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PROFILE
The Title of the Congregation (FIC)

The Title of the Congregation

We call ourselves Brothers of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The Congregation is entered on the register of the Sacred Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life as: Congregatio Fratres Immaculatae Conceptionis Beatae Mariae Virginis (F.I.C.).

In the Founder’s earlier «Project», the name the Congregation was not yet clear or fixed: «Projects for the founding of a society of unmarried persons who for the time being nameless, but in the course of time will be called Brothers of Charity, Poor Brother or suchlike designation.»[1] Problem of name giving of the Congregation arising during the approval of the first Rule by Mgr. Paredis. Were we «Brothers of St. Vincent» or «Brothers of the Immaculate conception of Mary»? On the original of the approval text, the title of the Congregation was the Congregation of the Brothers of «Saint Vincent de Paul under protection of the Immaculate Conception».[2] With the consent of Mgr. Paredis this title was changed on order of His Lordship: the Congregation of Brothers of the Immaculate Conception under protection of St. Vincent de Paul. It was the will of Mgr. Paredis that we should be called «Brothers of the Immaculate Conception of Mary.»[3] Moreover, we find in the second yearly report, September 8, 1842 some clarity on the problem, who changed the name. «The Reverend Founder presided over the meeting, His Lordship Mgr. J.A. Paredis, Bishop of Roermond, has tentatively approved of the Holy Rule and appointed Rev. L.H. Rutten pr and Founder of the Congregation as Director. His Lordship wanted the Congregation to be called: Congregation of the Brothers of the Immaculate Conception of Mary.»[4]

Based on that history of the title of the Congregation, might be meaningful to consider one of the titles which Rutten would give to the Congregation, that is «the Brothers of Charity». Hopefully, by searching its meaning we would arrive at the original spirit of his foundation. It would be necessary to deal considerably with the common opinion with the help of the etymological references on the term «charity». In addition the special historical situation in which St. Vincent de Paul used the meaning of the word charity in a special way.


The term charity is derived from the Latin caritas which in turn stands for the Greek agape in the NT.[5] Agape was translated by the Vulgate Bible as caritas, possibly because amor had impure associations and amicitia were too secular. The dominant theme is that God first loves us «1Jn 4, 9» and commends His charity toward us in the death of His Son «Rm 5,8-10». Our love in return springs from the new man who is now dead to sin and born afresh to life in Christ «Jn 3,3; Rm 6,6; 2 Cor 5,17; Col 3,10; 1 P 1,23».  To live in this way goes with loving God with our whole heart and soul and mind and loving our neighbor as ourselves. In another words, charity stands in general for the state of being in and responding to God’s love and favor, more specifically for our whole-hearted love of God, and for the love of our neighbor as ourselves there incalculated, and most specifically for the third and greatest of the theological virtues.[6]

In the vocabulary of English-speaking Catholicism, the word has gone down in the world and is applied to an active benevolence toward those in need. St.Vincent de Paul is considered the most characteristic representative of Catholic charity in modern times. The confraternity of charity that he organized «1617» among his parishioners of Châtillon-les-Dombes to visit the sick poor in their homes was the seed from which a remarkable number of charitable institutions grew. He founded the Ladies of Charity to bring them into charitable works. Since they were unable to cope with all the needs of the poor, together with St. Louise de Marillac, he founded the Daughters of Charity «1633», a religious congregation devoted entirely to the service of the poor.[7]

 

On that basis of the terminological considerations of the word charity and how it is used in the Vincentian movement, will be helpful to interpretate the motif of the foundation of the Congregation. There were five titles at least at the beginning of the Congregation: the Brothers of Charity, Poor Brothers,[8] the Congregation of the Brothers of Saint Vincent de Paul under protection of the Immaculate Conception,[9] the Congregation of Brothers of the Immaculate Conception under protection of St. Vincent de Paul,[10] and the Congregation of the Brothers of the Immaculate Conception of Mary.[11] From this point of view, it is beyond doubt that these titles showed how our Founders laid down the Congregation on the spirit of St. Vincent.



[1] See footnote no. 81!

[2] Bro. Hyacinthus noted that the part between bracket is crossed out in the original text and in the margin replaced by our Founder with the following text: «…of the Immaculate Conception under protection of St. Vincentius à Paula.» Approved: with the consent of Mgr. Paredis this change on order of His Lordship. See Hyacinthus Oliemans, FIC., «Geschiedenis der Congregatie van de Broeders Onbevl. Ontvangenis v. Maria van 21 Nov.1840 tot21 Nov. 1890», Maastricht 1915, 65.

[3] Cf. Hyacinthus Oliemans, FIC., «Geschiedenis der Congregatie …»,  65.

[4] See REGISTER - 2nd YEAR REPORT,Sept. 8, 1842. It states that the title of the congregation was «CONGREGATIE DER BROEDERS VAN DE ONBEVLEKTE ONTVANGENIS».

[5] See Enda McDonagh,  «Love»,  in  Joseph A. Komonchack, ed., The New Dictionary of Theology, Minnesota 1987, 602-616; Elisabeth Dreyer, «Love», in Michael Downey, ed., The Dictionary of Catholic Spirituality, Minnesota 1993, 612-622; Werner G. Jeanrond, «Charity», in  Adrian Hastings, ed., The Oxford Companion to Christian Thought, New York 2000, 108; T. Gilby, «Charity», in Berard L Marthaler, O.F.M. Conv., S.T.D., Ph.D., ex. ed., New Catholic Encyclopedia, vol 3 Can-Col., Washington DC 2003, 359-400.

[6] Cf. T. Gilby, «Charity», in NCE Vol. 3, 395.

[7] Cf. M. Scaduto, «Charity, Work of», in Berard L Marthaler, O.F.M. Conv., S.T.D., Ph.D., ex. ed., New Catholic Encyclopedia, vol 3 Can-Col., Washington DC 2003, 417. See also Luigi Nuovo, «Carità (Confraternite di)», in Luigi Mezzadri, Dizionario Storico Spirituale Vincenziano, Roma 2003, 62-65.

[8] The first and the second one  were written on the Rutten’s Project.

[9] This title as it was written on  the original of the approval text of the first Rule of Congregation by Mgr. Paredis, bishop of Roermond.

[10] The title according the first Rule of the Congregation which was written by Bro. Bernard: The Rule of the Brothers of the Immaculate Conception of Mary under protection St. Vincent de Paul.

[11] The new title as it was with the consent of Mgr. Paredis changed on order of His Lordship. See footnote no. 116.






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