One of our essential elements is spirituality, but what is spirituality? How do we express it? How do we live it? What is its goal? Given that the spiritual growth of members also is the primary purpose of the Society, we probably ought to have some idea how to answer these questions.
To begin with the end in mind, the purpose, the ultimate goal of our spirituality, is as Jesus told us: to “be perfect, just as Your heavenly Father is perfect.” This is the universal calling of all God’s people. He calls us to Himself. He sent us His Son to share in our humanity so that we might share in His divinity. Jesus, the Son of Man, is our role model for perfection. He is the union of the human and the divine, not half of each, but fully both. In a similar way, we are created not as bodies with spirits, nor spirits with bodies. We are unitary, body and spirit together. [GS, 14] It is the spiritual dimension of our nature that sets us apart from His other creatures, and that enables us to glimpse the transcendent.
Yet, while each of us is made in God’s image, at the same time each of us is “unique and unrepeatable.” [CSDC, 131] As a consequence, each person’s spirituality, each person’s pathway of spiritual growth, also is unique. Just as we are given different gifts, so we are called to use them in different ways in order to fulfill God’s will for each of us — and for all of us. We are all parts of one body, sharing God’s gifts with one another.
Spirituality cannot limit itself to a simple set of practices. As important as it is to attend Mass, pray the rosary, and study Holy Scripture, true spirituality calls us to much more. Spirituality is our entire manner of living our faith; “not a part of life, but the whole of life,” as Pope Saint John Paul II reminds us. [Ecclesia in America, 29]
As Vincentians, we walk together along a very special pathway towards holiness, towards the perfection to which Christ calls us. We live our faith in imitation of Christ, and also in imitation of our patron, Saint Vincent de Paul, who, Frédéric teaches, “is a model one must strive to imitate, as he himself imitated the model of Jesus Christ. He is a life to be carried on, a heart in which one’s own heart is enkindled, an intelligence from which light should be sought; he is a model on earth and a protector in heaven.” [175, to Lallier, 1838]
We devote ourselves, in our little Society, to the spiritual practices modeled for us by Saint Vincent and all the saints and blessed of the Vincentian Family, who found holiness by seeing and serving Christ in the poor, by loving God with the strength of their arms, and by trusting fully in Divine Providence in their lives. And if these are our beliefs, as Christians, as Catholics, and as Vincentians, “let us,” as Frédéric said, “take them seriously, that our lives may be their perpetual expression.” [53, to Falconnet, 1832]
How can I better live my beliefs at work, at home, with neighbors, friends…everywhere?