Vincentian Marian Youth (VMY) is an International association of young people that began in 1830 when the Blessed Mother appeared to Catherine Labouré, a young woman studying to be a Daughter of Charity. Mary asked (in addition to the Miraculous Medal) that young people be organized in her name and that “graces would be bestowed upon them.” Today this group of young people span the globe in 40 countries with over 200,000 members! The purpose is to energize your faith by connecting you more closely to Jesus Christ and each other. With Mary as our guide and St. Vincent de Paul as our inspiration, we’re taking to heart Jesus’ message in the gospel of Luke: “He has sent me” (Lk4)!
The Association of the Children of Mary Immaculate, known today as "Vincentian Marian Youth Movement" has a universal reach. Born in the midst of the large Family of St. Vincent de Paul, its history is linked to the evolution of the Company of the Daughters of Charity and the Priests of the Congregation of the Mission in their task of Evangelization throughout the entire world. The Association is also called by other names, depending on different countries: JEUNESSE MARIALE (France), ASSOCIATION OF VINCENTIAN LOUISIAN FAMILY (Indonesia), ASOCIAZIONE MARIANA (Italy), etc.
From the very beginning, Saint Vincent de Paul as well as Saint Louise de Marillac inculcated in their sons and daughters a deep love and a great devotion to Mary. God rewarded their initiative and chose a simple Daughter of Charity to be His messenger, and a Priest of the Mission as the intermediary of the message. In 1830, Catherine Laboure, a young peasant girl studying to be a Daughter of Charity in Paris, France, received an apparition from the Blessed Mother in the house chapel. She is a model for all young people of today. Catherine Laboure experienced the sorrows and joys of family life; she was acquainted with the difficulties of her area, the influences of the society of her day… In 1997, we celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of the Church's recognition of her sanctity.
THE HISTORICAL EVENT
Biblical experience tells us that each time God calls, He asks for a response from the person and He sends that person to fulfill a mission. Recall Samuel, Jeremiah, Mary… Catherine hears the call in her native village, Fain- les- Moutiers, and her response to God will be to enter the Company of the Daughters of Charity in Paris as a Postulant in 1829, and afterwards the Seminary at the Motherhouse, in April of 1830. We know the mission God confided to Catherine, by way of Mary, through the apparitions of the Immaculate Virgin. In this historic event we have the Commencement of the Marian Association. This is the how Catherine explained this mission to her Director, Father Aladel, in her communication with him: "The Blessed Virgin wishes to give you a mission …You will be the founder and director of a Confraternity of Children of Mary and to its members abundant graces will be given.” Another message given by the Blessed Virgin was that a medal should be made: the Miraculous Medal, which would be the insignia of the Association.
The first Children of Mary Association was organized into groups in different regions of France. The first fifteen groups were formed between 1835 to 1847. The first Child of Mary was Benigne Hairon and, like so many others, she carne from the boarding school run by the Daughters of Charity. The first meetings of the Children of Mary were called "Marian Cenacles". The Superior General, Father Etiene, obtained Pontifical Approbation from Pope Pius IX on June 20, 1847. In 1850, this approbation was extended to the male branch. The Superior General of the Congregation of the Mission could now establish "the pious Society under the title of the Immaculate Virgin Mary, in all the houses of the congregation throughout the world."
The support given by the Superiors General and the encouragement, admiration and benediction bestowed by the sovereign Pontiffs contributed to the general expansion of the Association.
From 1848 to 1870, expansion, outside of France, took place in several countries of Europe and others continents: in Asia, the Philippines, Lebanon; in Africa, Egypt; and several South American countries. There were 338 fully functioning Centers.
On September 19, 1876, Pope Pius IX signed a Papal Brief permitting young people who were not students of the schools of the Daughters of Charity to belong to the Association.
ORGANIZATION AND LIFE
With regard to the expansion of the Association from its beginnings, through the 19th century until the middle of the 20th century, the "Manuals" were the links and the vehicles for living the spirit. These Manuals were at the same time: a rule, the statutes, and a book of prayers and of spiritual life. After these initial Manuals prepared by Father Aladel, several revised editions made by Fathers Crapez, Tricot and Henrion came out. These revisions were made in accordance with the epoch and the needs of the time. The Marian Congresses were intense times of formation and renewal, which the Association needed to adapt to what life required at the time. The Faith-life of the members of the Association produced fruits at the level of social and public life. The Children of Mary, marked by Christian commitment and, moreover, as members of the Catholic Action, showed that they were equal to their task in difficult moments, at the time of the organization of the workers' movement, unions, etc. The era of industrialization had arrived bringing with it struggles and difficulties in striving out to live Christian life. When the Daughters of Charity in Mexico were expelled from their Houses and their works in 1875, the Children of Mary took charge of the service of the poor… The canonization of Saint Catherine Labouré in 1947 by Pope Pius XII brought about an increase of fervor in spirit, fortified by the renewing climate of the Council, and contributed to communicating and intensifying this vital breath in the world.
The renewing winds of Vatican Council II along with the increase in the number of associates gave rise to a new structure which progressively constituted a new roster. If, from the very beginning, there were Children of Mary and Aspirants, they more or less took on other names. The youngest group bear the name of Angels, and after that, "Messengers", corresponding to the "Cadette" in France. They were able to establish age brackets: Early Childhood, preadolescents, adolescents, young adults, adults: V.M.F. (Vincentian Marian Families) - the current classification, inasmuch as there were always Children of Mary - married and older Children of Mary. Each age bracket or level would have its formation, requirements and a different commitment in accordance with their growth in the Faith. Each time, a greater responsibility was given to the young people in the life and functioning of the Association. These responsibilities were accepted and established by the accomplishment of the work assigned to each one as MEMBER, beginning with the very youngest, the children. While giving vitality to the Center, they succeeded in not keeping it isolated: the members live in relationship with one another and with others and feel part of the Diocesan Church, so as to give meaning to their ecclesial character, in the course of all celebrations and campaigns. The same is true at the Provincial, Regional and National levels and this entails the assumption of responsibilities for relations, coordination, participation.
The identity of the Association is designated by its diverse aspects: From the moment it enjoyed Pontifical Approbation in 1847, it has been considered as one of the apostolic groups that comprise the Church. It considers itself as a force in the Church, where it carries out its work of evangelization in the person of each of its members, who belongs to this Church by reason of his/her baptism (ECCLESIAL CHARACTER). The Association has for Model, Mary, Mother of the Church, leader of the Community, who leads us to CHRIST (specific MARIAN CHARACTER). This is why the members of this Movement strive to contemplate MARY, under the different aspects offered to us by the Church: A Woman who Believes, A Woman who Prays, Mother of the Church, Servant of the Poor, Universal Mediatrix.
Every Christian is a missionary. Every member of the Vincentian Marian Youth Movement must also be a missionary because Mary, Virgin of the Globe, manifested herself to us in this way to accomplish the command of her Son, Jesus: " Go and preach"… Children of Mary are Apostles of Evangelization in their milieu and in the Mission Ad Gentes (MISSIONARY CHARACTER).
They fulfill this apostolate of Evangelization and of Service in a "Vincentian manner," by imitating Saint Vincent de Paul in serving the poor and the marginalized of society in the regular or periodic services that the Association or the Vincentian Marian Youth Movement offers them in conformity with their age and level of maturation in the Faith (VINCENTIAN CHARACTER).
Here is the charismatic aspect proper to all the members of the Vincentian Marian Youth Movement. There are four principal goals of the VMY: 1. Forming their members to live out, with deep faith, the following of Christ, Evangelizer and Servant of the poor. 2. Living and praying, like Mary, in simplicity and humility, making their own the spirituality of the Magnificat. 3. Keeping alive a missionary spirit, especially through experiences among the poor and abandoned in our society. 4. Preparing the members individually and communally to collaborate and become invested in their local parish and diocese.
VMY IMITATES MARY
All members of the Vincentian Marian Youth Movement contemplate in Mary the young people's resolve to imitate the virtues characteristic of the Association: transparency (purity), collaboration (humility) seeking the will of God (obedience), sensitivity to the poor (charity). These are virtues that all young members must acquire. A lived Marian Consecration strengthens the baptismal consecration and will be, so to speak, the summit of one's contemplation and imitation of Mary, as a culmination of the growth process in one's Faith. "To Jesus through Mary".
1. Transparency (purity). 2. Collaboration (humility). 3. Seeking the will of God (obedience). 4. Sensitivity to the poor (charity). 5. Marian Consecration.
