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

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Some Remarkable Words of Monsieur Vincent About the Mission

One day, speaking to his community, he said:

We have the duty of working for the salvation of the poor country people because this is what God has called us to. Saint Paul urges us to be faithful to our vocation, to correspond to the eternal designs of God upon us. This work for the poor is the foundation of our Congregation, all the rest is accessory. We would never have worked with the ordinands nor with the seminaries for priests if we had not judged them necessary to preserve the people in good condition and to maintain the good results of the missions, by providing good priests for them. In this we imitate military conquerors who leave garrisons in their conquered territory lest they lose what they won with such difficulty. How happy we are, my brothers! We live the very vocation of Jesus Christ. Who imitates his life on earth better than our missionaries? I speak not only of our own members, but those apostolic workers of all different orders who give missions both within and outside the kingdom. Those are the great workers, while we are only in their shadow. Look at how they go to the Indies, to Japan, to Canada, to advance the work of Jesus Christ who remained faithful to his call from the first moment his Father had sent him.

Imagine his speaking to us: Go forth missionaries! Go where I send you. These poor souls await you, for their salvation depends in part on your preaching and your catechizing. We ought to think hard about this, my brothers, for God has destined us to work in this particular place, this time and with these people. In other times he chose prophets in the same way, to preach in a certain place, and to certain people, not expecting them to go anywhere else. What will we answer to God if by our fault some of these poor people die and are lost? Will we have nothing to worry about, if we in some way are responsible for their damnation by not having helped them as much as we could? Should we not fear that we will be held to account at the hour of our death? If on the contrary we cooperate with the grace of our vocation, will we not have reason to hope that God will increase his grace in us every day, strengthen our Company by new members of such character that they will act in his spirit, and bless all our efforts? All those souls who attain eternal salvation through our ministry will be our advocates before God in heaven.

How happy they will be at the hour of their death who will see accomplished in themselves these beautiful words of our Lord: Evangelizare pauperibus misit me Dominus! ["the Lord has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor"]. [1] See, my brothers, how it seems our Lord wants to tell us by these words that one of his main concerns was to work for the poor. Cursed shall we be if we fail to serve and help them. After we have been called by God and have given ourselves to him for this purpose, he relies in some way upon us. Remember the words of a holy Father of the Church: Si non pavisti, occidisti, ["If you have not fed them, you have killed them."] which applied to corporal things, but could equally be said of the spiritual, and with even greater justification.

Think if we do not have reason to tremble if we fail on this point, if by age, or because of some infirmity or indisposition, we pull back and lose our first fervor. Despite my years, even I do not feel excused from the service I owe the poor. What could hinder me? If I cannot preach every day, what about twice a week? If I am not strong enough to reach all my congregation from great pulpits, could I not speak from small ones? If my voice is not strong enough for even that, what prevents my speaking simply and familiarly to these good people, like I am doing at this very moment, with them gathered around, just like you are now?

I know of some older persons who on the day of judgment may rise against us. Among others there is a good Jesuit of saintly life who used to preach at court. When he was sixty years of age he became ill, and came within a hair's breadth of death. God made him aware of how vain and useless his polished and studied sermons were, to such an extent that he was filled with remorse. When he recovered he sought permission to catechize and preach to the poor country people. He spent twenty years in this charitable work until his death. On his deathbed he asked that the pointer he used in his catechism lessons be buried with his body. As he said, it would be a symbol of his having left the court to serve the Lord in the person of the poor country people.

Perhaps some wish to live a long life, and so fear that work on the missions will shorten their days and hasten the hour of their death. They may seek to exempt themselves from this work as though it were an evil to be avoided. I would ask those who think like this if it is an evil for one who has been traveling in a strange country to come back to his native shores? Is it an evil for the sailor to arrive safely at his port? Is it an evil for a faithful soul to see and possess God? Is it an evil for missionaries to rejoice in the glory merited for them by the suffering and death of our divine master? What? Do you fear this day which should be so highly prized, and which can never come too soon?

What I say to the priests here, I say as well to those who have not been ordained, to you brothers. No, my brothers, do not think that because you do not preach you are excused from working for the salvation of the poor. You do so in your own way, perhaps more effectively even than the preachers, and certainly with less danger to yourselves. You are obliged to it because you form a single body with us, just like the various members of the body of Jesus Christ. All his members participated in their own way in the act of our redemption. The head of Jesus Christ was crowned with thorns, but his feet were pierced with nails and attached to the cross. After the resurrection of Jesus, the head of Christ was crowned with glory, but the feet too participated in his triumph. [2]


  1. Luke 4:18.
  2. CED IV:133-37.

This page:
Abelly: Book Two/Chapter One/Section Section One/Part One: The Diocese of Paris

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