Contemplation: The Bashful Poor

Contemplation: The Bashful Poor 800 800 SVDP USA

By Timothy Williams, Senior Director of Formation and Leadership Development 

Effective Conferences, our manual explains, are “reachable.” [Manual, 26] While most Conferences make every effort to ensure that their phone number, along with perhaps a website and email address, are well-publicized and shared with other community organizations for referrals, our Rule calls us to do more than that. It calls us “to seek out the poor.” [Rule, Part I, 1.5]

On its face, this might seem unnecessary. After all, if the neighbor has fallen behind on rent, is facing a utility cutoff, or has hungry children to feed, why would they not actively seek out our help? Yet so many wait until the very last moment to call; they exhaust all possible alternatives to avoid calling us; they apologize for having called and are concerned that assisting them might deprive somebody “who really needs help.”

For each person we meet who tells us this, how many more are there who never call, fearful that they would be taking from somebody “who really needs help?” It isn’t that they are in denial about their immediate needs. They simply do not see themselves as “the poor” because their needs are only temporary. When there is a little more month than money, they often choose to just “tough it out.”

In an 1848 letter to his brother Alphonse, a priest, Bl. Frédéric explained that the church must concern itself “not merely with the poverty-stricken, but with the working classes who do not need alms.” [Baunard, 261] To “not need alms,” of course, is not the same thing as needing no assistance at all. In Frédéric’s time and ours, there are many people who work very hard to support themselves and their families, but simply come up a little short from time to time. For that proud working person, their first instinct simply is not to call a church for a “handout.”

These are the same people that St. Vincent de Paul called “the bashful poor” – people who were temporarily impoverished by war or natural disasters, who were ashamed or embarrassed to ask for assistance. [CCD XIIIb:2] How do we find the “bashful poor?” And what do we offer them?

Frédéric believed that they would be best reached by “special sermons, by charitable associations, and by sympathy, which will touch them more than is generally believed.” [Baunard, 261]  In other words, it is our friendship, understanding, and advocacy that will make clear to all that we are here for all of our neighbors.

Unlike an agency, we don’t ask the neighbor to “qualify” or to prove they are poor enough to be deserving of help. No work of charity is foreign to the Society. Sometimes that is a handout, sometimes it is a hand up, sometimes it is a helping hand, but always it must be a handshake of respect, of understanding, and of welcome.


Am I so content with waiting for the desperate poor to call that I don’t reach out to the working poor? 

Recommended Reading

A New Century Dawns

Contemplation: The Way to Peace

Contemplation: The Way to Peace 800 800 SVDP USA

By Timothy Williams, Senior Director of Formation and Leadership Development 

Our little human minds and hearts can sometimes become so bound up in worry and anxiety that we find it difficult to act, difficult even to know what actions to take. We pray for the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and then wonder, with even more anxiety, when our prayers will be answered. This is no less true for us than it is for the neighbor, whose troubles often greatly exceed our own.

Jesus understood this tendency of ours. He understood us, telling us to “let the day’s own trouble be sufficient for the day,” not to be anxious about material needs, but instead to concern ourselves first with God’s kingdom. But what about the neighbor, whose troubles are many times beyond our ability to alleviate, at least in any permanent way? We’re called to share their suffering, which naturally leads us to share in their anxieties. Over time this can weigh on us, making our hearts heavy, filling us with discouragement. How can we let their troubles also be enough for our day?

In sharing the face of Christ, we are called also to share the great hope that Christ offers. How can we offer this hope to the neighbor when we allow ourselves to lose hope? St. Louise de Marillac offered this advice to the Daughters of Charity, who also suffered what we now call “compassion fatigue” telling them “you will see a great amount of misery that you cannot relieve. God sees it as well …do all you can to provide them with a little assistance and remain at peace.” [SWLM, l.353]

So, we seek a way to the peace that will soothe our anxieties, but there is no way to peace. Peace is the way. God’s peace is already in our hearts, for peace is the God who made us in His image. Letting go of our anxieties and fears, abandoning ourselves to God’s will rather than our own, trusting fully in His providence; in these ways we let go of all the noise and clutter of worldly cares that disturb His peace within us. In turn, we share this peace with the neighbor through our virtue of gentleness; “our friendly assurance and invincible goodwill, which mean kindness, sweetness and patience in our relationship with others.” [Rule, Part I, 2.5.1]

When one person is angry, it can lead others to anger. Laughter, too, is contagious. We are created to live in community, and it is only natural for us to rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. At the same time, as our hearts connect with the neighbor, we cannot help but share God’s peace when we allow it into our own hearts.