Children of Mary or Vincentian Marian Youths do not exist in isolation. With their local Parish and Diocese they endeavor to work together in a common effort with all the organizations in the Church and in a very special way, seek to collaborate with those in their own faith community. Pope John Paul II, on the occasion of different World Youth Days, took a prioritized task of his pontificate to encourage young people to be leading actors in living the Faith. Our Association intends to respond to these invitations in new and creative ways in Southeast Missouri. The VMY is growing a t a remarkable rate. Today, they have more than 200,000 members in about 40 countries.
3. Third Pillar: Apostolate (See reference below)
When a young member has discovered Christ alive from an experience within a group-community, he searches almost instinctively, to share this great treasure with the ones that surround him; he becomes apostle and server. He gets to feel the same way as St. Paul: “Woe is me if I do not preach the gospel!” (1 Cor 9:16). Or he says with St. Vincent: “It is not enough to love God if my neighbour does not love Him” (XI-4, 553). Apostolate is the third of the pillars which supports the life of our groups. Inspired by the four notes that identify us (Int. Stat. 5), VMY wants to make itself present in the world and in the Church as salt, light and yeast (Mt 5: 13-16).
.As we are an ECCLESIAL Association, we continually integrate our groups in the diocesan and parochial life and projects, putting ourselves under the disposition of the Bishop and parish priests in order to collaborate actively in the pastoral work and in the animation of the Christian communities, through evangelization and catechesis, liturgical animation, charitable services and social assistance. The parish constitutes for us the closer and most complete experience of Church, “community of communities and movements”. That is why the parish becomes an adult reference community for VMY. We do not have to be afraid of losing our identity; on the contrary we have to offer the richness of our Marian and Vincentian charism as a gift for our local Church, conserving our autonomy as an Association of the faithful. In spite of the difficulties that may arise at first, the parish priests and the Bishops will gladly accept VMY if we carry on with the plan of service and collaboration, with simplicity and humility. The future of VMY depends, among other things, on our capacity of integrating ourselves in the Dioceses and on founding new groups in the parishes.
.Because of our MARIAN roots, we commit ourselves to make present in the Christian communities the request of the Virgin Mary, which invites us to ”do what Jesus asks us to do” (Jn 2:5) and to welcome her as Mother in our house (Jn. 19:27). That is why, aside from taking her as model of our spiritual life and of our apostolic activity, through different means, we spread the message of the Miraculous Medal and we try to celebrate her feast days with devotion, especially those with a more Vincentian flavour: the Immaculate Conception (8th of December), the Annunciation (25th of March) and the Visitation (31st of May).
.As VINCENTIANS, we are convinced that “to serve the poor is to serve Jesus Christ” (IX-1, 240. Cf. Mt. 25:40). And that “love is inventive unto infinity (XI-3,65). This perhaps is the note that we feel the most in our apostolate. From its origins, Mary entrusted the Association to the care of the spiritual family of St. Vincent in the persons of St. Catherine Laboure and Fr. John Mary Aladel. This fact makes implicit the adherence of the Vincentian charism. That is why, in VMY, we try to make the young members discover the unjust contrasts of this world in which we live in and with the light of faith, we try to make them commit to live out as leading characters and leaders, listen to the call of the poor and search together for creative answers with Mary at their side, building a young Church, servant of the poor.
.We could say that “there is no misery that can be considered as foreign to a VMY member. That is why our groups organize or collaborate with organized and systematic service projects for the poorest of the poor, so that they may become active individuals of their own development (literacy campaigns, assistance at homes for the aged and the disabled, hospitals, attending the sick or abandoned families, etc.) It is very important that from the first moment they belong to the VMY, the young members come in personal contact with the poor so that they may learn to listen to them and to offer them their friendship, that they may become sensitive to the suffering of others and that they search for means to help them get out of their situation. Our Marian piety will be empty and fruitless if it does not end in a commitment with the poor in the Vincentian style.
