VINCENT DE PAUL AND THE COURT: Responding to the Politics of Power

By Daniel Franklin Pilario, C.M.[1]

1. Introduction

When I entered the community in the early 1980s, the Philippines found itself in a crucial political turmoil. The dictator Marcos was asserting his military power and resistance to his Martial rule was growing among the citizenry. People were divided. The confusion was brought about by strategic government strategy –an intensive government image building in the media, on the one side; and silence on the repression, killings and tortures, on the other. The Vincentian community was also quite divided. On the one hand, many confreres were great allies of Marcos. Many invited him and the First Lady to be sponsors in their ordinations. Some were present in many palace functions. On the other hand, there were many confreres who found themselves in street demonstrations or worked behind the scenes to help topple down the repressive regime. What amazed me was that both sides use St. Vincent to support their stand. One side rhetorically asks: Was Vincent not friends of those in power? Did he not bridge the gap between the rich and the poor? The rich also are persons. They are also poor – emotionally, morally, and spiritually. Did St. Vincent not call us to serve them too, as he did himself? Those on the other side ask: when we dine with them or ask them to donate to our projects, are we not condoning their injustices? By celebrating Masses in their gatherings, do we not help legitimize this oppressive regime? No one was convinced of the response of the other.

Today, even as we find ourselves in a different context, the substance of the questions remains. How should Vincentians deal with the politics of power? How did St. Vincent do it in his context? This paper intends to do three things: (1) to investigate the contemporary theories and discourses on power especially in the socio-political contexts; (2) to inquire on how Vincent de Paul dealt with the politics of power in his own context; (3) to explore on its implications to contemporary Vincentian life and formation process.

In order to situate our discussion of Vincent’s response to the politics of power in his times and its repercussions to contemporary Vincentian life, it is our methodological option to start with contemporary issues and questions. How does contemporary social science see political ‘power’? It is through this lens that we intend to read Vincent’s politics in the hope that we begin to discern for our own times how to concretely negotiate with power and do ‘charity’ in political contexts.[2]

2. Theorizing Power: Contemporary Theories

2.1 The Question of Power

How crucial is the question of power to the contemporary mind? Just to get a sense of it, I tried to do google search on the term ‘power’ and I got 785M hits in 0.17 seconds; in the search engine, it was higher. I got 1.24B sites in 0.31 seconds.[3] Since this might include electric or mechanical power and the like, I narrowed my search down to the term ‘political power’ and I got 228M hits in 0.07 seconds for google and 116M in 0.28 seconds in yahoo. Considering this data, the question of power must be a relevant concern in today’s society.

But how do we define ‘power’? Etymologically, ‘power’ comes from the Latin word posse (to be able) that metamorphosed into an Old French term poeir from where the present French pouvoir came from. The Old English term is pouer(e) or poer(e) from where the present English term ‘power’ is derived. The Webster’s Comprehensive Dictionary[4] gives us 13 meanings. If we exclude its meanings in physics, mathematics, optics and mechanics, we are down to six different but related meanings: (1) ability to act; (2) potential capacity; (3) strength or force actually put forth; (4) the right, ability, or capacity to exercise control [legal authority]; (5) any agent that exercises power, as in control or dominion; (6) great and telling force or effect. The range of meanings is quite telling: the first three (no. 1-3) refers to capacity or ability (i.e., power to) and the other three (no. 4-5) suggests control, dominion or force (i.e., power over). In recent reflections, especially in the field of feminist theory, a new meaning of power begins to emerge – power as relationship or solidarity (power with). But since ‘power’ has been predominantly theorized in socio-political contexts, what dominated the discourse is power as domination or “power over”.

2.2 Domination: Power Over

In a classic study in political theory, Steven Lukes points to the three ways in which power as domination is theorized in political contexts.[5]

(1) One-Dimensional View. The first position is the ‘one-dimensional view’ of power. It is the “power of A over B to the extent that he can get B to do something that B would not otherwise do.”[6] In other words, power is seen to reside in actor(s) who can exercise dominance in situations where there is conflict of interests. What proves crucial here is the overt and visible conflict of actual actors with differing interests and preferences. Another view disagrees with this notion.

(2) Two-Dimensional View. According to the ‘two-dimensional view’ of power,[7] the conflict need not necessarily be overt; it can also be covert, concealed or hidden. It is not necessary that the dominant group make open decisions against the minority. It is enough that they keep quiet on certain issues, thus, in effect preventing that specific issue to surface in open discussion. This view thinks that dominance can be exercised over others by one’s capacity to control the political agenda. It argues that there are more contextual issues in political conflicts other than those which make it to the political debates.

In order to prevent this discussion from being too abstract, let me give a concrete example from my national context. In the recent years, the Philippine President, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, was accused of rigging the 2004 elections that brought her to power. An alleged taped conversation between her and the election commissioner (Garci) surfaced in the press. There, she was asking the commissioner to ensure her lead over her opponent. The so-called ‘Garci tapes’ incited street protests, impeachment proceeding in Congress, and negative ratings of her performance. What did she do to impose her dominance? She passed a law preventing people to hold protest actions and ordered the military to intervene even if it was a walk in the park by a group of people wearing anti-government T-Shirts. She proclaimed a decree curtailing basic rights to free speech, to peaceful assembly, etc. When these did not work, she shifted strategy. In order for people to forget the issue, she shifted media attention to other things favorable to her image: her economic programs and the rise of the value of the peso, the need to revise the Constitution, the human rights violation of the Leftists, etc. Her first intervention points to the “one-dimensional view”; her latest action is an example of the “two-dimensional view” of power, that is, the suppression of legitimate political agenda.

(3) Three-Dimensional View (Radical View). Lukes enumerated the first two in order to bring out his own preference: the ‘three-dimensional view’ or ‘radical view’ of power. For Lukes, the previous two conceptions are too individualistic. It is too faithful to the tradition started by Max Weber who viewed power as residing in individuals realizing their wills despite the resistance of others. The two views are also conflict-centered – be it overt or covert conflicts. Beyond individual action (i.e., power of A over B), power also includes “socially structured and culturally patterned behavior of groups and practices of institutions.”[8] Beyond actual observable conflict, power is also present in manipulated social consensus. In other words, the dominant system can in fact influence, shape and determine – through media, schools, churches – what its people should like and want. And through everyday formation processes – or what sociology also calls ‘socialization’ – the hegemonic agenda begins to be accepted as legitimate, normal and natural. There is no observable conflict since the interests of the dominant order has been imposed on those it tries to exclude. Social consensus, thus, is both voluntarily accepted but also subconsciously imposed.

The radical view of power in Lukes is influenced by the notion of ‘hegemony’ by the Italian Marxist, Antonio Gramsci (1891-1937).[9] For Gramsci, political legitimacy is gained in two ways: force and consent. The first approach is through the use of coercion and force (e.g., police, courts, prisons, etc.). But since this is not always effective as it creates widespread protests, the dominant power also uses persuasion (others also call this ‘brainwashing’) through media, educational system, churches and other institutions in order to convince the people of its own legitimacy. In other words, the dominant goes about ‘manufacturing consent’, to use a phrase of a famous philosopher and political activist, Noam Chomsky. In both cases, the dominant order exercises power over the dominated. However, the dominated also participates in such a construction – as they no longer voice their dissent. On surface, hegemony, therefore, is the ‘whole lived social reality’ which is artificial as it is manufactured but which people also take for granted as natural and legitimate.

Let me give an everyday example. Every time I go home, my sisters would prepare a special meal for me. The meal always ends with a ‘Coke’. I asked them if they drink Coke everyday. They said no! Only on special occasions since Coke is a special drink. I inquired where they get this idea. They said the TV says so! I still think that the local coconut juice is much more nutritious than Coke but since the dominant capitalist order makes people believe its products are better and more special, people naturally think so – without any protest. Even my nephews and nieces today clamor for Coke, maybe to the thousandth generation in my family. For as the popular billboard says: “Coke adds life!” Transpose ‘Coke’ to McDonald’s, Starbucks, extremely expensive designer clothes and electronic gadgets or medicine. The same story repeats itself. What make them expensive are the millions that they spend for advertisement and promotions. It is an act of dominant capitalist power trying hard to legitimize itself. Or, to go back to my first example, since the Arroyo government always repeats on TV and other political advertisements her economic achievements, people become used to it and believe it is so – this time forgetting the issue of ‘Garci’ and her government’s legitimacy. As the Nigerian proverb goes, “When you are taken for a ride, you would not know how far the town is.”

(4) Power as Governmentality. In recent times, however, there is one view of power which goes beyond Lukes and Gramsci. Michel Foucault (1926-1984) – a French philosopher famous among the postmodern writers – conceives of power as ‘governmentality’. First, against the previous three views, power is neither a possession of individuals nor of institutions; sovereignty does not reside in the monarch nor in the people; it is all over. “Power must be analyzed as something that circulates,” he states. “It is never localized here or there, never in anybody’s hands, never appropriated as commodity or piece of wealth.”[10] Second, power is not only repressive; it is also productive and reproductive. It is a set of practices, technology or strategy dispersed throughout the whole system so that bodies of subjects are rendered docile to its logic and functioning. In effect, they can be effectively ‘governed’, thus also acquiring the capacity to reproduce themselves and the whole system. This is what he calls the ‘micro-physics of power”. For instance, in order to grasp the dynamics of the penal system, one has to investigate the body of the prisoner as it is also produced there.[11] Or, to understand the culture of the Age of Reason, we need to examine the ‘insane’ and the system of techniques applied to him or her (e.g., incarceration, medical intervention, systems of segregation, etc.).[12] In the medieval times, for example, even as the fools were made fun of (e.g., Feast of Fools), they were also celebrated to be the source of wisdom and God’s revelation (e.g., Jesus as ‘foolishness to the Gentiles’). Thus, fools are a constant feature of local communities; they are permitted to roam around. But in the Age of the Enlightenment, ‘reason’ became the new social standard. ‘Fools’, then, being instances of ‘irrationality’ needed to be confined as they invalidated the new social paradigm. Such confinement of the insane and the disciplinary strategies applied on their bodies also reproduced the whole social body founded on ‘rationality’ alone. We will go back to this discussion later.

What is the bottom-line assertion in the above theoretical discussion? Regardless of their differences, the theories of power from Dahl to Lukes, from Gramsci to Foucault agree on one thing. Power is “power over”. It consists of individual acts, everyday practices, institutions, technology, strategies or embodied micro-practices of domination over known or unknown others.

2.3 Empowerment and Resistance: Power To

Beyond domination, however, there is another tradition of conceiving power in terms of positive capacity. Power is not just ‘power over’; it is also ‘power to’. As the Latin posse suggests, power is ability, capacity, strength actually put forth, effectiveness. This direction in fact is the often forgotten half, the other set of dictionary meanings (no. 1-3) mentioned earlier. Beyond domination, power is a transformative capacity, an act of empowerment.

In the context of a powerful dominant power at the center, what capacity do the margins possess? True, the hegemonic power is all-pervasive. But there is “no dominant social order and therefore no dominant culture ever in reality includes or exhausts all human practice, human energy and human intention.”[13] There is always a dimension of our human and social existence, which the dominant social order “neglects, excludes, represses, or simply fails to recognize.”[14] It is this dimension which puts into question, threatens or exerts pressure on the hegemonic. Raymond Williams, a British neo-Marxist philosopher, identifies this sphere as the locus of alternative, oppositional and emergent voices of the excluded, the locus of resistance among those marginalized by the system.

Michel de Certeau, another contemporary French philosopher, calls this the ‘tactics of the weak’. While strategy refers to calculated action of powerful institutions whose possession of a ‘territory’ needed to regroup or recharge for the next moves places it in an advantageous position, tactic is the scheme of resistance available to the weak. Bereft of place, the ‘weak’ can only play within the terrain of the ‘strong’. It has no time to strategize and its attacks depend only on the possibilities afforded by cracks and fissures along the structure of its powerful adversary. “It poaches in them. It creates surprises in them. It can be where it is least expected. It is a guileful ruse.”[15] It thus turns its own smallness into gain and cunningly transforms the enemy’s size and visibility into utter disadvantage.[16]

Let me give an example from the context of the colonial period in the Philippines: the practice of sacramental confession. It must be remembered that the Philippines only had fewer missionaries in the field and far less military forces than what Spain sent to the Americas. Yet in the mid-1600s, less than a century since Christianity came to the islands, more than half a million of Filipinos had already been converted to the faith. Another Filipino historian, Vicente Rafael, attributes this fast spread of Christianity to a double reduction – that of ‘language’ and of ‘bodies’, both of which are related to ‘conversion’.[17] Just as the local native scripts were reduced to Latin-Castillian grammatical structures of declensions and conjugations, people were also relocated to administrative centers (i.e., pueblos, cabeceras y poblaciones) so that these ‘native bodies’ will live bajo de la campana, that is, within the range of evangelization but also of political control. One of the more effective ways to pursue conversion was through sacramental confession. That the practice of confession was quite crucial to the evangelization-colonization project is attested by the numerous vernacular translations of confession manuals during this time. Early missionary accounts also attested to the eagerness with which the natives rush to the confessional sometimes to the point of begging the priest on their knees. Yet these same missionaries also found the native practice confusing since, instead of following confessional rules laid down in the manuals, the penitents turned this event into opportunities for justification of one’s deeds or for ‘showing-off’ since they tell the priest not their own sins but that of ‘their wives, mothers-in-law and the people they do not like’. Does this mean that the natives did not have the intellectual capacity to comprehend the intricacy of this foreign religious practice, as some missionaries believed? Or was it a different dynamics that was at play altogether? Rafael’s conclusion is quite insightful. The Tagalog word (the language of Central Philippines) for asking for forgiveness in confession is tawad, which also means ‘to bargain, to haggle or to use evasions (or in Spanish regatear).’ In other words, the practice of confession which was used as a machinery of the colonial powers to control bodies and minds was in fact seen by the natives as an act of bargaining with authority – a sort of oblique resistance against the totalizing grip of a dominant power.

