor as a part of his pastoral ministry. The year 2017 marks the 400th anniversary of the inspiration and charism of St Vincent De Paul which made him a man of charities in the universal Church. In the year 1617, the priest Vincent experienced a two-fold conversion. First, he was being converted to the poor, who were becoming the centre of his life. Second, he was also being converted to his priesthood, seeing it not as a position of honour and comforts, but as a personal relationship with Jesus. However, his "conversion" does not seem to rest on one spectacular moment, but rather on a gradual opening to the power of God's grace working in him, and allowing him to see his life and ministry more clearly in the light of Christ. The events made Vincent De Paul organise and motivate people to continue the charity and service as an essential way of living the Gospel values in daily life.
In January 1617, the young priest Vincent was on the Gondi estates in Picardy, and heard the confession of a dying man, who told Madame de Gondi that he would have been damned without Vincent's ministry. She urged Vincent to preach a sermon on general confessions, which produced such a response, that other priests were called to help hear all the confessions. This was the humble beginning of the popular mission in the Church, which today has become a popular and very effective means for renewal and new life. Vincent felt called to a more pastoral ministry, very conscious that the poor were not being evangelised or helped. As he became the parish priest in Châtillon-les-Dombes in the southeast of France, he started 'Tuesday conferences' helping his fellow priests to a more faithful way of life, as well as ministering to and teaching the people. The increasing need and response of the common people for renewal and evangelisation inspired Vincent to start the 'Congregation of the Mission' and organise the priests with charism of popular Mission and formation of the Priests.
In August 1617, as he was preparing for Sunday Mass, a parishioner brought news of the illness and destitution of an entire family in the parish. He preached on their need, and that afternoon, the people responded in overwhelming numbers by carrying them food and supplies. Vincent then called a meeting of interested women, and urged them to put order into their generosity by taking turns. With rules drawn up by Vincent, they established a group which became the first Confraternity of Charity. This was again another beginning of the great networking of global charities, and starting of the organisation of 'Ladies of Charities' and the Company of the 'Daughters of Charity' for the material service and spiritual needs of the poor and destitute people.
St Vincent De Paul in his life was moved by the Charity of the Crucified Christ and took up the pastoral care of the people with mercy and compassion. He employed five attitudinal steps in his approach and service to the poor. First of all, he looked around with sensitivity that he could see the fallen and wounded people in and around. Secondly, he reached out himself to the people in their own distressed situations, and did not wait for the people to come to him. Thirdly, he used whatever was available with him for the benefit of the needy, without waiting for 'projects' and benefactors. Fourthly, he took them to his house to care for them, as they were his masters. Fifthly, they were no more strangers, but he owned them all, as they were the incarnate image of God. Today, the world is experiencing the famine of love, and is estranged by hatred and cruelty. The world needs a healing touch of mercy and compassion more than ever before.
Fr Devasia Pudussery C M, Vincentian Provincialate, Mysore
September 27 is the feast of our model and patron, St Vincent de Paul - a brilliant, never fading, guiding star of all Christians, to all compassionate Vincentians the world over till the end of time. His feast day is a particularly appropriate time to reflect on his sublime life, and to recall some of his manifold immortal works of charity, miraculously accomplished during sixty years of priestly ministry.
St Vincent de Paul was born in 1581, and was ordained a priest in 1600, at the early age of nineteen years. And what a priest he proved himself in the following sixty years! He was an extraordinary man of action. Indeed, it has been said of him: "no man ever did more." But one of his activities has fastened itself on to the popular imagination, namely, his zeal for the relief of human misery in all its forms. For most people, St Vincent's name spells charity in the fullest sense of that word.
I begin with the intensely challenging words of St Teresa of Kolkata, most often referred to as the 'Saint of the Gutters': "There is no hunger for bread… more so that people suffer from terrible despair, terrible loneliness, terrible hatred, a feeling of unwantedness, helplessness, and hopelessness. They have forgotten to smile, they have forgotten the beauty of human love and the human touch."
These profound words of St Mother Teresa signifies her own life, explicitly painful, and in a state of inner darkness, which she attributed to the absence of God's presence. She also co-related this turbulence to the darkness and desolation of the lonely, the unwanted and the helpless.
Pope Francis spoke to a huge gathering in Kraków, Poland, stating that it hurts him when he sees youngsters walking around without any meaning in life. Deep down, youngsters are bored of life. They are looking for fulfilment in life through cheap thrills, rather than seeking fulfilment. Unfortunately, when youngsters opt for a dark path, they have to eventually pay for it. When the best years of your life are spent squandering or wasting energy on habits that rob the best in you, you eventually are compelled to pay for it. Pope Francis asserted that youngsters, instead of going for empty thrills, should feel the power of grace and seek a sense of fulfilment. Some young people opt for early retirement, accepting failure even before they start playing the game
There are some great insights one can gain from the lives of St Vincent de Paul and St Teresa of Kolkata, two Saints for our time. Firstly, what did Mother Teresa and St Vincent and his co-worker in charity, St Louise de Marillac have in common?
During her lifetime, Mother Teresa was consistently one of the most admired humans, and was named as such 18 times in the prestigious Gallup Polls. This continued since her death in 1997. If Mother Teresa changed the face of charity in our time, we are well aware of how St Vincent was described at his funeral as having changed the face of France in its awareness of those on the periphery.
As education empowers, emancipates and enables, every generation must ensure that its educational policy is woven around the five pillars of accessibility, equity, quality, accountability and affordability. Hence, the draft New Educational Policy 2016 (NEP) 'envisions a credible and high-performing education system capable of ensuring inclusive quality education and life-long learning opportunities for all and producing students/graduates equipped with knowledge, skills, attitudes and values that are required to lead a productive life, participate in the country's development process, respond to the requirements of the fast changing, ever-globalising, knowledge-based economy and society.'
The positives of NEP vis-a-vis Higher Education are that it propagates not only a national campaign to attract young talent into the teaching profession, but also makes it mandatory for the new faculty to be inducted through a rigorous Certificate Programme. Higher Education Institutions (HEI) will be required to be transparent via a dedicated website that discloses information ranging from admissions to extra-curricular activities