Today, there are many books, blogs, workshops and degrees on #cross cultural communication.. Vincent de Paul was an advocate for learning languages and reaching out to all people in need. It is no wonder then that Vincent was so accepting and Frederic followed his example when he founded the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. Our Mission exhorts us to make no distinction in those we serve, to reach out to all people. Our bylaws challenge us to have diversity in our membership – again – reaching out to all people to join.
A closer look…
VINCENT ON LANGUAGE… Vincent’s missionaries had to be experts in cross-cultural communication and therefore able to speak local languages. He wrote, “How can missionaries go throughout the world announcing the Gospel if they only know their own language?” (SV XII, 26-27). Languages are obviously important for cross-cultural communication.
Vincent was proficient in the languages and dialects of 17th century France and its already multicultural Paris. He understood that in order to have effective evangelization and service to the poor, knowledge of cultural traditions, customs and beliefs was needed. Three thousand of the estimated 30,000 letters that Vincent wrote document his incredible skills as a cross-cultural leader. He had a unique ability to illustrate his messages by using regional customs and local expressions. Vincent’s knowledge of several French dialects, his fluency in Spanish and Italian and his understanding of the Arab world demonstrates not only his intelligence and effective communication skills, but also his exposure to culturally diverse societies. Vincent’s sensitivity to this matter was based on his experience of cultural diversity in Europe and driven by concern for effective communication in foreign countries.
I think we would do well today to ask God to give us the grace to learn foreign languages well, for the sake of those to be sent in foreign lands… Now the variety of languages is very great, not only in Europe, Africa, and Asia, but even in Canada, for we see in the reports of the Jesuit Fathers that there are as many languages as there are tribes… (SV XII, 26, No. 183, 9 June 1658)
EXCERPTED FROM, Cross-Cultural Vincentian Leadership:
The Challenge of Developing Culturally Intelligent Leaders
Marco Tavanti, Ph.D. The complete article may be found at: