The identity of the Christian God: The Holy Trinity. The Gospel of St John, 16, 12-15, refers to the three divine persons, and how the Holy Spirit, proceeding from the Father and the Son, will bring us truth and the fullness of love.
At the same time, this was a mystery very dear to Saint Vincent. So much so, that it was at the heart of his spirituality. It was not an abstract mystery for him, instead he draws from it references for a better way of living together. He emphasises that God is “a chasm of tenderness”, and “a spirit of mercy”. God loves always, and in new ways, since love is creative. He compares the goodness of God to that of a loving Father.
He understands that God is infinite love, and from this love he explains the unity of God and the distinctiveness of the persons. He loves to contemplate the Trinitarian mystery inwardly (“ad intra”), as a mystery of love expressed as communion. In this way, the internal movements of the Divine, technically called “divine procession”, are an interchange of love.
He also contemplates the Trinitarian mystery from the viewpoint of the history of salvation. This external movement, technically known as “Trinitarian mission”, is another expression of love. He emphasises the unity of the divine act, noting that all work outwards (“ad extra”) is done by the three divine persons: all three create, redeem and sanctify. Similarly, God comes as a friend, to live in the human person.
Vincent de Paul drew some very specific consequences from these thoughts, particularly thinking of people engaged in service to those in need. In other words, reflections which are very appropriate for us.
Let’s look at some examples. As the Triune God is perfect unity, communities and associations must reflect this unity and love. Saint Vincent invites communities to be trinitarian themselves, since the Trinitarian mystery is the soul of harmonious living. In this way, all of us, as members of the SSVP, are called to live in reciprocity, sharing our life and apostolate.
An association inspired by the Trinity is characterised by its warm friendship, by a love born from the heart. This cordiality enables valuable exchanges: sharing our own experiences, being open-hearted. We will also be a place of forgiveness and reconciliation. We are witnesses and messengers of God’s mercy. Vincent de Paul well knew the problems of working together, and understood the difficulties in achieving a true family life together. So he invites us to allow the Triune God to guide us. He knew perfectly what there is of evil in everyone, but he also perceived the glimpses of goodness. And from these, with infinite patience, he transformed people through love. This must also be how we behave, among ourselves and among our needy friends.
In particular, he asked those who fulfil a role of leadership and service (our officers) to be the first in practising charity and humility.
Another lesson which is very useful to us, is to avoid any gossip. How do we do this? We let the Triune God guide us. We know that gossiping creates a bad atmosphere within groups. Saint Vincent challenges us on this:
“I would like to see this holy practice spread among us: to see everything as good. May it be said, that in the Church of God, there is a company which professes itself very united, never speaking ill of people behind their backs, let it be said of the Mission it is a community which never finds anything to criticise among its brothers. The truth is, I value this more than all the missions, the preaching, the occupations among the ordained, and all the other blessings God has given to the company, all the more as in us the image of the most Holy Trinity would then be more firmly imprinted in us…from today, all the members of this company accept this challenge: to see whoever speaks best and who defends the most those who are absent”
Meditating on the Trinity serves not only to reinvigorate the inner life of those who do live together closely, but also helps it to further dignify the person in need. Following the example of the Trinity, we come together in order to care for those in need. For myself and for you, dear sisters and brothers, I wish to learn the truth of the Christian God, not only to make our faith stronger, but also to improve the way we act. As Blessed Frédéric Ozanam also used to do.
 E. S. XI, 45-46.
F. Andrés R. M. Motto, CM.