[Barcelona Province – Spain] “If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move.” When we speak of faith as a gift, “the gift of faith”, we come into mystery. In view of possible discouragements, the words of Jesus word come to mind: “Blessed be those who believe without seeing”. The Beatitudes encourage us to respond, in fidelity, to the gift received, never earned as a salary… Therein is its force.
The theme of the 38th Vincentian Week, “To the service of faith and charity“, has given unity to the different conferences about “Systemic Change” and the “Martyrdom of our brothers and sisters”.
Systemic Change, promoted for some years by the Vincentian Family, has “stories” that demonstrate that “Faith can move mountains“. To change systems hardened by selfishness is not easy, but the actions of those who believe that God is our Father and we all are brothers and sisters show that, when one acts in faith, “everything is possible”.
“Systemic change” sounds like utopia… but didn’t the projects of Vincent de Paul and Louise of Marillac, also seem utopian? Actions give the best answer: the fight against the powerful oppressor, organized charity, poor persons rehabilitated, etc. To be dressed with the attitude of Christ was for them, in the words of Fr. José Mª Ibáñez, “… to carry out the Father’s will of liberating, transforming, saving the poor, saving men and women.”
We usually say history is a teacher of life, and the “stories” Fr. Robert Maloney and his team told us in Salamanca were instructive. They help us to believe in the potentiality that underlies the heart of the Vincentian Family.
Faith, as gift and mystery, must be verified so it is believable. Again Fr. José Mª Ibáñez in his book “Faith verified in love,” demonstrated how faith without love could die. But love is not free… Jesus took his love until the end, nailed on the cross; he gave his life for those he loved… This was, and is, his way and our faith.
For our Sister and Brother Martyrs, there was no other option. Their faith, already testified to in their love of the poor, had Christ as their teacher and model, the final ending in violent death. Rooted in Christ by their baptism, and having confirmed their option of life by Vows, they found in the Company and in the Congregation of the Mission the appropriate place and insurance to serve and to die loving. For that reason death was not for them the end of the road …; it was the step through the door to the Kingdom where love is everything, and will never fade, because it is the greatest virtue (1 Co. 13).
In these days of apparent unbelief, where the value of the Kingdom is minimized as an option in life, it may seem an anachronism to speak of our martyrs. It is possible that, deep down inside, we doubt the effectiveness of some massive beatifications… It is possible that we believe this movement to be useless because (we say this sometimes) they “have already completed their mission and they are with God… “. It is possible we forget that the life of Christians is a race and its goal is a crown for those “who dare” to arrive.
In Salamanca the speakers about martyrdom and martyrs reminded us that the history of the Church is the history of the cross. God could have chosen a better way to heal wounded humanity for their sin, but we already know what his preference was: He sent his Son so that, once sown, the seed of love would endure suffering, abandonment and violent death. Against all logic, He “triumphed over the cross” and God exalted him, transforming pain into “a Feast”. Many Christians have had the privilege to be united with Christ in that end, after teaching, healing, consecrating and distributing the Bread of God, and doing good deeds to their brothers and sisters wherever they were sent to serve; for that reason it is compulsory to celebrate it. Christ’s Church recognizes, values and celebrates these faithful children. They have arrived at their goal with their hearts overflowing with happiness because, in spite of all, they knew how to forgive.
How lovely to hear about them! What joy to be able to relate to today and tomorrow’s people, their unshakable fidelity to the faith they have received in their baptism! What happiness to be able to sing their victory over evil! What motive of pride for the Vincentian Family to have in their home sons and daughters for whom the love of God and poor persons was so imperative!
“Oh Saviour,” Saint Vincent will say, “how good servants of the Gospel and Charity they are! God be blessed, Brothers and Sisters!”
Sister Rosa Mendoza, Daughter of Charity