The kingdom of God is peace in the Holy Spirit,” St. Vincent taught. “He will reign in you if your heart is at peace.” [CCD I:111]


Do I allow “the day’s own troubles,” mine or the neighbor’s, to crowd out God’s peace?

Recommended Reading

500 Little Prayers for Vincentians

Wayne Bugg shares his story as a Vincentian -Video-

Wayne Bugg shares his story as a Vincentian -Video- 1080 1080 SVDP USA

Wayne Bugg shares his story as a Vincentian

Hear what Wayne Bugg has to say about his experience with the Society of St. Vincent de Paul from a young age, and how his encounters with Vincentians over the years guided his path in life to become the Vincentian that he is today and serve as the Associate Executive Director of St. Vincent de Paul Twin Cities.

Wayne Bug, Associate Executive Director for St. Vincent de Paul Twin Cities: 

My name is Wayne Bugg, and I’m the associate executive director for St. Vincent de Paul in the Twin Cities. Around the age of 15, my next-door neighbor worked for St. Vincent de Paul. He invited me to come and hang out with him and move some furniture. At the time, I was a high school dropout and I needed to make some legal money. I needed to make some changes in life. So this was like a divine intervention that this young man reached out to me. So I originally started off as a neighbor in need.

As I came on working for the thrift store, it was culture shock. So I came here to make money and have come to find out that people that are volunteers are working for free. I couldn’t understand the concept and so I found out over a period of time that it was their love for God and their love for people that had called them to do this and this level of love. After many, many conversations, they began to pour into me. I think I had issues with my image as an image bearer of God. I really didn’t see that, but they saw that in me. And in one particular person, Darrell Bach, the Council president, began to talk to me and told me how unique and special I was and how I needed to go back to school because at that point I was a high school dropout, and so that right there I think endeared me to the Society.  They kind of do sometimes what we do with items at the thrift store. We give them a second chance. People donate them to us because they feel that they have no value and I felt like I didn’t have any value. But they were able to take me in, kind of shine me up a little bit and then represent me.

So I work during the day and went to school at night and eventually I got my GED and so I show back up with this piece of paper. I’m thrilled. Not many people that I grew up around, you know, have that or achieved that. I was ready to retire education wise, but Darrell said no it’s not enough. He was thrilled, but he said I had a greater capacity than me and so he talked me into going to college, and so I signed up for the Community College down the street.

Darrell was near retirement age and so they had just hired executive director Ed Curran and he came along. I felt as though there was like, there’s this agreement between the two that he will continue to mentor me, and so here I am hanging out with Ed and watching Ed from you know, from afar, watching him be a husband and a father and some of those things that I didn’t know that they were possible. I saw a lot of broken relationships and things of that nature, so I was encouraged by his lifestyle.

So I finished school, I got my associates degree. And I came back to Saint Vincent and showed Ed, and he says, great, let’s finish. You can do more!  And so he talked me into going to get my bachelors degree and so I signed up for classes and eventually I got my bachelors degree.

And even more so to me I got married, and I never thought as a kid that that would be something I wanted to do. But being able to see Daryl and see Ed and some of these other Vincentians, these couples, that came and volunteered changed my perception about marriage and that you can be happily married. So this is one of the things that kind of impacted me. And along that path, my wife eventually she got pregnant and we had twins. One of the Vincentians, Margaret Kuznia, she said Wayne, while your wife is in these early stages I will come to your house three to four times a week and just cook, whatever else that you need me to do. This is one of those things that communicated the Vincentian virtues that demonstrated the gospel, how Jesus and his level of intimacy that he had given to people. So these are some of the things that kept me there at the Society even after getting my diploma.

Now the roles have kind of changed where I was the mentee and I was receiving all this mentorship and to a degree I still do, but now I have an opportunity to engage with our employees. They have similar stories and situations where they feel that they’ve been abandoned, that they’ve been broken and so I am able to pour into them these same truths about God and his ability to redeem and recover. And then also our neighbors that come in and some of our neighbors are in distress and they come in and they are in the midst of a situation and they don’t have anywhere to turn. But we get to be the beacon of light, the lighthouse in the community. It’s a thrill and a privilege for me to be able to serve in that capacity. Everything has been poured into me. To establish relationships and to love people in a way that so many people yearn for is one of the reasons why I continue to stay with Saint Vincent de Paul and continue to be marveled by all the individuals in this wonderful organization.

Contemplation: True Presence

Contemplation: True Presence 800 800 SVDP USA

By Timothy Williams, Senior Director of Formation and Leadership Development 

Vincentians are doers, we are people of action. We love God, as St. Vincent said, “with the strength of our arms and the sweat of our brows.” [CCD XI:32] We believe, as Frédéric did, that “religion serves best not to think, but to act.” As central as our prayer life is, our Conferences are “communities of…prayer and action.” [Rule, Part I, 3.3] And yet, as we often emphasize in our home visit training, ours is not a ministry of constant motion or problem-solving, but is instead, in its heart, a ministry of presence.

