Our Vincentian vocation, the Rule of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul reminds us, is “a vocation for every moment of our lives”. [Rule, Part I, 2.6] Our call to serve is more than a call to serve the neighbor, more than a call to attend meetings, but a call to live our faith fully in our family lives, our professional lives, and our participation in our communities.
This was the vocation modeled for us by our founder, Blessed Frédéric Ozanam. Throughout his life, Frédéric continued his own Home Visits as a member of the Society, but also became a widely known advocate for the poor, whose L’ere nouvelle newspaper influenced public discussions. He served in the National Guard in 1848 and ran for public office (unsuccessfully) that same year, all in addition to his professorship and his vocation as husband and father.
But for Frédéric, these roles were not separate from his Catholic faith; they were the full expression of a faithful life. His was a vision of “a community of faith and works erasing little by little the old divisions of political parties” through lives of witness by people in “science, the arts, and industry, into administration, the judiciary, the bar” – our whole lives. [Letter 290, to Amélie, 1841]
In this, he foresaw the social doctrine of the Catholic Church, recognizing that the same friendship that unites us as communities of faith in our Conferences, unites us also with the neighbors we serve, and with all the Conferences in our One Society. But it is not “exhausted in relationships between individuals but spreads into the network formed by these relationships, which is precisely the social and political community; it intervenes in this context seeking the greatest good for the community in its entirety.” [CSDC, 208]
Charity is love; the love of God for his own sake, and the love of our neighbor as ourselves for the love of God. [CCC, 1822] This is the love we mean we say we serve “for love alone” and it is the love we mean in our “vision of the civilization of love”. [Rule, Part I, 2.2 & 7.2]
Frédéric envisioned a “network of charity and social justice encircling the world” [Rule, Part I, 2.4] – a network formed by those resolved “to become better themselves in order to make others happier.” His vision calls us, each of us and all of us, to give ourselves fully to God and the neighbor.
“These,” he said, “Are ambitious dreams…” [Letter 290, to Amélie, 1841]
How can I personally live my faith more fully in every part of my life?