If we look at the Liturgical calendar for the last days of September we find a number of important days. For example, on Sept. 29 we have the feast day of the Archangels–Saints Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael. On this day especially, we give thanks for the presence and ministry of the Norbertine community at St. Michael’s Abbey that has served so many years here in Southern California. The original members of this community came here as refugees from the terrible Community Revolution in Hungary in 1956. The Norbertines have been a great source of blessing for us here in our Diocese through their high school of St. Michael’s, and their assistance and ministry in a number of our parishes here and in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. This year, especially, we pray in gratitude for the 40th anniversary of ordination of Abbot Eugene Hayes and Father James Smith.
We can also look to Sept. 27, the feast day of St. Vincent de Paul. The family of St. Vincent de Paul includes the Vincentians (or the Congregation of the Mission); the Daughters of Charity (who this year are celebrating 400 years of their foundation by St. Vincent and St. Louise de Marillac); the various branches of the Sisters of Charity; and Blessed Frederick Ozanam, who founded the Society of St. Vincent de Paul while he was at the Sorbonne in Paris. He did this because as a practicing Catholic, he was being mocked by atheists that he had no concern for the poor.
In these days I will have had three occasions to be with a number of members of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul here in our Diocese. Their dedication to the sick, poor and marginalized is edifying. The first goal of the “Vincentians” is their own growth in holiness, and then service to the poor and neighbor. These go hand-in-hand. There is the tendency in our culture to what I call “bifurcate” or separate into “either-or.” That is, for example, social justice on one hand, and pro-life concerns on the other and “never the two shall meet!” The “Catholic lens” is both–a point that was well made recently by Bishop Robert Barron when he was writing about St. Peter Claver, whose feast day was Sept. 9. St. Peter Claver was an example of heroic concern for the welfare of slaves to the then-new world, but also concern for the spiritual lives and their souls. The same is the case here with the Vincentian pursuit of holiness and outreach to the poor and the marginalized, which they too do well. On a similar point, the Congregation of the Mission (a branch of the Vincentian family) were founded BOTH for the education of the clergy and outreach to the poor. If one studies the Rule of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul one will find these words: “Convinced of the truth of the Apostle St. Paul’s word, Vincentians seek to draw closer to Christ. They hope that someday it will be no longer they who love Christ, but Christ who loves through them … and that even now, in their caring, the poor may catch a glimpse of God’s great love for them.”
I would ask that all who read this column for this week consider becoming a member of a parish Conference of St. Vincent de Paul here in our Diocese. The members of a Conference of St. Vincent de Paul are not just some of the endless words or documents of social justice, they are living examples of how social justice and holiness come from the living example of our members. The ministry and mission of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul also reflect what is known in our times as “Living as Missionary Disciples,” where we read that “successful pastoral ministry…depends on pastoral leaders’ ongoing conversion and daily personal encounter with Christ.”
For more information about the Society of St. Vincent de Paul one can contact a member who you know personally in a parish conference or Mr. Peter L. Andres, president of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul here in Orange County at email@example.com or (714) 542-0448. The Lord is calling, as is Blessed Frederick Ozanam, who are both waiting for your YES!
Blessed autumn days to all. Thank you for all that you do and your witness and generosity.
+ The Most Rev. Kevin W. Vann, Bishop of Orange