In our person-to-person service to those in need, we seek to “establish relationships based on trust and friendship.” [Rule, Part I, 1.9] We seek to be like the friends we call in our own times of distress, who come to us not to find us new jobs, or heal our sick family members, or bring the dead back to life, but to sit with us, to feel the sadness that we feel, and by sharing it, to lighten our burdens.

We are called to see the face of Christ in those we serve, but also to share Christ’s face, His love, and His presence. Just as He told us the poor would always be with us, so also He assured us that He would be with us Himself, until the end of the age, and He connected these two truths by reminding us that how we treat the poor would be judged as if done to Himself.

Our ideal is to serve the neighbor for love alone; not the love of romance, but the love of God, the love that is called charity, the love that Vincent said is “inventive to infinity.” [CCD XI:131] It was in Christ’s inventiveness, Vincent said, that He found a way, after his earthly life had ended, not to remain a carpenter, but to remain truly present to all who believe, and to all who seek Him, in the Eucharist.

The primary purpose of the Society is our own growth in holiness, and while our person-to-person service is our primary means towards this growth, our spiritual practices, like Vincent and Frédéric before us, include “devotion to the Eucharist” [Rule, Part I, 2.2] And how could it be otherwise? In the poor, as in the Eucharist, we see Christ’s true presence, and our service itself becomes sacramental.

We are called not only to stand with the poor, but on our Home Visits, to sit with them; to be present with them. It is through our presence, not simply our actions, that our Home Visits, like Eucharistic Adoration, become acts of love and devotion to God’s beloved Son.

Jesus, Son of Man, was sent by the Father to share our humanity fully, to be present with us, among us, and finally, through bread and wine, in us. To share Christ’s love as Vincentians, then, is to be truly present, going to the neighbor as Christ came to us, bringing within us Christ’s true presence through the Eucharist we have received. Ours is a ministry not only of presence, but of true presence, for on the Home Visit, as in the Eucharist, He will, as He promised, be truly present, too.


How can I be more present to the neighbor?

Recommended Reading

‘Tis a Gift to Be Simple

The Home Visit: An Encounter with our Neighbor -Video-

The Home Visit: An Encounter with our Neighbor -Video- 1080 1080 SVDP USA

The Home Visit: An Encounter with our Neighbor

Hear what three Vincentians – Kat, Ray, and Tim – have to say about their experiences during a Home Visit with a neighbor, and how that has shaped their time with the Society of St. Vincent de Paul.

Kat Brisette, SVDP Rhode Island:

Home visits are one of my favorite parts of the Society of Saint Vincent DePaul. Just being able to, you know, put yourself in an uncomfortable position, just like our neighbors are in an uncomfortable position and being able to just listen to them and talk with them. My favorite home visits are when there’s kids. Maybe it’s just because I like to fool around, and so it’s fun to interact with them. So a lot of times we’ll bring like a coloring book or things for them to play with while we’re meeting. So a lot of my favorite interactions have been, you know, when you bring the coloring book in and two siblings on the floor and they’re coloring it in while you’re talking with mom. And before they go, they put a big heart on it and give it to you. And so I have plenty of coloring pages that I have framed and I keep with me because it just reminds us of what we do and why we do it.


Raymond Sickingar, SVDP Rhode Island:

Years ago, my wife and I went on a Home Visit together. There’s a trailer park where we live – we deal with rural poverty where we live and sometimes that can be even more insidious than urban poverty because it’s less visible and there are less resources – but this one woman was in a trailer park, so we went and visited her and she was out of gas or propane. She also needed to rent the land that the trailer was on. So there were a few needs that she had so we were going over to talk to her. And it was a rainy night, I remember, it was raining pretty bad and we got to the door and she invited us in and we sat down. And I don’t know what made us do it that night, I’m not sure we had done it a great deal before, but we just said “What’s going on? What’s your story?” 45 minutes to an hour later, the woman stopped and took a breath.  And she said. “Oh, I feel so light,” she says. “I have not been able to tell that story to anybody.” And we helped her. We actually got her into a sustainable position, but really what she needed most was somebody to listen. And what my wife and I learned that night, was to first stop and take the time to listen. The stories are powerful, and people need to feel like they’re human.