2.4 Solidarity: Power With

For some contemporary feminists, however, the military metaphors of tactics and strategies, of dominance (power over) and resistance (power to) are all masculine notions. They argue that the experience of women ushers in a totally new conception of power: “power with”. Virginia Held, a feminist author, suggests that “the capacity to give birth, and to nurture and empower could be the basis for new and more humanly promising conceptions than the ones that now prevail of power, empowerment and growth.”[18] Another feminist, Jean Baker Miller says: “There is enormous validity in women’s not wanting to use power as it is presently conceived and used. Rather, women may want to be powerful in ways that simultaneously enhance, rather than, diminish, the power of others.”[19] Yet as early as the 1920s, Mary Parker Follett (1868-1933) already advanced the notion of ‘power with’. “Genuine power can only be grown,” she argues, “it will slip from every arbitrary hand that grasps it; for genuine power is not coercive control, but coactive control… ‘Power-with’ is what democracy should mean in politics or industry.”[20] But this is not a monopoly of feminists alone. The notion of power as solidarity already finds its echo in the writings of the political philosopher, Hannah Arendt (1906-1975). She says: “Power corresponds to the human ability not just to act but to act in concert.”[21] What is envisioned by these different discourses is a nurturing, affective power, not controlling power; power of creative solidarity not of aggressive domination; power that gives of itself not oppresses.

3. Reading Vincent’s Responses to the Politics of Power

From the lens of the above theoretical discourse on power, we now ask, how did St. Vincent deal with political power in his own context? Some might ask if this method is not anachronistic. Are we not asking questions on Vincent which Vincent himself had not asked? Are we not reading our minds into Vincent’s minds? Are we not projecting our prejudices and biases into his world? The answer to all of these questions is yes. And we should not be guilty of it. For as Hans-Georg Gadamer, a contemporary philosopher, also says: “Prejudices are the biases of our openness to the world. They are simply the conditions whereby we experience something – whereby what we encounter says something to us.[22] In other words, thanks to our questions, prejudices and biases, Vincent de Paul comes alive for us. It is only through them that we can read him.

3.1 “A true servant of God and of the Prince”: Co-opted?

How did Vincent deal with elite political power? One way of looking at it is that he was co-opted by it. In this view, Vincent was a willing collaborator of the absolutist monarchy. He served as their spiritual director, adviser, companion, friend. From the Marxist perspective, he provided a theological and ecclesiastical legitimization to the oppressive regime. Read from the prism of Gramsci, he had unwittingly made the Congregation and the church as a whole to be institutions at the service of monarchial hegemonic dominance.

This is the way a famous contemporary philosopher – Michel Foucault – read Vincent de Paul in a classic philosophical and sociological study of mendicancy and madness in 17th century France. According to Foucault, the Church played a great part in the “great confinement” – the royal edict of 1656. This decree establishes the General Hospital to house all the beggars, the poor, the sick, the insane all together. Foucault contends that the program to control and contain the misfits of society – those who did not fit the new standards of the Age of Reason – was even started earlier as signaled by Vincent’s taking over of St. Lazare. He writes: “Vincent de Paul reorganized Saint-Lazare, the most important of the former lazar houses of Paris; on January 7, 1632, he signed a contract in the name of the Congregationists of the Mission with the ‘Priory’ of Saint-Lazare, which was now to receive ‘persons detained by the order of His Majesty’.”[23] Foucault, therefore, insinuates that Vincent unwittingly placed himself at the disposition of a system that reproduces itself by violently rounding up and incarcerating the poor.[24]

But how far did Vincent really collaborate with monarchial political powers? Quite much, that is, if we also listen to some of his contemporaries! This is how Louis Abelly described Vincent in a Section title of his now famous biography: “Monsieur Vincent preserved always an inviolable fidelity to the king and a constant devotion to his service even during the most perilous and difficult times” (Chapter 13, Section 10).[25] In this section, Abelly points out that Vincent de Paul risked his personal life, material welfare, and that of his Congregation in order to be of service to the King since for Vincent “the measure of the affection and fidelity to one’s prince is found in one’s attachment to God.”[26] Vincent was a man of his times. Like his contemporaries, he also believed that to be faithful to the will of the king is also to obey the will of God.

Vincent’s close and personal dealings with the palace are well known. He was called to the deathbed of Louis XIII – a sign of a lifelong relationship. At one point in those deathbed conversations, the king said: “M. Vincent, if I recover my health, I will see that all the bishops spend three years in your house.”[27] And upon his death, Vincent was both sincerely saddened and edified: “Yesterday God was pleased to call to himself our good king… Never in my life have I seen a more Christian death.”

But Vincent was much closer to the Queen. She is a key person in Vincent’s works of charity. There was even a plan to found a Confraternity of Charity in the court and head of which is “the sacred person of the Queen”.[28] This is how Vincent regarded her to which the Queen also returned the same – if not more – esteem and admiration. One day, a noble commented to Queen Anne of Austria: “There are few persons, like Monsieur Vincent, attached to the service of the King and state with such a sincere, constant and disinterested fidelity.” “You are right,” the Queen replied, “Monsieur Vincent is a true servant of God and of the Prince.”[29] She chose him to be a member of the Council of Conscience – the present counterpart of which is the Ministry of Ecclesiastical Affairs. Though it was Mazarin who acted as the President of the Council, he admits that Vincent had more influence with the Queen than he had. “Even I who know more about her Majesty’s intentions than anyone, dare not intervene until M. Vincent has studied the matter as much as he wishes,” Mazarin confessed.[30]

He was not only known by Cardinal Mazarin but also to Cardinal Richelieu before him. One incident can tell us how concerned Vincent can be with his image among the powers that be. He once heard being accused of acting against Richelieu’s interests. He wasted no time to clear his name. “My Lord,” he explained, “here is the miscreant that people are accusing of acting against Your Eminence’s interests. I have come here in person so that you may dispose of me and all the congregation in what way you please.”[31]

These and many other stories of which we have no space to mention here tells us that Vincent was frequently walking in the corridors of power hob-knobbing with the powerful – Kings and Queens, Ministers and the nobility, their wives and children.

3.2 “Throw yourself to the sea”: Humble Pleas and Open Defiance

Despite his close affinity with the authorities, Vincent did deliberately oppose government policies and articulated them. One of these incidents happened in the disaster wrought by the protracted war in Lorraine (1635-1643). Famine and disease abound. The reports spoke of men competing with animals to eat grass. “The corpses of men either killed or dead from want of nourishment were not spared, and children were seen digging up the corpse of a father or mother to devour it.”[32] In the midst of this unimaginable suffering, Vincent easily identified the root cause: Cardinal Richelieu’s foreign policy. Together with the extensive fund-raising, the heroic work of the missioners on the ground and the acts of penance done in the communities, Vincent never wasted time and confronted the powers that be. He thought it helpful to visit Richelieu. He knelt down on his knees to plead: “My Lord, give us peace. Have pity on us. Give peace to France!” After giving him a sigh, the Cardinal Minister replied: “Ah! Monsieur Vincent, I desire peace just as much as you; but peace does not depend on me alone. ”[33] Was Richelieu sincere? Or was it mere rhetoric? Shrewd politician that he is, did he say this just to placate his sincere guest? For, in reality, was he not bent to pursue his political plans of French political expansion regardless of the collateral damage? On second thought, maybe Richelieu’s reply was a keener assessment of the situation. Vincent’s ‘one-dimensional view’ of power tells him that Richelieu is the single root cause; and the Prime Minister’s decision is powerful enough to let the troubles come to an end. But Richelieu is a more perceptive politician. Without the aid of contemporary social analysis, he knew that power is not a game of an individual alone. Once the hegemonic political machinery has been set in motion (through its policies, functionaries, systems of execution, penal processes, etc), there is no way for it to stop. The powerful system of the absolutist regime has gained a life of its own – and not even its very creators have the power of control.

