Vincentian Virtues

  1. Simplicity – the virtue of transparency
  • Becoming frank, sincere people, who tell the truth 
  • Core values: speaking and witnessing the truth

This is the virtue St. Vincent loved most. “It is my gospel,” he says. Listen to how St. Vincent describes simplicity: “Jesus, the Lord, expects us to have the simplicity of a dove. This means giving a straightforward opinion about things in the way we honestly see them, without needless reservations. It also means doing things without any double-dealing or manipulation, our intention being focused solely on God. Each of us, then, should take care to behave always in this spirit of simplicity, remembering that God likes to deal with the simple, and that he conceals the secrets of heaven from the wise and prudent of this world and reveals them to little ones. But while Christ recommends the simplicity of a dove he tells us to have the prudence of a serpent as well. What he means is that we should speak and behave with discretion. We ought, therefore, to keep quiet about matters which should not be made known, especially if they are unsuitable or unlawful … In actual practice this virtue is about choosing the right way to do things.” (CR 11, 4-5.)

  1. Humility – the virtue of closeness.
  • Recognising that we depend on others. 
  • We live in an interdependent and related world. 
  • We need others and we cannot live without them

Jesus said “Learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart.” Humility is basic to gospel spirituality. The kingdom of God belongs to the poor in spirit. God resists the proud; he raises up the humble. We must stand before God humbly in our daily prayer, and have the attitude of a servant.

  1. Meekness / Affability – virtue of proper attitude.
  • Learning to master anger and control impulses. 
  • Practicing sweetness in dealing with people, while being clear in our convictions. 
  • Refraining from harsh words and judgments about others. 
  • Working on our ability to excuse and forgive. 
  • Always being willing to do a favour, and serving in hope.

Jesus says that the meek shall be happy. St. Vincent believed this word of the Lord and won the hearts of the poor because his meekness developed as warmth, approachability, openness, deep respect for the person of others. Although he tells us that he was irritable by nature, he asked God to change his heart: “Grant me a kindly and benign spirit…” (see Abelly, U. 111, 177-178.)

  1. Mortification / Sacrifice – The Virtue of generosity.
  • Exercising the mortification of one’s own interests to place the interest of our neighbour first, especially those in need. 
  • Making time to show solidarity with others and to help them in their needs. 
  • Striving for a sober and austere life in order to have more resources to share. 
  • Being tolerant of others. 
  • Becoming accustomed to channelling all our energies for the good of our neighbour and the common good.

Jesus calls us to follow him even unto death. He asks us to die to sin daily. St. Vincent knew these gospel imperatives very well. We must be faithful to our duties of serving the poor, and prefer them when they conflict with other more pleasurable things.

  1. Zeal / Passion – the intensity of an effective love.
  • An ardent faith, committed to a mission, capable of spreading by the strength of its testimony. 
  • The total availability to abandon oneself to the will of God. 
  • A passionate love for God, our Father, and for the most needy, our brothers and sisters. Love that feels. Love that inflames. Love that expands. Love that is committed

Vincent loved, with a burning love. “Let us beg God to enkindle in our hearts a desire to serve him…” (SV XI, 75.) We must labor long as servants of the poor– while remembering that although the Lord asks us to cooperate in his work, it still remains His work. So we must strive to live a balanced life, so that we might have the energy that nourishes zeal.