9/30/2010 12:15:00 PM St. Vincent de Paul lives on in spirit
Coadjutor Bishop David M. O'Connell, C.M.
Following are excerpts from a homily delivered by Coadjutor Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., during the Congregation of the Mission’s commemoration of the 350th anniversary of the death of St. Vincent de Paul. The Mass was celebrated Sept. 25 in St. Vincent’s Seminary, Germantown, Pa.
Today, as a Province, we celebrate the 350th anniversary of the death of St. Vincent de Paul. Yet, he still lives, this evangelizer of the poor and light of the clergy. He is still Monsieur Vincent, humble priest of the mission. He lives in us, his sons – separated from him only in time but not in spirit.
Last week, some of you may know, I was in Rome for a meeting of all the new bishops of the world (four of whom are Vincentians, by the way). I had been to St. Peter’s Basilica many, many times but this was my first visit as a bishop. As I walked down the center aisle, I looked up to see the magnificent statue of St. Vincent de Paul on the right gazing down at me.
I filled up with emotions that I don’t usually feel. I had seen that statue every time I visited the Basilica. This time it was different for some reason.
I thought of all the Vincentians I had known over these many years and how they brought this man to life.
Each Vincentian, no matter who we are or what we have been asked to do as priests or brothers, has a piece of St. Vincent’s spirit inside.
It may be the very thing that first drew us to the Congregation or it may be the thing that has kept us in the community. We have attended enough meetings in the Congregation of the Mission over these many years to know well that there are different understandings about St. Vincent and his vision, different views about the Congregation and its mission.
It is not, however, the differences that are most important – it is, rather, what unites us, what joins us together as confreres and as a province that really matters and that is a cause for celebration and joy. Namely, that the Gospel must be preached to the poor and that the poor must be served and we are the ones in the Church who have been called to do it in a whole variety of ways: teaching, parish work, preaching, missions, chaplaincies, work with the Daughters, administration – even being a bishop!
We celebrate the memorial of Vincent’s death – and that of his closest collaborator, St. Louise de Marillac – but we do so because of his life. And that life, despite his death, continues in each and every one us who are a part of the Congregation.
I don’t have anything new to add to the homily of 350 years that has been preached so much better through the centuries by so many Vincentians. Perhaps it is simply best to say that St. Vincent de Paul changed the world through his unbounded charity and tireless service and that we, his heirs in the Church, are so fortunate to consider ourselves his sons and brothers.
Vincent lives! And the Church needs people like him more than ever.