Every group or community with a clear mission has a number of sources of inspiration from which it draws. The Brothers of Charity’s inspiration is the charism of charity, which is the heart of the Congregation and the common thread throughout its history from its foundation in 1807. Founder Peter Joseph Triest presented the source of this charity in the motto that he gave to the Congregation: God is love. With God’s love, the Brothers of Charity take up their place in the world and let God’s love shine, particularly in the lives of those who experience very little love because of illness, disability, poverty or marginalization. It will therefore be a matter of journeying increasingly deeper into God’s love, of being more and more open to God’s love so as to be filled with God’s love and become true people of charity. That is the profound meaning of our name: Brothers of Charity.
Our prime example is Jesus himself, who went through life as a good neighbour: full of compassion for those who suffer and full of forgiveness for those who live in sin. In his face, we could discern the true face of God’s love and mercy. By following Him, we will also enter into this movement of love and compassion and be loving and compassionate neighbours ourselves.
Key to his message of love are these words: “Whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me” (Mt 25:40). Indeed, Jesus invites us to see, to meet, and to love Him in the neighbour to whom we are lovingly and mercifully close. He connects this invitation with the judgment criteria, which form the basis of the works of mercy. The commandment of love, which sounds so radical and limitless in itself with the invitation to love even our enemies, is channelled in the works of mercy as it were and offered as a stepping stone to experience and live this love concretely in everyday life.
It is good to remember our original name, ‘Hospital Brothers of Saint Vincent’. With this, the founder’s intention was, again, very clear. We were invited to live hospitality in the relief of the sick and the poor, in the spirit of Saint Vincent, who is precisely known for his special concern and care for the poor, and for the completely new way in which he put charity into practice. In line with Jesus’ invitation, which we mentioned earlier, he saw the poor as icons of Christ and, at the same time, as his Lords and Masters whom he had to serve with respect and love. The Vincentian spirituality, which clearly adds colour to our charism, calls on us today to radically opt for the poor, and to continue to give them priority, both in our existing activities and in the new needs we face.
Charity from these backgrounds we see as movements of love, compassion, and concrete works of mercy, which we want to give shape in a professional way.
To sum up, we might say that we, as Brothers of Charity, moved by God’s love, want to let this love shine in the world, spread it and share it with the poor. We find our inspiration in the words and in the life of Jesus Christ as it also took shape in the lives of Saint Vincent de Paul and the founder, Father Triest. As a community, we want to create a welcoming environment for those on the fringes of society. At the heart of our lives, there’s charity as a movement of love, compassion, and concrete works of mercy.
Bro. René Stockman