Working for the Credibility of the Church in Lent

Saint John Paul II said to Vincentians in 1986

“ …search out more than ever, with boldness, humility, and skill, the causes of poverty and encourage short and long-term solutions; adaptable and effective concrete solutions. By doing so, you will work for the credibility of the Gospel and of the Church.”

I have quoted the first words often… but for some reason the second sentence eluded me. Now I reread St. John Paul’s words in the context of thinking about Lent as a time for personal systemic change. His focus on seeking underlying causes and long-term solutions gave me a new perspective on some challenges for me this Lent.

Seeking long-term solutions to my self-centeredness

I never thought of connecting his words to my Lenten practice. Perhaps it was because he spoke them in another context over 30 years ago. But now I am reminded of working toward my personal long-term reforms by addressing my need for Vincent’s 5 virtues.

Lent is a time to look at the underlying causes of my lack of awareness of God’s call in my own life. In moments of clarity, I can recognize when I am not honest with myself and God. It is so easy to get caught up in my own world, and there are the times when I vacillate between a lack of discipline and unrealistic expectations of myself.

As I reflected on this I realized these are the very realities that Vincent addressed when he described the five virtues he recommended to his followers. Vincent’s five virtues might be translated as long-term solutions to things that get in the way of our relationship to our God and our sisters and brothers.

  • Honest (Simplicity)
  • Approachable (Meekness)
  • Self-disciplined (Mortification)
  • Realistic (Humility)
  • Hard-working (Zeal for souls)

Working for the credibility of the Gospel and the Church

Connecting the dots… Aren’t these values crucially important in working toward long-term solutions with the forgotten people of our world?

Seeking long-term solutions is a place where the personal and the societal present similar challenges. As I work on translating Vincent’s 5 virtues in my life AND work towards seeking long-term solutions to poverty, I am also working toward the credibility of the Gospel.

  • The Good News of the Gospel is manifested when people see us embodying the 5 Vincentian values.
  • The Good News of the Gospel is manifested when we walk with the forgotten seeking long-term solutions to the structural problems they face.

It is not a question of either-or. Once again it is a question of the Vincentian “AND.” Our Lenten reform requires us to seek long-term changes in our own lives as well as in the systems in which those we serve live.


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