Aside from attention directed to the poor, there also exists another field proper to our apostolic work: the attention to the abandoned youth. In the XIX century, the Marian Congregations that existed then (of the Jesuits, or of the Religious of the Sacred Heart, etc) reduced their field of action to a selective and high social class. On the other hand, the Association that the Virgin requested from St. Catherine had an objective to evangelize, help, serve and promote young people of the working class and the mass. VMY was born fundamentally as a Christian response to the difficult situation that the young members of the least privileged had at that time. With St. Vincent, we can also say to the world of the marginalized young people or those in a risky situation that they should “make God known to the poor, announce Jesus Christ to them, tell them that the reign of God is near, and that the Kingdom is for the poor” (XI, 387)... That is another apostolate urgent and proper of the VMY.
I think it is fair for us to pose the following question: How can we transmit the Vincentian charism to the young people of the XXI century? How can we make of them Good Samaritans, just like Saints Vincent of Paul and Louise de Marillac during their time? In the document “Role and Functions of Advisors in the JMV” there is a proposal for a pedagogy of a transformative service, which arouses in young members not only concrete attitudes and gestures of solidarity towards the poor but above all a permanent commitment to build a new model of society. What steps can we take within our groups to develop this pedagogy of transformative service? How do we help the young members take those steps already taken by the Good Samaritan? (Lk. 10: 25-37) such as to:
===Train the sight=== The Samaritan “arrived to his side and saw him.” He saw the reality of the poor, heard his clamour, and touched him with his hands. To know the world of the poor and of poverty is the first step to be taken by a young member to develop sensitivity within. The best service that the adult Vincentians can offer the younger ones is to offer us the opportunity of opening our eyes to the reality that the poor people live daily, to teach us how to look at it at its face value, to give it a name and to allow ourselves be cordially affected by it in the hope that this encounter will sow seeds of social transformation.
===Educate the heart=== “…and when he saw him, he was filled with compassion...” We have to teach the young people not only to see the reality but also to feel it, to live the compassion with the heart. It is something more than a mere feeling of compassion... it is more like a passion that leads us get closer with love to those who are suffering, involving ourselves in their suffering to the last consequences. Exactly the opposite is to act as if it did not concern us and just walk pass by it. We have to teach the young members to be sensitive, to have a heart made of flesh and blood, and not of stone and to live this spirit of solidarity like Jesus who “was never indifferent in the face of human suffering” (Misal Romano, Plegaria Vb).
===Educate the hands=== “approaching, he bandaged his wounds”... To be a Samaritan you have to “get down from your horse” and get your hands dirty to bandage and heal. This demands a patient accompaniment of the young members who begin in the service, so that they do not only give us a hand with our work, but also link it to a process of permanent and gradual action-reflection. The inconstancy and the despondency, the fears and deficiency that the young member may experience, must be won by the testimony of the adult Vincentians who day after day and year after year, simply use their lives in the humble and joyful service of helping others.
===Associate to others to transform the reality=== “he took two coins and he gave it to the mason while saying: take care of him”... Finally, to be a good student in the school of St. Vincent, one must know that it is not enough to show solidarity individually with the curing of the brother, but that we should also involve others in this communitarian and social task; we should try to organize people to solve the problem from their root causes and together rebuild the road of Jerusalem to Jericho, so that never again would our brothers and sisters fall on the side of the road, victims of egoism of other men. The task is so big that no one can do it alone by himself. We must involve the young member and the groups within and outside the Church, in social welfare organizations, assistance agencies, those for human promotion, those that denounce injustice, those that try to change unjust structures, those that investigate and influence on the causes of poverty…. This must be the goal of the pedagogic itinerary that tries to make of the young members good Samaritans.
We ask ourselves: How may we help our VMY groups to integrate themselves continually in the parish and diocesan life? Do the young members find in VMY a “school of service”? When they are with the group, do they have direct contact with the poor and their reality?
What is your group doing to attend to the abandoned youth or those who are in risky situations?
Which of the four steps of the pedagogy of transformative service does your group find more difficult? Why?
Vincentian Marian Youth History
Four Pillars of Vincentian Marian Youth Spirituality, Formation, Community, Apostolate
- "The Holy See encourages the U.N. to continue to identify the needs of the world's young people, especially of the poorest and weakest of them. It further recommits itself to working together with the international community to develop realistic, appropriate, immediate and long-term responses. Building a better world is a lifelong process. Oftentimes it is a very long journey. But young people recognize that their journey is just beginning. And precisely given their youth, they are still at the initial steps in paving a path for success in the future. Every person of every age matters as we work together to build a world that is safe and happy for young people."