Parallel event happened in the War of the Fronde (1648-1653) – a civil war between the old aristocratic nobility, the Parlement and an absolutist monarchy. During these troubles, the poor are the unwilling victims. As the popular saying goes, “When the elephants play, the grass dies.” Out of concern for the victims, Vincent placed his life on the line once more. He knew the root of the problem: the person of Mazarin, the Queen’s Prime Minister. At the early dawn of January 14, 1649, Vincent set out early in the morning accompanied by Brother Docournau to Saint-Germain since the royal household moved there in order to escape the ire of the people. The trip proved to be full of dangers but he suffered it all. He was also apprehensive that the Queen might not be receptive to his pleadings as she is heard to send away people who criticized her Prime Minister. When admitted to her presence, Vincent told the Queen that Mazarin should go. “Peace! Peace! Give us peace. Your Majesty, pray send him away for a while.” While the Queen listened, she also did not like to confront Mazarin. So she instructed him to talk to Mazarin himself. “Your Eminence,” Vincent told the Cardinal, “sacrifice yourself, withdraw from the country to save France.”[34] “Submit to the present state of affairs. Throw yourself into the sea to appease the storm.”[35] Vincent did not succeed. Mazarin became more influential on the Queen who also needed him more than ever. But Vincent pursued his efforts for peace. He continued to dialogue with both sides – the royal power and the nobles. When the negotiations broke down, he even wrote the Pope to intercede. And in one daring political move – on September 11, 1652 – he wrote the Cardinal to refrain from going together with the young King and Queen mother as they enter Paris in order to talk with the people. He did this for, in his mind, Mazarin is the real problem. This did not please Mazarin. As consequence, Vincent was dismissed from the Council of Conscience.[36] It was the price he paid for his act of open defiance to dominant power.

3.3 “If we use force we could be going against God’s will”: Oblique Resistance

Let me go back to the project of the General Hospital. The royal edict of April 27, 1656 seeks to prohibit begging and idleness which pose as social ills of the city. Around ten buildings all over Paris were allotted for this: La Salpêtrière, La Pitié, Le Refuge, La Scipion, La Savonnerie, Bicêtre, etc. The ‘archers of the hospital’ – some sort of policemen of the poor – were also organized to round up beggars and bring them to any of these institutions. Edicts of the subsequent years prohibited begging all throughout the city “under the pain of being whipped for the first offense, and for the second, condemned to the galleys if men and boys, and banished if women and girls.”[37] This is what Foucault calls the “Great Confinement”. The General Hospital is not a medical but a ‘police’ institution. It is a semijudicial structure with “quasi-absolute sovereignty, jurisdiction without appeal, a writ of execution against which nothing can prevail – the Hôpital Général is a strange power that the King establishes between the police and the courts, at the limits of the law: a third order of repression.”[38] The directors for life possess administrative, police, corrective and penal powers over all of the poor in Paris – both inside and outside the General Hospital. They have access to “stakes, irons, prisons, and dungeons” inside the hospital in order to execute their mission. It was noted that within a few years after the edict was issued, the General Hospital already housed 6000 persons – a good 1% of the total population.

What is Vincent’s involvement in this project? Years before the royal edict – in 1653 – the Ladies of Charity, all aristocratic influential women, already presented to Vincent the idea of organizing all the beggars of the city. Where did the idea come from? Maybe also from their husbands who were working in the Court or the Parlement. They wanted Vincent to undertake the work since he was well known for institutions of this type. They assured him of sufficient money allotted for the project. Even La Salpêtrière was given by the Queen for their use. But Vincent tempered their haste. He wanted them to discern more. “The works of God,” he counsels, “come into being little by little, by degrees, and progressively.”[39] The Ladies were quite annoyed by his slowness. But this may be his way of circumventing something he did not like in the whole idea: the use of coercion and force. The Ladies wanted it on big scale; thus, the need to forcefully compel the beggars. Vincent wanted to accept only those who came voluntarily. Force should not be used to bring them in. “If we use force,” he says, “we could be going against God’s will.”[40] As the Ladies were waiting in discernment, the Royal Edict came out and was promulgated. The work went to the men assigned by the Parlement following the conditions that Foucault described above – of course, to Vincent’s great relief. In a way, his discerning slowness prevented him to undertake a work which he thinks is repressive and disrespectful of dignity of persons. It is this discerning slowness that also served as a skillful dilatory tactic. But also, the same ‘slowness’ averted a possible clash with his long time generous collaborators – the Ladies of Charity, especially the Duchesse d’Aiguillon who was hell bent to pursue the project. As we say today, he has hit two birds with one stone, the way of metis and oblique resistance.

But Vincent’s problems were not yet over. Not long after the ‘Great Confinement’ has taken off, he came to know that it was stipulated in the royal decree that the priests of the mission serve as chaplains. Around 20 of them were requested. How could Vincent defy the King? He met with his community and denied the request on the pretext of “its many community commitments”.[41] That sounds to be a lame excuse. If Vincent were convinced, he could have re-channeled personnel as he did with his other projects like, for instance, his determined resolve on the Madagascar mission. But even as Vincent refused the King’s wishes, he instituted some ways which, in the surface, appears to conform to the Royal program. This was done maybe in order not to appear openly defiant against so great a power. First, he also endorsed other priests who might be available for the work – one of them, Louis Abelly, who served there for only five months. Second, he suspended the soup kitchen at Saint-Lazare in deference to the program. One day, a beggar confronted Vincent at the door of Saint-Lazare: “Father, didn’t God command that alms be given to the poor?” “That’s quite true, my friends,” he replied, “but he also commanded us to obey the magistrates.”[42] Traditional interpretation see in this event an example of Vincent’s unconditional obedience to authority. But given the context, I could see the sarcasm in his face or a wink in his eyes as he said these words. For, not long after, Saint-Lazare also resumed the distribution of soup and bread! Vincent was not totally convinced that the poor be incarcerated; neither should begging – a work of mercy dear to the heart of the Christian tradition – be totally abolished. One day, a beggar told Vincent: “Father, everyone in Paris is abusing you because they think you are the cause of the poor people being shut up in the big hospital.” “Oh, very well,’ Vincent replied, “I will pray for them.”[43]

While official propaganda praised the “Great Confinement” as the ‘greatest charitable enterprise of the century’, Vincent consciously distanced from it not in open defiance but through what I call ‘oblique resistance’ – a tactic available to the weak in the face of so great a power. As the court wanted to eliminate its social eyesores through superficial window-dressing in confinement, Vincent did all he can to respond to the deeper causes of people’s misery as he also tried to mitigate its impact in their lives. Foucault’s structural analysis of history might be helpful to see the greater dynamics at work in hegemonic politics, but it is unable to perceive the oblique resistances present in the everyday life and decisions of actual persons on the ground, in this case, Vincent de Paul. A late 19th century author described Vincent this way: “We may compare him to that remarkable mechanical invention known as the screw. It works its way through without fret or noise; it does not split or spoil the material, but slowly, peacefully, progressively and steadily bores through wood, stone or even steel, for nothing can hinder its progress.”[44] Foucault has forgotten that as the hegemonic attempts to infuse its power into the micro-capillaries of the system, micro-resistance also ‘poaches on the dominant’ and subverts it in ways that noiselessly but effectively infiltrates.

