Last in the series of studying the vows in literal form is Whole-Hearted and Free Service to the Poorest of the Poor. This is one of my favorites and what draws an LMC to be an LMC. It is what distinguishes this movement from others. It is the work of Mother Teresa.
WHOLE-HEARTED AND FREE SERVICE TO THE POOREST OF THE POOR
"What we have seen and heard,
what we have watched and touched with our hands,
concerning the Word of Life, we proclaim to you. "(1John 1:1-4)
"Truly I say to you, whatever you do to the least of my brethren, you did it to Me." (Mt 25:40)
1. The fourth vow of the LMCs contains and expresses:
- their particular Charism;
- their affiliation and interdependence on the Missionary of Charity Family;
- the kind of apostolate they must engage themselves in;
- the type of persons they are called to serve in their way of serving them.
2. This vow distinguishes the Movement of the LMCs from various other movements and associations, confirming and clarifying their distinct vocation in the Church. If in the first three vows is manifested the task of the LMC to observe the first great commandment to love God with the whole heart, with the whole soul and with the whole mind, through the fourth vow they are assisted in the practice of the equally important command to love one's neighbour as themselves, and especially the poorest of the poor (Mt 22:34-40; 25:31-46).
3. Taking this vow, the LMCs undertake to give whole-hearted and free service to the members of their own families and to all the poorest of the poor, according to the Statutes.
a) Service means:
- living generously in the world without being of the world, one's own life consecrated by prayer and faithfulness, with a profound sense of responsibility, and joyously accepting whatever the Lord wishes to send in the name of and for the sake of the poorest of the poor. "All Christians by the example of their lives and the witness of the Word, wherever they live, have an obligation to manifest the new man which they put on in baptism, and to reveal the power of the Holy Spirit by whom they were strengthened at confirmation, so that others, seeing their good works, might glorify the father" (Mt 5:16; AG 11);
- to be always ready to offer poor, humble, simple, loving service to the best of their ability in all the needs of the poorest of the poor, not only with the simple intention to help them, but also for the love of God;
- to share person-to-person, by their presence and dialogue, the overflow of God's love that they experience in their way of life. "Just as Christ penetrated the hearts of men and by a truly human dialogue led them to the divine light, so too, his disciples profoundly pervaded by the Spirit of Christ should know and converse with those among whom they live, that through sincere and patient dialogue these men might learn of the riches which the generous God has distributed among the nations" (AG 11).
b) Free means:
- giving freely and joyously what they have received (Mt 10:8), without asking in exchange, either money or goods, and without expecting gratitude and appreciation (Lk 17:10).
c) Whole-hearted means:
· to give everything we can without considering the cost, to give even when it hurts (Jn 13; 15:13); to give to the poor not only our hands to serve, our lips to speak, our eyes to see, but also our hearts to love, with goodness, humility and joy. "...The Church, through its children joins itself with men of every condition, but especially with the poor and the afflicted, and willingly spends herself for them. It shares their joys and sorrows, it is familiar with the hopes and problems of life, it suffers with them in the anguish of death" (AG 12).
4. This vow allows us to love and serve Jesus in the distressing disguise of the poorest of the poor through:
a) the seven spiritual works of mercy, which are:
1. to call sinners to repentance
2. to instruct the ignorant
3. to counsel the doubtful
4. to comfort the sorrowful
5. to bear wrongs patiently
6. to forgive injuries
7. to pray for the living and the dead
b) the seven corporal works of mercy, which are:
1. to feed the hungry: not only with perishable food, but also with the Word of God, prayer and sacraments;
2. to give drink to the thirsty: not only water, but also knowledge, truth, justice, peace, love and joy;
3. to clothe the naked: not only with a piece of cloth, but also with human dignity;
4. to give shelter to the homeless: not providing only a house made of bricks, but a heart which understands, protects, and loves;
5. to visit the infirm, crippled and blind: not only those who are infirm, sick, crippled or blind in body, but also in mind and spirit;
6. to visit the imprisoned: not only those who are imprisoned behind iron bars, but also imprisoned in their passions, selfishness, sin, indifference, and ignorance;
7. to bury the dead: not only corpses, but also bad habits, sins, and selfishness.
5. Among the poorest of the poor it is necessary to also include:
- the members of one's own family, the persons with whom we live, work and pray;
- each LMC, each brother and sister of the Missionaries of Charity;
- those who continue to live in sin, who lead others into sin, into error, and into confusion;
- those who live in solitude, the aged, the abandoned, the unwanted, the unloved, the shut-ins, those who live in despair and the shadow of death;
- those who are deprived of their natural rights, the gypsies, the refugees, those who are considered inferior or who are mistreated because of the colour of their skin, their culture, their status, their religion, or their nationality;
- the faithful departed.
6. This vow does not prevent one, however, from working for one's living and receiving a salary for the support of one's own family, but without coveting money which is the root of all evil (1 Tim 6:10) and is out of place among LMCs who make the effort to follow Christ, born poor, lived poorer, and died the poorest.
7. To awaken and satisfy the hunger for God is the heart of the vocation of the LMCs. They, however, do not manifest presumptuous attitudes toward the poor, but go to them as witnesses of Jesus Christ to communicate the influence of silent prayer and the personal experience of God's love.