Abelly: Book 2/Chapter 01/Section 01/Part 05

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The General Results of the Missions Given by Monsieur Vincent and the Missionaries of His Congregation

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The Gospel maxim recalls that we know the tree by the fruit it produces. There is no more assured way of judging its vigor and fertility than by examining what it brings forth. In a similar way, we can judge the excellence and usefulness of the missions and the labors of the missionaries by looking at the great good they have engendered in all the Church. We will speak first of these results in general, and then in more detail, but simply and without exaggeration. We are not writing a panegyric, but a simple recital of events. The reader will derive greater satisfaction and even edification from this seeing that what is reported is done so with sincerity and without any attempt at cleverness.

We have already spoken in Book One [1] of how, even before he founded the Congregation, Monsieur Vincent had begun the first missions in 1617, and continued to give them up to 1625, not only in the towns and villages of several dioceses but also in the hospital of the Petites Maisons in Paris and in the galleys at Bordeaux. Several learned and pious priests, and even some of noble birth, helped him in this work. We do not know the number of missions given by Monsieur Vincent himself during these seven or eight years. He gave them, however, in almost all the territory of the house of de Gondi, including that which belonged to the wife of the general of the galleys, in the villages, towns and hamlets which number close to forty, not to mention those he gave elsewhere.

Since the beginning of the Congregation in 1625 until 1632 when it moved to Saint Lazare, either he or his confreres gave more than one hundred forty missions. From 1632 until the death of this great servant of God, the house at Saint Lazare alone hosted nearly seven hundred, at some of which he himself participated, with great blessings. If we add to these the missions preached by the other houses of the Congregation, established in more than twenty-five dioceses both inside and outside the kingdom of France, who can conceive the extent and the diversity of benefits they reaped, tending to the glory of God and the good of his Church?

Who can count the number of persons in blameworthy ignorance of the truths of salvation who were instructed in the truths they were obliged to know? How many others had lived their entire lives in a state of sin, from which they were freed through a good general confession? How many sacrileges committed by receiving the sacraments unworthily have been redeemed? How many enmities and hatreds and cases of usury have ended? How many bad marriages and other scandals have been rectified? How many pious practices and charitable enterprises have been encouraged? How many good works and virtues have been begun in places where they were scarcely known? How many souls were sanctified and saved, who now glorify God in heaven? Without the help they received in the missions they might otherwise have died in their sin, and might now be blaspheming and cursing God with the demons in hell. God alone knows the extent and number of all the good his grace effected through his faithful servants, and which will one day be revealed to his own greater glory. To put all this in few words, it seemed his merciful Providence wished to use the missions to accomplish the ends which brought about the incarnation of his Son, and which were foretold by the prophet: "to banish iniquity, destroy and exterminate sin, and reestablish sanctity and justice." [2]

While awaiting eternity, when God will reveal all that was accomplished, we will give in the following chapters some small samples of the effects of the missions. First, however, we must say a few words about them.

We must first say that the missionaries did not make an accounting of their successes. They were too busy in doing good to spend time writing about it. What we have learned, almost by chance, comes from extracts from letters written by the bishop of the diocese in which the missions had been given, or possibly from superiors writing to Monsieur Vincent to tell him of what had occurred on the mission they were responsible for. If it had been possible to examine every letter, undoubtedly even better things would have come to light, but the recital would have been too long. The little we will mention will enable us to judge all the rest.

Our second remark is that Monsieur Vincent did not want his missionaries to conduct the missions in haste or on the run. He wanted them to take all the time necessary to accomplish all they had set out to do, that is, instruct the people, convert sinners, sanctify souls, and reestablish the service of God. When working in a particular place they would not leave until all the people had been well taught, their status rectified, using for this all the time necessary. [3] In the larger places the missionaries would remain for five or six weeks, but in the smaller towns or villages they might stay three weeks or so. For even smaller places, two weeks might suffice.

Monsieur Vincent set down as a rule that all who would give themselves to God to serve him in the Congregation must be free from all business or financial obligations. If so, they could devote themselves completely to the work of the missions, in imitation of the Son of God who went from town to town preaching the Gospel to the poor.

Although Monsieur Vincent's main care was meeting the extreme needs of the poor of the countryside, and he was chiefly committed to them, he was also mindful of people in the larger cities. He encouraged other virtuous priests, especially those who attended the Tuesday Conferences at Saint Lazare, to undertake missions in the larger cities of the kingdom, and even in Paris itself. Partly because of his charitable advice and directions, these missions were abundantly blessed.

Even in other provinces, a large number of other priests recognized the good effects of the missions given by Monsieur Vincent and his confreres and grouped together. They founded companies to give missions and work for the instruction and salvation of the poor. Some did this in imitation of his zeal, while others were moved, perhaps, by a spirit of emulation. But the great servant of God, animated by a truly apostolic charity, approved, appreciated, and highly praised these works undertaken for the service of God, whatever their motivation. It made no difference to him, as long as Jesus Christ was preached, his holy name known and glorified, and souls, redeemed by his blood, were sanctified and saved.


  1. Ch. 8.
  2. Dan 9:24.
  3. See CED VII:56.

This page:
Abelly: Book Two/Chapter One/Section Section One/Part Five: The General Results of the Missions Given by Monsieur Vincent and the Missionaries of His Congregation

Index of this section:
Abelly: Book Two/Chapter One/Section One/Index: His Missions in General

Index of this chapter:
Abelly: Book Two/Chapter One/Index: The Missions of Monsieur Vincent

Index of:
Abelly: Book Two