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Page:Catholic Encyclopedia, volume 10.djvu/410

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MISSION


358


MISSION


a congregation, 1o live in conimunitv, and to devote themselves with the consent of the Lisliop.s to works of charity. Comiininily life being established, St. Vincent could no longer hold as his own property the College des Bons Enfants, which was annexed to the mission by a decree of the Archbishop of I'aris granted S June, 1()'27. The court of the Parlemcnt ordered the registration of the letters patent of l(i27 which the opposition of certain pastors of Paris had delayed, and pontifical authorization was granted by tiie Bull "Salvatoris Nostri" of I'rban VIII, 12 Jan,, 1632. In l().i2 an important change took place in the in- stallation of the new community. On 8 January, Vincent took possession of the house of St. Lazare, then in the outskirts of Paris. It was an immense priory where only eight regular canons of St. Victor remained and which Prior Adrian Le Bon, seeing the great good that \'incent do Paul and his missionaries were accomplishing, had resolved in concert with his religious to transfer to him. An agreement was en- tcretl into between Adrian Le Bon and his religious on one side, and \'incent de Paul acting in the name of his commimity on the other, on 7 Jan., 1G32, and the next day the Archbishop of Paris granted the transfer of the house of St. Lazare, and came himself to intro- duce N'incent. Vincent left some of his priests at the College des Bons Enfants, which was destined to be- come a seminary inider the name of St. Firmin. The liouse of St. Lazare became the headquarters of the Congregation of the Mission.

The Congregation of the Mission, according to the desire of its founder and from a canonical standpoint, is a "congregation of secular clergymen"; this is the term the Sovereign Pontiles use; for instance, Benedict XIII in the Bull of the Beatification of St. Vincent de Paul calls him "Congregationis presbyterorum sa-c- ularium Missionis fmidator" (13 August, 1729). To ensure its permanency St. Vincent surrounded his work with safeguards includmg vows, but on the other hand, for many reasons, was careful to prevent its becoming a religious order. Meanwhile the mis- sionaries extended their labours over France and in foreign lands. They imdertook labours of various kinds. But the exact form of the congregation had not yet been determined. Vincent saw communities around him, which he used to say, people entered and left like a well conducted hotel. In 1042 and 1651 he held two assemblies of the priests who had been long- est with him. They decided at first on a vow of stability, and afterwards on the three ordinary vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, without meaning to form a religious order, though they had due respect for the religious state. Almost immediately after his election Alexander VII completed the work of Ur- ban VIII, confirming the transfer of St. Lazare to the Congregation of the Mission, and authorizing on 22 Sept., by the Brief "Excommisso Nobis", the consti- tution of the commimity. The Brief declares that at the end of two years of probation, simple vows are to be taken, but that nevertheless the community be- longs to the secular clergy. That there might be no question of changing the nature of his institute, Vin- cent did not establish a novitiate for the aspirants to hLs community, but a seminarj-, which is known as in- ternal, to distinguish it from the diocesan or external seminaries. He also made it a rule that his mission- aries wear the dress of secular priests; in a word that they should be distinguished, in the exercise of the apostolic functions, only by their organized effort to save souls (cf. Maynard, "St. Vincent de Paul", I, p. 253, ed. 1S,S6). Such is the canonical status of the Congregation of the Mission.

II. Rui.F, AND fjovERNMENT. — There was, moreover, need of rules according to which the society he had just constituted should perform its functions. Vincent de Paul wished to test first, by experience, what cir- cumstances might gradually require among the mis-


sionaries as to their manner of life and their work. Thus he was 82 years old when, 17 May, 1658, he distributed to the community the little book of "Common Rules or Constitutions". From these rules can be seen the elements of which the congrega- tion is made up, the life it leads, its spirit, and the works to which its energies are directed. The ele- ments, or members, of which it is composed are ac- cording to the "Common Rules", ecclesiastics and laymen. The ecclesiastics are, in imitation of Christ and His disciples, to preach and break the bread of the Word of God, to recall sinners to a Chris- tian life, to give themselves up to various apostolic works which zeal for God's glory may call for among the people and the clergy. The laymen, or coadjutor-brothers, have for their work, while labouring also at their personal sanctification, the care of temporal concerns, and the practice of prayer and mortification to obtain the blessing of God upon the labours of the missionaries. The life prescribed by the rule is that which was led by Jesus Christ and His disciples. It does not prescribe any special austerities. But as Collet, one of the disci- ples of St. Vincent de Paul, says, although the life prescribed has nothing very extraordinary about it. nothing even which the Sacred Canons have not al- ready laid down as a law for ecclesiastics who live in community, the servant of God knew that he must adopt special means to sustain human weakness in so regular and laborious a life. I<"or this purpose he prescribed to his followers the daily exercises of piety which every priest who is desirous of his own perfec- tion should impose on himself. As to their daily inter- course, he especially recommends charity among his followers, urging them in particular not to speak evil of any one, above all of other communities, and never to decry other nations or countries. So far as inter- course with the outside world is concerned, he pre- scribes dependence on superiors, which is a guarantee of prudence and regulates whatever unwisdom might be foimd in even the best intentioned zeal. If, in the words of Abelly, Bishop of Rodez and first biographer of St. Vuicent de Paul, the man of God made it his rule never to anticipate Providence, in the words of another Bishop of Rodez, Cardinal Bourret, in the nmeteenth century, it is not less true to say that St. Vincent de Paul has always followed closely in the footsteps of Providence. Asylums for foundlings, for old people, the institution of the Daughters of Charity, retreats in preparation for ordination, seminaries, the apostolate of foreign missions among the infidels of Madagascar and Barbary, all show the zeal of St. Vincent de Paul, and this zeal he urged his sons not to allow to be extinguished among them after his death. Finally, according to the rules, the works that fonn the special object of the congregation founded by St. Vincent de Paul are thus determined: besides devoting himself to his own perfection, each one shall be employed in preaching the Gospel to the poor, especially to poor country people, and in helping ecclesiastics to the knowledge and virtues requisite for their state.

During the life of the founder, establishments were made not only in France but also in Poland and in Italy. The congregation undertook mission work in the North, in the Hebrides, in the Tropics, in Barbary and Madagascar. It was under Vincent (in 1642) that the houses of the congregation were grouped in provinces, each having at its head a provincial supe- rior called visitor. The same year a rule was intro- duced for the holding of general assemblies, for the election of the superior general, for the nomination of his advisers under the name of assistants, and for other matters of importance. The following estab- lishments were founded in St. Vincent's lifetime: in Paris: Bons Enfans (1625) and St. Lazare (1632); Toul: seminary and mission centre (1635); Notre