3.4 “Look at how M. Vincent comes dressed to court”: Embodied Dissent

In the now classic study on French aristocratic life, The Court Society, Nobert Elias (1897-1990) argues that cultivation of outward appearances is crucial to the reproduction of court life.[45] Etiquette, for instance, is not just a matter of ceremonial; it is symbol and instrument of power. “If power exists but is not visible in the appearance of the ruler, the people will not believe. They must see in order to believe.”[46] Rank existed in its everyday outward representation; specific etiquette marks the status and position of an individual courtier. This position granted by the monarch had to be defended on two fronts. One needs to demonstrate subservience from those higher in monarchial ladder and a sense of superiority to those below him or her. For those above need to be appeased to be always blessed with their graces; and those below should be kept in their proper places. Such a status also needs to be defended at all times by the careful cultivation of one’s etiquette – manner of dressing, speaking, walking, etc. “To exist in luster of aloofness and prestige, that is, to exist as a court person, is, for a court person, an end in itself.”[47]

Vincent de Paul finds himself in the Court often. Was this his major concern? Not at all! A very famous encounter with Mazarin illustrates my point. Cardinal Mazarin has considered Monsieur Vincent as threat to his political ambitions.[48] Thus, to put him down in matters of courtly etiquette might temporary placate the Cardinal’s political insecurities. With Vincent’s simplicity of life, he is content to come to court in clean but simple attire – or, to use the words of Abelly, in “his good manners which were both simple and humble”.[49] But one day, Vincent came with a raveled girdle. Mazarin seized this opportunity to mock him: “Look how Monsieur Vincent comes dressed to Court and what a beautiful girdle he wears.”[50] Vincent was quiet and did not respond to his tirades. Traditional interpretation reads in this incident a sign of Vincent’s humility and detachment.[51] I propose to see this event from the perspective of systemic power analysis. Beyond an act of individual virtue (like humility), Vincent’s non-conventional ‘courtly’ etiquette was an act of resistance to the seemingly formidable dominant power that reproduces itself even in courtly bodies. In other words, Vincent’s embodied ‘habitus’ (to use a famous sociological category[52]) does not at all share in the ‘aristocratic habitus’ nor intends to entrench itself there. Thus, unlike Mazarin’s, it is not preoccupied to conform to the discipline of courtly bodies. In effect, its self-assured presence unwittingly poses itself as a threat to others who compete for this highly contested space, in particular, the court of Le Roi Soleil.[53] Vincent’s presence becomes an embodied dissent to the highly charged contest of power. If you want a more religious language, his simplicity poses itself as a prophetic challenge to the power-hungry and position-conscious environment around him.

3.5 “These are my burden and my sorrow”: Solidarity

Vincent did a thousand and one things: kneel down at the feet of Cardinal Ministers or Queens, risk his good name or the resources of his community, etc. What motivated Vincent to place his life on the line in danger of being crushed by dominant political power? There is no other reason – but the passion of his life: solidarity with the person of the poor. He played with dominant power (power over), mobilized all sources of resistance to it (power to) all in the name of solidarity with those who are marginalized by the system (power with). The whole political machinery works against their favor – from fiscal policy to international relations (Alsace and Lorraine), from the fight among nobles and royalty (the Fronde) to courtly extravagance. He gave his all because, in his view, they have nowhere else to go. “The poor people who do not know where to go and what to do, they are suffering and their numbers increase every day – these are my burden and my sorrow.”[54] For the system to which they were told to belong has outrightly excluded them so.

Of course, Vincent was not a naïve romantic. He does not idealize the so-called ‘poor’. Sensitive he is to power dynamics among the ruling élite, he is not also a stranger to power games among the poor and others whom he serve. In one of the scenes in the movie Monsieur Vincent, there was a beggar who created trouble because he was not given help during the distribution. Vincent took him aside and told him to stop begging and that he needed to work. In another instance, Vincent was happy that one poor but ungrateful poor person would not come back to see him again. He wrote to the community of the Daughters of Charity in Valpuiseaux:

That poor man came yesterday morning to collect his things at the door without either coming in or speaking to anyone except the porter. You can rest assured, Sisters, that you’ll never see him down there again with my consent; and if he is so unthinking as to go back, I ask you to let me know immediately so that I can see to his removal. I don’t think he’ll ever come to see me again, for which I’ll be very grateful.[55]

Among those who make retreats in our houses, he wrote Edme Jolly: “I’m glad you always have plenty of people on retreat. You should be aware that quite a number of people, on pretext of making a retreat, come only for the food. There are those who are quite content to put in a quiet seven or eight days at no expense.”[56] Or, in another instance, Vincent advised the superior at Le Mans about a tenant’s way of bargaining with him. “The easier you are with them, the less they will pay you. And if you exert some force, no matter how little, they will say that you are treating them more cruelly than a fermier general and they will spread it around that you are avaricious, and pitiless merciless tyrants. That is how ordinary people, especially the poor, treat priests, imagining that the clergy should not look after their own interests.”[57]

Thanks to this down-to-earth appraisal of the poor, we are sure that his concern for them is grounded and realistic. Despite all their failings, his heart still goes out to him. When he talks about them, he speaks with the language of his heart – in all care, love and tenderness. “God loves the poor, and thus surely he must love those who love and serve them. When we also love someone, we love his friends and servants. The little Company of the Mission strives to serve the poor tenderly. God loves them so much, and so we have reason to hope that because of them God will love us as well. We then have, my brothers, a new reason to serve them. We should seek out the poorest and most abandoned. We must recognize before God that they are our lords and masters, and that we are unworthy to render them our small favors.”[58] What comes to mind is the third notion of power as solidarity. Beyond ‘power over’ of which Vincent acutely analyzed and responded to, or ‘power to’ who sources of resistance he powerfully deployed, the feminist sensibility of a ‘power with’ – one that nurtures and cares, one that empowers and connects – is quite alive in Vincent. “When we go to the poor,” he tells the missionaries, “we should so identify with them that we share their sufferings… We must open our hearts so that they become responsive to the sufferings and miseries of the neighbor.”[59] Such a spirit of compassion has to fill our hearts, our attitudes, our language, and lastly, our actions: “We must help them as much as we can to bring about partial or complete end to their sufferings, for the hand must be directed as much as possible by the heart.”[60] Such a solidarity is not only ‘affective’ but also ‘effective’, to use one of Vincent’s famous distinctions.

