FROM A LETTER OF ST. VINCENT TO ANTOINE DURand, named superior of the agde seminary (1656)

in "Saint Vincent de Paul: Correspondence, Confrences, Documents", Vol XI, (2008), pp 312-313

“Now, in order not to fall into the misfortune of Saul or Judas, you must be inseparably attached to Our Lord and say often, raising your heart and mind to Him, ‘O Lord, do not allow me, in trying to save others, to be unfortunately lost myself; be my Shepherd, and do not deny me the graces you impart to others through my instrumentality and the functions of my ministry.’

“You must also have recourse to meditation to ask Our Lord for the needs of those whom you’ll be guiding. Rest assured that you will produce greater results by this means than by any other. Jesus Christ, who must be your model in all your ways of acting, was not satisfied with His sermons, His works, His fasts, His blood, and even His death, but He added meditation to all that. He had no need of it for himself; it was, then, for us that He prayed so often, and to teach us to do the same, both for our personal concerns and for what concerns those whose saviors we must be, together with Him.

“Another thing I recommend to you is the humility of Our Lord. Say often, ‘Lord, what have I done to have such a ministry? What works of mine correspond to the responsibility being placed on my shoulders? Ah, my God, I’ll spoil everything if You yourself don’t guide all my words and works!’ Let us always view all that’s human and imperfect in ourselves, and we will find only too much for which to humble ourselves, not only before God, but also before others and in the presence of those who are subject to us.

“Above all, don’t feel that you have to appear as the Superior or master. I am not of the opinion of the person who said to me a few days ago that, to govern well and maintain your authority, you must make it clear that you are the Superior. O mon Dieu! Our Lord Jesus Christ did not talk like that; He taught us just the opposite by word and example, telling us that He himself had come, not to be served, but to serve others, and that whoever wanted to be the master must be the servant of all.

“So then, adopt that holy maxim, acting toward those with whom you are going to live quasi unus ex illis (as if you were one of them), telling them from the outset that you have not come to lord it over them but rather to serve them; do that inside and outside the house, and you’ll do well.”