Dear Monsieur Vincent,
I feel that I should begin this letter with an introduction, but I believe you already know who I am. Or at least I hope so - I hope you hear all those times I whisper under my breath "oh, Vincent de Paul, pray for me!" Serving with the poor can be hair-pulling frustrating sometimes - but you know that and inspire me to continue on anyway.
You're a saint for all ages, Monsieur Vincent. I write to you today, as our dear Saint Louise de Marillac did. I'm afraid I don't have any strange home remedies for illness as she did for you, though I don't think you need them anymore. Nevertheless, I try to write to you with the same familiarity that she did. You were her inspiration...and just as she is mine, you are as well. If others have written you, I'm sure some have been sharing about systemic change or the state of health care or something similar....but I think by now, you know that I have a very simple soul.
On Tuesday, we'll celebrate the 351st anniversary of your death. Here, we're having a Mass and reception with the Vincentian family in your honor. I don't know if you've looked around our little corner of Georgia lately, but I can say with good certainty that you'd be pretty proud of your Daughters here...of the school, of the parish, of the ministry for poor mothers, of the new day shelter for the homeless. As you know, though it's been almost 400 years since you founded the Daughters of Charity, poverty still exists. It may look different than what you saw on those French streets but it has the same sting, the same cycle, and we see the very same face of Christ. And the Daughters, like the Sisters in the past, love them all the same.
Monsieur Vincent, I must admit that I haven't started reading the Conferences you gave to the first Sisters. I've heard though that they're full of incredible wisdom that you gave the first Sisters, the first to dedicate themselves as both servants of the poor and religious women. I wonder how they felt, taking the first footsteps in an adventure no one knew the future of. If you would give us in formation a Conference here in 2011, what would you say? As you know, our postulant is coming back, I'm here and, God willing, we have two more prepostulants on the way. What would you say to us, a group of bright-eyed 20-something's?
Or maybe I'm asking more specifically and more selfishly, what would you say to me? Would you smile and say "trust in God, that's all you need. stop worrying about everything"? Or sternly tell me that I'm not praying as often as I should, tell me that being a Daughter of Charity means also being a daughter of prayer? Would you remind me that the poor are my Masters, to pause and see the face of Christ in them every day? Or maybe you'd tell me all of those things. And my unspoken response would be "how?"...but maybe somehow you'd already see that question on my mind and tell me the way to perfection is trusting in God and following His will?
Well, Monsieur, it's approaching 1am here in Georgia, which means I should end this letter and begin to get some sleep.I end this letter with a heartfelt plea to continue to pray for me, as I continue to follow in the large footsteps you and your Daughters have left, with a deep longing to one day meet you, and with profound love and admiration for the instrument of God that He made you to be.