Thursday, September 26, 2019

Feast of St. Vincent de Paul

When I found myself alone to write a blog for the Feast of St. Vincent, I began to ponder what I can say that hasn't already been said about this great saint of our Church. So, I decided to tell my personal experiences with him.

My first encounter with Vincent was in my dreams when I was studying in Paris. I was sure I would never forget his expression. As time went on, I found myself far in the mountains of Tabriz in Iran. At a distance, I could distinguish Mount Ararat as a shadow; the mount is accepted in Christianity as the resting place of Noah's ark in Armenia.

There I was, in a village of lepers, caring for the wounds of the poor and those rejected from society. Occasionally, I found a way to get to Tabriz to buy some necessities from the Bazaar (market). Among the crowd, I met a Daughter of Charity from France. I had never seen a Daughter of Charity before that! After a brief conversation, Sister Pouillard invited me for a tea in their college.

The college was an oasis amid the heat of the summer months. When I arrived, Sister Pouillard greeted me in the parlor of the community house. As I entered, I saw a portrait of an old man. It struck me that this was the one I saw in my dreams some years before. Sister Pouillard explained that he was St. Vincent de Paul, the founder of her community. I couldn't believe it!

Today, as a Daughter of Charity myself, Vincent shows me a way of love, a way to God, and a way of living in the world. Our Vincentian charism is centered on an encounter with the poor Christ who is present among those who are most in need, most vulnerable, and live on the peripheries waiting for us to respond. On February 13, 1646, Vincent told our first sisters, "in serving the poor, you serve Jesus Christ. O my Daughters, how true that is! You serve Christ in the persons of the poor. That is as true as the fact that we are here."

Indeed, our charism is rooted in our world today, among the most marginalized and the "least" in society.

Pope Francis recently issues a message for the 105 World Day of Migrants and Refugees. The message is beautiful. "It is not just about migrants."

In closing my eyes, I can hear the voice of Vincent, "Welcome, protect, promote, and integrate... Migrants, refugees, displaced persons, and victims of trafficking have become emblems of exclusion... It's not just about them, but about all of us. It's about the present and the future of the human family... Through them, the Lord invites us to embrace our Christian life and to contribute, each according to his or her vocation, to the building up of a world that is more and more in accord with God's plan."

Written by Sister Michelle Loisel, D.C.

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