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Page:Catholic Encyclopedia, volume 10.djvu/412

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MISSION


360


MISSION


were culturct), but the rural clergy were ignorant and neglected their (locks, who, in face of the disorders created by the conflict between the Protestant Refor- mation and Catholicism, not knowing which to be- lieve, lost all interest in religion. To remedy this indifference and this ignorance, was what Vincent de Paul chiefly sought. The first missions of the Lazarists were in the suburbs of Paris and in Picardy and Champagne. The method and rule given by St. Vincent de Paul has been preserved for us by Abelly, a contemporary of the saint. It is in all essentials identical with the system used by his missionaries and in fact by all modern missionaries. "There was one thing that Mr. Vincent observed on the missions", says Abelly, his contemporary biographer, "and which he wished his spiritual sons to observe most faithfully; to give all the instructions and render all services gratuitously without being in any way a charge to those to whom they render these offices of charity", and this the priests of the Mission have in- violably observed. It was for this reason that Vin- cent de Paul would not agree to the establishment of a mission house imless it had a sufficient foundation to allow the missions to be given gratuitously. In the United States indeed where there are no founda- tions it has been the custom of St. Vincent's mission- aries to accept whatever offering might be made them, but this usage is confined to English speaking coun- tries, elsewhere this most disinterestetl custom is in full vigour. The fruits of these missions were very marked and many bishops desired to procure this blessing for their dioceses. Soon after the establish- ment of the congregation, while he was at the College des Bons Enfants, that is to say from 1625 to 16.32, St Vincent himself gave one hundred and forty missions.

In 1638 Louis XIII wished Vincent to have his missionaries give a mission at St. Germain-en-Laye near Paris, where he then was with all the court. Vin- cent offered many e.xcuses but to no avail. He recommended his missionaries to preach as simply at court as they did in the rural districts, having nothing in view but the good of souls. The mission was a com- plete success and Anne of Austria a few years later, 1641, asked for another in the same place and under the same circumstances. Mission preaching has been employed in every age of the Church ; but systematic parish missions as now understood were commenced by St. Vincent de Paul (American Eccles. Rev., XI, 90), and the wonderful influence of the modern form of this great work of zeal dates from the first missions of St. Vincent and his companions in the infant Con- gregation of the Mission. St. Vmcent cites instances: "A mission was given among the banditti and these wretched people were converted by the grace of God." Elsewhere he generalizes: "Of all the means which the Almighty has left to mankind for the correcting of their lives there is none that has produced effects more striking, more multiplied and more marvelous than the exercises of a mission." What the spiritual exercises of St. Ignatius have done for religious and the clergy and for individuals among the laity, the missions as organized by the Lazarists have done for the people at large. Vincent fully appreciated the value of retreats and his house and the houses of his sons have always been open to laymen and clerics for retreat. From their foundation to the present time innumerable missions have been given throughout the Catholic world and the pioneers in the field have done a goodly share of the work. It has been, however, earnestly pursued by almost all the active orders and, e.specially in recent years, by zealous members of the diocesan priesthood. St. Vincent always insisted that this is the chief work of his community and should be held in the highest esteem by all its members.

From lfi.52 to 1 660 more than seven hundred missions were given from the house of St. Lazare alone. The


number of those given by the missionaries in various dioceses of France cannot be reckoned.

(2) Parishes and Chapels. — It is only with regret that the Lazarist Missionaries accept chapels and parishes. For they wish to be free to go here and there on missions to give the help peeufiar to their ministry, and by preaching and hearing confessions to revive if need he or maintain the good effects of the work of llic parish priests. They accepted the charge of parislus and cliapels only in two circumstances: when they could make of these parishes a residence for other missionaries who would go out preaching missions, or when circumstances made it impossible to refuse. An example of these circumstances is the parish of Richelieu founded by the Cardinal of that name, minister of Louis XIII, and the parish of Sedan. In 1638 Cardinal Richelieu wished to establish the Lazarists not only in the city of his ducal title but also in the Diocese of Lu^on of which he had been bishop. By an act of 4 Jan., passed at Ruel, he obtained of Vincent seven priests who were to be sent to Richelieu in the following February, and to whom three others should be added within two years. Four of these the act declares " shall remain at Richelieu to perform the functions of the mission. The three others shall be sent every five years for the same purpose, to every town and village of the duchy, and while awaiting the time to begin their rounds again they shall give mis- sions in the Diocese of Poitiers, or other places in the adjacent country as it shall please His Eminence to arrange. The three remaining priests shall be sent to Lui,'on for the same purpose and all shall go to the country four times a year at the period most suited for this work, and labour there for six weeks each time. One of the four priests living at Richelieu shall act as pastor with as many assistants as shall be deemed expedient. In the house of Richelieu shall be received gratuitously and for twelve days those who are to be ordained for the Diocese of Poitiers at the four seasons of the year, and for fifteen days such priests of the diocese as the Bishop of Poitiers shall send to make the exercises of the spiritual retreat". On his part the cardinal agrees to have erected and to furnish a suitable house and to obtain the annexa- tion of the parish to the Congregation of the Mission and to procure for it the necessary revenues.

Sometimes special spiritual needs have caused the Lazarists to accept a parish. Hardly was Louis XIII in possession of Sedan when he desired Vincent to send his priests there. The needs of religion were very pressing for, through their continual intercourse with the Huguenots, the number of Catholics was daily diminishing and the true faith almost extin- guished. 'I'lic p;irisli of Sedan was at first transferred to the MissidTi l>y (he Archbishop with the consent of the Abbot Mouzun and the religious of the abbey, and Louis XIII gave an annual income of 2,500 livres for the administration of the parish and the support of the missions. Besides a priest to officiate at Balan, there were to be at Sedan a parish priest, seven other priests, and two brothers. At least four of the priests were to remain in charge of the work of the parish and four others were to preach missions to the people of the surroimding country. Three more priests were added in 1680, because since its foundation in 1644 the number of communicants had increased by two- thirds. Soon, of more than 10,000 inhabitants among whom at first not more than 1,500 Catholics could be counted, hardly a third part remained heretics. It was by means of the pacific method always recom- mended by St. Vincent, that the Lazarists thus diminished the number of Protestants and increased so wonderfully the number of Catholics. Instead of controversies which often embitter hearts, they pre- ferred the explanatory system which gave solid and practical instruction to Catholics and Protestants alike. At the same time they extended their labours