Abelly: Book 2/Chapter 01

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Introduction to Book Two, Chapter One: The Missions of Monsieur Vincent

It should not be necessary to speak at length to have the reader appreciate the necessity and utility of the missions which Monsieur Vincent and his followers conducted. Forty years' experience bears out their value. Were one not persuaded of this, he would need only to cast a glance at the deplorable condition of most people before the missions began, particularly those of the countryside. They seemed engulfed in the darkness of a profound ignorance about their salvation, and as a result, given to all sorts of vices. On the other hand, think of the good results produced by the missions of Monsieur Vincent, especially the wonderful conversions which occurred. These make us recognize and confess that the hand of God was with his faithful servant. Among other exterior means for the salvation of souls, his mercy made particular use of these missions in these recent years. These were one of the most efficacious ways of helping people and upon them he lavished an abundance of divine blessings.

A noted virtuous priest who had helped Monsieur Vincent and even had worked on a mission in a large village in the province of Anjou, wrote to him more than twenty years ago:

Among all who have made their general confession there are more than fifteen hundred who have never made a good one. Besides, many people have committed enormous sins over ten, twenty, or even thirty years, which they have not confessed to their pastors and ordinary confessors. Ignorance is widespread, but malice is even worse. Their shame is so great they have not confessed all their sins even in the general confessions they made to the missionaries. But moved by their sermons and catechetical instructions given on the mission they have finally come and openly confessed their sins, with groans and tears. [1]

Another prelate, Jacques Lescot, bishop of Chartres, whose name is held in benediction, wrote to Monsieur Vincent in 1647 on this same subject: [2]

I could not have received better news than that you would like to continue your mission in my diocese, if I agree. There is no diocese in France where you will be more welcome. I don't know of anywhere the mission is more necessary and useful, for the strange ignorance I encounter in my visits horrifies me. I give no directives, neither place, time, or faculties. Everything is up to you. To use Abraham's words, Ecce universa coram te sunt ["Behold, all things lie before you"], [3] and so I am in truth, and from my heart, etc. [4]

Another prelate, whom we shall not identify because he is still living, wrote to Monsieur Vincent in 1651:

The mission is one of the greatest goods I know of, and one of the most necessary. In my diocese there is the greatest ignorance you can imagine among the poor people. If you could see the extent of this ignorance, you would be moved to compassion. I can truthfully say most of those who are Catholic are so in name only, because their fathers were before them, and not because they have the slightest idea of what it means to be a Catholic. What gives me great pain is that we cannot establish any order in the diocese among people who would just as soon go hear a Protestant sermon as come to mass. [5]

Monsieur Vincent was only too well convinced by his own experience of the extreme need the people had of being instructed in what was required for their own salvation, and of being encouraged to make a good general confession. And since it was in the missions that one could fulfill these duties of charity with the greatest fruit and success, he applied himself to them with all his power. Insofar as he could, he recruited for the work those whom he judged to be suited, both of his own Congregation and of others. In the following section we will give a summary of a brief familiar instruction he gave one day to his community on this matter. From it we can gauge his feelings on the necessity and utility of missions.


  1. CED II:40.
  2. Jacques Lescot, a doctor of theology of the Sorbonne, and Cardinal Richelieu's confessor. Named bishop of Chartres in 1641, he was consecrated in 1643. He died in 1656 at the age of sixty-three.
  3. Based on Gen 13:9.
  4. CED III:180-81.
  5. CED IV:284.

This page:
Introduction to Book Two, Chapter One: The Missions of Monsieur Vincent

Index of Abelly: Book Two