4. Repercussions to Vincentian Mission and Formation

What follows are my initial attempts to enumerate some repercussions of the above reflections in contemporary Vincentian mission and formation. Far from being exhaustive, these reflections are provisional. Since this topic will be reflected on in the following days, I consider your insights to be very valuable as they provide a deeper reflection, contextualization or critique to the theme given to me in this conference. The following points can only serve as ‘starters’ – aperitif, if you want – in the conversation towards a more effective practice of what we call ‘political charity’.

4.1 The Need for an Analytic of Power

If charity is to be effective in socio-economic and political contexts as the theme of this whole Conference wants us to consider,[61] then, it is in need of a viable analytic of power. Socio-political contexts is so charged with power that, without a practicable framework to analyze these dynamics, we will end up with, at best, ‘pious’ works without real impact in society or, at worst, ideologically motivated programs that end up oppressing the poor whom we are called to help in the first place. A well-grounded and, hopefully, effective response can only come from a realistic assessment of the situation. In his work for the poor, Vincent did not have just the bible in hand and a good heart. He had all the analytical resources that came from his experience, his knowledge of the human nature but also advice coming from all persons whom he thinks can be of help. Furthermore, society has quite changed from the reign of Louis XIII to the present reign of global capitalism. If there is anything, the mechanisms of oppression and exclusion have become more systematic and flexible. All the more is the analytic of power becomes necessary.

The Young Christian Workers movement (La Jeunesse Ouvrière Chrétienne) of Joseph Cardijn formulated a simple process called the ‘see-judge-act’ method. One could not just go about ‘doing’ things. First, we need ‘to see’. In the language of liberation theology, there is a need for socio-analytic mediation. It is this first step which we are referring to now. Vincent, of course, did not have these linguistic resources available to him. But our survey of his effective responses tells us of the complex social analysis that he did.

What are the characteristics of such an analytic? (1) First, it needs to be responsive to the sensibilities of the poor. It should bear out an analysis from the perspective of the victims of the system. Those holding political power have their own analysis; the IMF-World Bank also presents another; so does those who make ‘culture’ as their business (media moguls, etc.). Our analysis should have a specific bias – not the bias of the powerful but of those excluded from power. The bottom-line question is: “What do the poor say when we look at society this way? Is this their perspective as well?” (2) Second, the analytical framework needs to be critical. Since we intend to unmask the complex mechanisms of power, the analytic must be judicious and critical. (3) Third, it must be scientific. We need all the resources that the present social sciences can give us in order to understand poverty, the systemic mechanism of exclusion that causes it, uncover its hidden dynamics, and search for more effective ways towards helping the victims. (4) It must also be practical and practicable. Our analytic of power should not stop on the level of analysis (and paralysis). It should also provide a way to think or practical actions in order to alleviate the suffering of the victims. The poor is not so much interested in our discourses. In my experiences with them, they always ask the question: “So, what shall we do now?”

What consequences have this practical analytic to our way of dealing with those in power? For one, it is about time to do away with a simplistic reply common among Vincentians: that we should make the poor and the rich come together – so that the rich may share their abundance with the poor and the poor become rich in the eyes of God! As we have seen, it is not that simple. On the one hand, sharing out from one’s abundance can sometimes be a legitimization of a mechanism that keeps the poor at their places and pose permanent hindrance for their liberation. It can serve as an act of ‘sprinkling holy water’ to their injustices, to use a phrase from Marx. On the other hand, we have also seen that the poor are not ‘saints’. Critical analysis of power makes us see where in society God already works and where the Good News still needs to be preached.

4.2 Openness to Multiple Responses

As we have seen, Vincent was open to multiple and flexible responses. He can talk with the King or prostrate in front of the Queen or her Ministers. If these do not work, he can tell them directly to resign since they are the root of the problem or write them letters suggesting courses of action that can pacify or mitigate the impact of their presence. In all these multiple lines of actions, there was just one guiding principle: the response should be able to help alleviate the suffering so the poor.

This tells us that it is salutary to integrate helpful aspects from different, even opposite perspectives. One does not have to rely on one perspective alone. The Spirit of God blows where S/he wills. Some recent frameworks of social analysis – either from the left or the right – have become dogmatic and doctrinaire. When theories and systems become fixed, they will become idols. Idols demand unquestioning obedience and wholehearted worship. Such uncritical stance has produced the Gulag or Auschwitz, Cambodian killing fields and Philippine Martial Law, the 9/11 event and ‘axis of evil’ discourse. ‘Flexibility’ has always been an essential Vincentian virtue.

4.3 The Centrality of the Concrete Person

Beyond all efforts to come to a practical and strategic analysis, what still proves crucial to Vincent is the concrete human person in front of him – his/her actual needs, his/her specific concerns. All theories must be able to advance the well-being of the concrete person. This is the lacuna of Foucault’s analysis. Even as we he is sensitive to macro-micro dynamics of the hegemonic system, he neglects the fact that there are relatively free agents – concrete persons – who can exert some acts of resistance. This point challenges us to put a concrete face to our analysis. A concrete name, a concrete need, a concrete face is always a reliable check on the effectiveness of our analysis.

For all his many works – from world of the court to ecclesiastical circles, from visiting his foundations in far-flung places to taking care of the Daughters or the confreres – Vincent never failed to do one crucial thing. He made it a point to personally serve or have some time to listen to the complaints or stories of concrete poor persons in the gates of Saint Lazare every time he comes home from a trip. For him, the concrete person is the endpoint of all our strivings. There is one side-note that catches my attention in Roman’s biography of St. Vincent. After having convinced the Ladies of Charity that the work of the Foundling had to continue, the Daughters had to distribute them to different places and foster mothers all over Paris since they could not be accommodated in one house. Louise de Marillac, who was directly in-charge, kept a register of the different placements of children. And Roman wrote: “Vincent checked this register and (a touching detail) signed it with his own hand.”[62] This means that Vincent did know where each individual child went, who the foster mothers were, their concrete whereabouts. It was a ‘detail’ but it was crucial for him. Vincent did not serve the universal poor or the abstract humanity. Each concrete child, each concrete beggar – was the reason to all his numerous undertakings.

4.4 The Reality of Power and the Formation of our Candidates

there are two things I want to stress with regard the issue of power in the formation of our candidates. First, our students need to be acquainted with recent trends in social analysis and apply them to their contexts. They need to be critical to the social, economic, political and cultural movements of our times and how these impact on their lives and those of the poor. They need to be taught how to read newspapers or listen to TV news critically. We should not only train seminarians to just carry breviaries and pray their rosaries. For, as we have seen, even religion and spirituality can become institutions of hegemonic oppression. The dominant power is so inventive that it penetrates all aspects of contemporary life. And if we listen to St. Vincent, charity (that is, political charity) – if it is to counter such a flexible oppressive machine – also needs to be inventive unto infinity.

