Symposium for the 400th Anniversary from 12 through 15 October 2017 in Rome

The symposium took place in Rome from the 12th to the 15th of October. It will be the occasion for a friendly and congenial meeting among all the members of the Vincentian Family who live today in the spirit of St. Vincent de Paul. 

The theme of the jubilee year, which celebrates the 400th anniversary of the birth of the charism, is “Welcoming the Stranger.”  Pope Francis will be at the celebration and during the Year of Consecrated Life, he insisted on the importance of, “looking at the past with thanks, living the present with passion and embracing the future with hope.” These same words will guide us towards an intense sharing between lay and consecrated persons, coming from many countries of the world. About 2600 participants are expected to share their experiences and creatively imagine the future of service with our most vulnerable brothers and sisters. 

To prepare for these three days, we are invited to a three-fold biblical reflection: 

Exodus, the way and the journey. Like a triptych, which gives relief and movement to a painting, it invites us to move both physically and spiritually. It leads us to re-discover our identity as one wandering for God, one looking for his presence in our contemporaries and in ourselves. 

  • Exodus: remaining and leaving;

Ex 14: 10 and 13  

Now Pharaoh was near when the Israelites looked up and saw that the Egyptians had set out after them. Greatly frightened, the Israelites cried out to the Lord. But Moses answered the people, “Do not fear! Stand your ground and see the victory the Lord will win for you today. For these Egyptians whom you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you have only to keep still.” 

“Welcoming the Stranger”: first would we not welcome the Stranger in us, this unknown who turns us to our creator? Who are we? Where will our lives lead us? Our own misunderstandings give many possibilities to discover our inner landscapes. To go and leave our predefined roads, to go beyond our fears, to doubt our doubts, to listen to our questions, to tame ourselves … And to believe, to believe “that the Lord will fight for us”, that we will be saved from our multiple slaveries.  

The way: go forward step by step 

“Welcoming the Stranger”: Jesus is the first Stranger to welcome. He who is “other”, so close and so distant. His words and attitudes disconcert us, make us take unexpected paths, unsuspected decisions … His omnipresence at our side remains a mystery that we perceive only by a mere trace. Step by step, he walks with us, step by step we walk with him, often without recognizing him. He pretends to leave … he waits for our invitation, “stay with us”. He comes to stay, he enters and humbly remains. 

Luke 24: 15, 18, 28

And it happened that while they were conversing and debating, Jesus himself drew near and walked with them… 

…“Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know of the things that have taken place there in these days?”  

…Jesus gave the impression that he was going on farther. 29But they urged him, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening and the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them. 

  • The journey from Calvary to the Resurrection: to become a witness

“Welcoming the Stranger”. It is because Jesus welcomed the Stranger that he was condemned to death. Welcoming the Stranger is to welcome what is foreign to our perceptions, what disturbs us, what we do not want to accept or see. The poor and sinful person has no place in a vision where everything is for oneself. The poor person can be frightening and reveals what we could lose and what we could become.  God became a man, perishable flesh, word of truth, choice for life stronger than death. Those who have followed and still follow Jesus try with their own frailties to make their way to life, through Him, with Him and in Him, bearing witness to his gentle presence in their own experience.  

  • The journey to the New Jerusalem: the Utopian journey 

Isaiah 2: 3,4

That he may instruct us in his ways, and we may walk in his paths.  
They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks;
One nation shall not raise the sword against another, nor shall they train for war again. 

 Isaiah 9: 1, 3, 9

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; 
For the yoke that burdened them, the pole on their shoulder, the rod of their taskmaster, you have smashed. 
They shall not harm or destroy on all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be filled with knowledge of the LORD, as water covers the sea. 

Isaiah 66: 18 

I am coming to gather all nations and languages. 

“Welcoming the Stranger” God’s promises for his people are promises that are entrusted to us to be realized. But these promises tremendous, idealistic and foreign to reason. How, in a world where difficulties and obstacles are so publicized, would there be a space for believing in this new life, in the darkness that gives rise to light? Christ, has taken the road to the new Jerusalem, not without constraints but in full confidence in the love that passes through every trial. 

Let us dare to believe in the creative power of these three days, three days leading to renewed service of our brothers and sisters!  

For more information go to:   

Sister Valérie 
Daughter of Charity