The year is now 2022…so Happy New Year! New things always seem to produce fascination and excitement. For children, a new doll or bicycle often elicit squeals of joy. A new car or even a new house may not cause a shriek for more subdued adults, yet the underlying smiling emotions are undeniable. Even our new year’s resolutions have the appeal and anticipation of a renewed self–physically, socially, spiritually. A quick look in the mirror, or an even more profound reflection, calls for a “new me.” And so we set out in January with conviction and determination to achieve our hopefully realistic goals, the allure of the “new” silently prodding us forward.
As Vincentians, let’s revisit the concept of spiritual renewal for 2022. Let’s start with a bit of a riddle: What do we call “new” even though it’s hundreds of years old? The answer is the New Testament. We call this latter section of the Bible “New” as opposed to the Old Testament, the God-inspired Hebrew literature before the coming of the Messiah. And as we all know, the New Testament forms the foundation of our Catholic Christian faith, containing the Gospel message of Christ…the “Good News” of salvation. (There’s that word “new” again.) We should also undoubtedly be aware that the four gospels are not just a passing announcement but a call to action. Faith without good works simply doesn’t add up. Nowhere is this spelled out more clearly than in the 25th chapter of Matthew’s gospel, where Jesus puts Himself squarely in the person of the poor and lets us know precisely how we should treat Him.
St. Vincent de Paul got the message and put it into action in exemplary fashion. He famously set the “gold standard” for responding to the poor with a love of Christ and for the Christ he saw in them. A century and a half later, Blessed Frederic Ozanam’s response created our Society of St. Vincent de Paul, giving structure and spiritual motivation to an organization effectively answering the Lord’s call. It’s hard to imagine the spread of the Society into 150 countries without the prayerful approach that has guided it for nearly 180 years. Spirituality remains the underlying foundation that perpetuates our mission, motivates our actions, and keeps us on the path to our heavenly home through service to the poor.
This past November, I had the good fortune of immersing myself in the Invitation for Renewal in St. Louis, a five-day retreat reinforcing Vincentian ideals and commitment. It was a spiritual experience I highly recommend. It is aptly named, as all 29 of us emerged renewed in mind and heart in our dedication to the poor. I pray that this renewed spirit spills over to the new year not only on my part but on the part of all my Vincentian brothers and sisters. A new you, a new me– ready for the challenges of the new year. That’s what’s new!