Second, our students (formators included) should learn to discern power at work in their own lives. It is only when one is self-reflexive that he or she can critically discern the power dynamics at work in the socio-political spheres. A famous psychologist, Rollo May,[63] outlines five levels of power at work in the life of a person: (1) ‘exploitative power’: this type of power as force is resorted to in extreme inequality between two peoples or groups; (2) manipulative power: a desire to control beyond brute force and is done through manipulation, exploitation or trickery; (3) competitive power: impulse to either crush the opponent or excel in one’s potential – thus, it is ambivalent; (4) nutrient power: power used for the benefit of the other though not to one’s equal; (5) integrative power – a power with the other person as equal, one which is characterized by mutuality and respect. Formators shall help the students to discern one’s location in the above continuum of power leading them out of one’s experience of exploitative compulsions towards nurturing and integrative power – or, to go back to our framework, from the ambivalent fields of ‘power over’ to the empowering horizons of ‘power with’.

Daniel Franklin Pilario, C.M.

St. Vincent School of Theology

221 Tandang Sora Ave., Quezon City

Philippines

Email: danielfranklinpilario@yahoo.com


[1] Dr. Daniel Franklin Pilario, CM is currently the dean of St. Vincent School of Theology Philippines. He earned his doctorate degree in systematic theology at Louvain University, Belgium. He is co-chairman of the CCC.

[2] For this methodology, see my articles: “Inculturating Congregational Charisms: A Methodological Proposal for the Vincentian Family,” Hapag: A Journal of Interdisciplinary Theological Research 2 (2005): 169-207; “Inculturating Vincentian Charism and Ministry in the Asia-Pacific Contexts: A Methodological Proposal,” in Formation for Mission: In Search of Contextualization of Vincentian Formation and Charism in Asia Pacific ,ed. Armada Riyanto (Malang, Indonesia: Widya Sasana Publication, 2005), 139-173. This will be re-published in Vincentiana [forthcoming issue].

[3] Just for the sake of curiosity, I compared it to the word ‘sex’. ‘Sex’ sites were very much lower – 397M/.07 seconds in google and 554M/.10 seconds in yahoo. Can we say that contemporary minds are more concerned with ‘power’ than with ‘sex’?

[4] The New International Webster’s Comprehensive Dictionary of the English Language (Florida: Trident Press International, 1996), s.v. “power”.

[5] For this, see Steven Lukes, Power: A Radical View (New York: Palgrave, 1974). This work was revised and expanded in 2005.

[6] This notion of power is also called the ‘intuitive idea of power’ mainly theorized in Robert Dahl, “The Concept of Power,” Behavioral Science 2 (1957): 201-15; idem, Who Governs? Democracy and Power in an American City (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1961). As Steven Lukes suggests, Dahl and other American pluralists were influenced by the thoughts of Max Weber.

[7] Peter Bachrach and Morton Baratz, “The Two Faces of Power,” American Political Science Review 56 (1962): 947-52.

[8] Steven Lukes, Power: A Radical View, 22. There is more to power than ‘individual action’ as Marx said: “Men make their own history but they do not make it just as they please; they do not make it under circumstances chosen by themselves, but under circumstances directly encountered, given and transmitted from the past.” Karl Marx and F. Engels, “The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte,” in K. Marx and F. Engels, Selected Works, Vol. 1 (Moscow: Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1962), 247, as quoted in Ibid.

[9] For Gramsci’s discussion on hegemony, see Joseph Femia, Gramsci’s Political Thought: Hegemony, Consciousness and the Revolutionary Process (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1981).

[10] Michel Foucault, Power/Knowledge: Selected Interviews and Other Writings, ed. Colin Gordon (New York: Pantheon, 1980), 98.

[11] Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish, trans. A. Sheridan (New York: Pantheon, 1977).

[12] Michel Foucault, Madness and Civilization, trans. R. Howard (New Pantheon, 1965).

[13] Raymond Williams, Marxism and Literature (London: Oxford University Press, 1977), 125.

[14] Raymond Williams, Marxism and Literature, 126.

[15] De Certeau continues to explain: “A tactic is a calculated action determined by the absence of proper locus. No delimitation of an exteriority, then, provides it with the condition necessary for autonomy. The space of the tactic is the space of the other. Thus it must play on and with a terrain imposed on it and organized by the law of the foreign power. It does not have the means to keep to itself, at a distance, in a position of withdrawal, foresight, and self-collection: it is a maneuver ‘within the enemy’s field of vision,’ as von Büllow put it, and within the enemy territory. It does not, therefore have the options of planning general strategy and viewing the adversary as a whole within a district, visible, and objectionable space. It operates in isolated actions, blow by blow…” Michel de Certeau, The Practice of Everyday Life (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984), 307

[16] This reminds us of the Greek metis – a sense of cunning intelligence valuable to the Pre-Socratics but came to be suppressed by the dominant Greek narrative from Plato onwards.[16] In certain activities like navigation, medicine or hunting, the Greeks value a type of intelligence which combines “flair, wisdom, forethought, subtlety of mind, deception, resourcefulness, vigilance, opportunism, various skills and experiences acquired over the years” as they are made to bear upon the “transient, shifting, disconcerting and ambiguous situations.” Metis does not so much wrestle with force as with ‘cunning trickery’ by its ability to play the game to its limits in order to subvert its rules. It plays with the time at its disposal. It is swift to strike as it can also patiently wait for the right moment. It is pliable, flexible and polymorphous as it does not intend to fight but play with the winds so as to reach the harbor, i.e., to achieve its ends. It can appear weak and foolish in order to mislead only to take advantage of the game by surprise. In front of such an overwhelming power, this type of oblique resistance is the only way to survive. See Daniel Franklin Pilario, Back to the Rough Grounds of Praxis: Exploring Theological Method with Pierre Bourdieu (Leuven: Leuven University Press/ Peeters, 2005), 21-25, 249-250, 534-535.

[17] Vicente Rafael, Contracting Colonialism: Translation and Christian Conversion in Tagalog Society under Early Spanish Rule (Quezon City: Ateneo de Manila University Press, 1988).

[18] Virginia Held, Feminist Morality: Transforming Culture, Society and Politics (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1993), 137.

[19] Jean Baker Miller (1992) as quoted in “Feminist Perspectives on Power,” in http://plato.standford.edu/entries/ feminist-power/ (accessed 06.24.2007).

[20] Mary Parker Follett, Creative Experience (New York: Longmans Green and Co., 1924), xiii, 187.

[21] Hannah Arendt, On Violence (London: Penguin, 1970), 44.

[22] H.-G. Gadamer, Philosophical Hermeneutics (Berkeley: University of California, 1977), 9. See also Truth and Method 2nd revised edition, trans. J. Weinsheimer and D. Marshall (New York: Continuum, 1998), 269-277.

[23] Michel Foucault, Madness and Civilization, 42.

