The spiritual dimension of our Vincentian formation is based on the understanding that we are created to live in community, to grow in faith together. This is why we always visit the neighbor in pairs, and this is why we share reflections on our service and our faith at our Conference meetings. We are a community of faith, growing closer to one another as we grow closer to Christ.
Just as the example of the Holy Trinity shows us that the divine life is a shared life, we see that our pathway to that life also is shared. “Following the example of the Blessed Trinity,” St Louise said, “we must have but one heart and act with one mind as do the three divine Persons.” [Sp. Writings, 771]
In our Conferences, we fill our meeting rooms, however few or many we may be. We build true Christian friendships, where “the strongest tie, the principle of a true friendship, is charity” as Blessed Frédéric wrote. [Letter 82, to Curnier, 1834]
Charity, the Catechism reminds us, is not merely to give things, but to “love God above all things for his own sake, and our neighbor as ourselves for the love of God.” [Catechism, 1822] Charity is not our practice, but our gift; a love “which multiplies itself, which is present in many places at once, and whose intensity is increased in the measure that it gains in extension.” [Letter 107, to Curnier, 1835]
Our community of faith, then, is not meant to be a gated community! Just as we welcome new members to share in our works, our prayer, and our friendship, so our Rule reminds us to “establish relationships based on trust and friendship” with the neighbor. [Rule, Part I, 1.9] It is vital to offer our material assistance, our works, but ultimately we seek to serve for love alone. [Rule, Part I, 2.2]
We Catholics have a habit, when Mass is sparsely attended, of spreading out to all four corners, from entrance to altar, from aisle to aisle, with ten feet and two pews between us. You could call it “Catholic distancing”, or you could see it another way: we fill the church as best we can, but always save space for more to join us, not in the back, but in our midst.
How can I better “save space” and welcome the neighbor into a community of faith?