[24] This generalized allegation by Foucault needs to be nuanced. The everyday life details in Saint-Lazare gives us another impression. Saint-Lazare was a big institution of all sorts –from halfway house for the poor to temporary lodging of bishops, lay people and religious. It served as the mother house of the missionaries (that is why we came to be called ‘Lazarists’). But it was also a training institution for seminarians and priests. The Tuesday conferences were done here and Vincent was a regular attendee. There was also a church where liturgy was celebrated daily and a place where soup and bread where served for those who cared to come. So, it was not just some sort of prison – an impression which Foucault wanted to give. It is true that there were inmates with mental handicaps and young persons who were voluntarily sent there by their parents (with the permission of the magistrates) for purposes of reform. But this arrangement is no different from what we now call institution of ‘rehabilitation’, and in their case, with the confreres as equivalent to present-day spiritual directors, counselors or psychiatrists. Vincent insisted that these ‘inmates’ be called ‘boarders’. They were not prisoners of His Majesty as Foucault insinuated. They were in fact ‘paying boarders’, thus, they are served exactly the same food – if not better – as the community had. Those who recovered went home, got decent positions in society, lived normal – if not – exemplary lives. Abelly had this to say: “It is extraordinary that several had almost a complete change of heart when they were sent to Saint Lazare. The charitable care they experienced enabled them to leave in an entirely different frame of mind, as good as new. They are today good members of society.” Louis Abelly, The Life of the Venerable Servant of God Vincent de Paul, Book II, 265.

[25] Louis Abelly, The Life of the Venerable Servant of God Vincent de Paul, Book II (New York: New City Press, 1993), 395.

[26] L. Abelly, The Life of the Venerable Servant of God, Book II, 396.

[27] José María Román, St. Vincent de Paul: A Biography, trans, Joyce Howard (London: Melisende, 1999), 531.

[28] José María Román, St. Vincent de Paul: A Biography, 529.

[29] Abbé Maynard, Virtues and Spiritual Doctrine of St. Vincent de Paul (Niagara: Niagara Index Publishing House, 1877), 216.

[30] José María Román, St. Vincent de Paul: A Biography, 543. The French minister and a friend of Mazarin, Le Tellier knows that as in the case of French benefices, the Queen only relies on the opinion of Monsieur Vincent: “As for M. Vincent, she feels obliged to follow his advice that if the cardinal nominated as bishop somebody that M. Vincenth thought was unsuitable, then she would accept the latter’s decision and neither the recommendation of His Eminence not of anybody else would prevail over M. Vincent’s decision.” Ibid.

[31] José María Román, St. Vincent de Paul: A Biography, 526.

[32] Pierre Coste, The Life and Works of St. Vincent de Paul, Vol. 2, trans. Joseph Leonard (Westminster, Maryland: Newman Press, 1952), 366-68

[33] Ibid, 369-70. There is no specific date for this incident. Coste calculated it happened sometime between 1639 and 1642.

[34] Pierre Coste, The Life and Works of St. Vincent de Paul, Vol. 3, trans. Joseph Leonard (Westminster, Maryland: Newman Press, 1952), 92.

[35] Pierre Coste, The Life and Works of St. Vincent de Paul, Vol 2, 448.

[36] Roman says that we do not know the specific date of Vincent’s dismissal from the Council. But when Alain de Solminihac – the bishop of Cahors – wrote him on October 2, 1652, he congratulated him for having been relieved of the job though it was also a great loss of the Church. Thus, the retirement document must have been issued before October 1652, that is, right after the September 11 letter.

[37] M. Foucault, Madness and Civilization, 49.

[38] M. Foucault, Madness and Civilization, 40.

[39] Pierre Coste, The Life and Works of St. Vincent de Paul, Vol. 3, 302.

[40] José María Román, St. Vincent de Paul: A Biography, 637.

[41] José María Román, St. Vincent de Paul: A Biography, 638. At around March 1657, Vincent wrote to one of his friends about the Chaplaincy of the General Hospital: “They [the King and the Parlement] have appointed the priests of the Congregation of the Mission and the Daughters of Charity to serve the poor under the authority of the archbishop of Paris. We have not yet undertaken the actual work for we do not yet know for sure if it is the will of God for us. If we do begin this work it will at first be an experiment to see how it goes.” Louis Abelly, The Life of the Venerable Servant of God, Book I, 229.

[42] Pierre Coste, The Life and Works of St. Vincent de Paul, Book II, 302.

[43] Pierre Coste, The Life and Works of St. Vincent de Paul, Book II, 301

[44] Abbé Boudignon, Saint Vincent de Paul. Modèle des homes d’action et d’oeuvres (Paris, 1886), 75, quoted in Ibid, 335.

[45] “An elaborate cultivation of outward appearances as an instrument of social differentiation, the display of rank through outward form, is characteristic not only of the houses but of the whole shaping of court life.” Norbert Elias, The Court Society (Oxford: Blackwell, 1983), 62-63.

[46] Norbert Elias, The Court Society, 128.

[47] Norbert Elias, The Court Society, 156.

[48] For a balanced interpretation of the relationship between Mazarin and Vincent de Paul, see José María Román, St. Vincent de Paul: A Biography, 538-540.

[49] Louis Abelly, The Life of the Venerable Servant of God, Book III, Chapter 13, Section I, 210.

[50] Louis Abelly, The Life of the Venerable Servant of God, Book III, Chapter 18, 274.

[51] For instance, after quoting this, Pierre Coste remarks: “He was indifferent to the marks of deference shown him. A man’s character is often changed when he attains a prominent position, but his remained the same. ‘M. Vincent is always M. Vincent,’ a bishop remarked, and nothing was truer.” Pierre Coste, The Life and Works of St. Vincent de Paul, Vol. 3, 88.

[52] See Pierre Bourdieu, The Logic of Practice (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1990), 52-79. For the role of habitus in Bourdieu’s sociology and Christian theology, see Daniel Franklin Pilario, Back to the Rough Grounds of Praxis: Exploring Theological Method with Pierre Bourdieu (Leuven: Leuven University Press/Peeters, 2005).

[53] There are also incidents of other nobles make fun of Vincent. While he was riding on his horse from Saint Denis, a group of noblemen pursued him and fired their guns in his direction saying that when the danger is gone, he will first go to a church to thank God for the protection against the robbers. Vincent actually did, as they guessed. Pierre Coste, The Life and Works of St. Vincent de Paul, Vol. 3, 88-89.

[54] José María Román, St. Vincent de Paul: A Biography, 559.

[55] Pierre Coste, ed., Saint Vincent de Paul: Conferences, entretiens, documents, Vol. V (Paris: 1920-1926), 594 quoted in Thomas Davitt, “Less Publicised Facets of Saint Vincent,” Colloque 17. Henceforth, SV.

[56] SV VII, 376, in Ibid.

[57] SV VIII, 200, in Ibid.

[58] Louis Abelly, The Life of the Venerable Servant of God, Book III, 117.

[59] Ibid, 118.

[60] Ibid, 119.

[61] See Call for Papers to the Indonesian Joint Meeting.

[62] José María Román, St. Vincent de Paul: A Biography, 489.

[63] Rollo May, Power and Innocence (New York: Norton, 1972).

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