Timothy Williams, SVDP USA:

One is one of the first visits my wife and I went on and it was a man who rode his bike to work every day and back 7 miles. Because he didn’t have a car but he had ten kids. There’s always more mouths than money, even with food stamps, and so he called us for help with food, it’s the end of the month. And so we come with the groceries and all these kids come tumbling out the house to help with carrying them. This one little girl grabs a gallon of milk. She turns around towards that house, and she danced back to the house – this gallon of milk. Gandhi once said there are some people so poor they can only see God in a piece of bread. But I was looking at her and the only thing I could think was “the Kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”


Kat Brisette, SVDP Rhode Island:

The Society is such an awesome way that we’re able to live out our faith and be that example of what it truly means to be a Catholic and a Christian in today’s world.


Timothy Williams, SVDP USA:

When we go to visit the neighbors in need in their homes, we see Christ, and you really receive this Grace from God.


Raymond Sickingar, SVDP Rhode Island:

I found it very easy to see the face of Christ and those we serve over the years that I’ve served. But we also have to reflect that loving face back to Christ. That’s the part of that Vincentian charism, that an incredible gift of the Holy Spirit, that speaks to me most.

Why Am I a Vincentian? -Video-

Why Am I a Vincentian? -Video- 1080 1080 SVDP USA

Why Am I a Vincentian?

Hear what three Vincentians – Mike, Pamela, and Marge – have to say about why they joined the Society of St. Vincent de Paul.

Marge McGinlly, Society of St. Vincent de Paul of Mt. Holly, New Jersey:

It’s fun. It’s a lot of fun, yes.


Mike Flynn, Society of St. Vincent de Paul Seattle:

What happened to me was I went to a ministry fair in our parish. I thought it was going to be doing Liturgy and this guy captured me and said you need to become a Vincentian. I said, what is that? He said, well, we help people, and I thought I’d like to help people. And so I went to a meeting and discovered how much more it meant to be a Vincentian than just helping people.


Pamela Matambanadzo, Society of St. Vincent de Paul Chicago:

Why do you keep coming back? What brought you here? And I think for me… we talk about service, we talk about spirituality and we talk about friendship. And it’s just the enrichment of all of those on the people you meet. You know the relationships you build. Just being able to serve, you know whether you’re at a soup kitchen or whether you’re at a home visit.


Marge McGinlly, Society of St. Vincent de Paul of Mt. Holly, New Jersey:

I’m a Vincentian because when I found the Vincentian family it spoke to my heart. It was a place where I fit. I have this love of people, especially the poor and the sick. And when I found the Vincentian charism it fit who God made me. So it was like finding a second family for me.


Contemplation: To Wait for God’s Own Time

Contemplation: To Wait for God’s Own Time 800 800 SVDP USA

By Timothy Williams, Senior Director of Formation and Leadership Development 

The church calls the laity to “fulfill their prophetic mission by evangelization” which has “peculiar efficacy because it is accomplished in the ordinary circumstances of the world.” [CCC, 905] Our Vincentian vocation, our special way of living our faith, also defines our special way of evangelizing.

And what is that way? It is plainly true that our visits to the neighbor, particularly the first visit, are not an appropriate time to evangelize by word. The neighbor is in a very vulnerable position, and while likely to listen very politely to what we say, they are equally likely to resent that we have made them feel, despite our best intentions, that coming to Mass may be the price of our assistance.

As the first Rule put it, “All fervor is not holy or accepted of God. All times are not suitable for instilling new and Christian teaching into the heart. We must know how to wait for God’s own time, and to be patient as He is.” [1835 Rule, Intro] We evangelize first and foremost not by preaching, but by the witness of our actions; by our selfless works, performed for love alone.

Blessed Frédéric made this same point, explaining that while we hope to share the saving word of Christ with the poor, “the poor are hungry, so we must first give them bread.” [1457, Report, 1834] Saint Vincent similarly advised his missioners (whose mission was to evangelize) to “be more reserved in their presence, more humble and devout toward God, and more charitable toward your neighbor so that they may see the beauty and holiness of our religion and be moved to return to it.” [CCD VIII:208]

Naturally, we do not hide who we are or why we are visiting, and one of the ways we bear witness to our faith is to pray to God for the neighbor. That is why it will often be the case that as we form relationships based on trust and friendship, it will be the neighbor that starts the conversation about our faith, precisely because our charity, our love, has stirred “irresistible questions” in their hearts. [EN, 21]

Though most of our visits begin and end with material assistance, we are never simply bearers of bread, because, as Frédéric reminds us, “Charity does not consist so much in the distributing of bread as in the manner it is distributed.” [1457, Report, 1834] We seek first to attain holiness, for without that how can we lead others to it? We pray that our kindness, friendship, and love will transform the hearts of the neighbors we serve, just as their suffering transforms ours.

In our annual reports, we record the assistance our Conferences provide. We hold in our hearts the memory of tears we have dried and hope we have shared. But we will never know how many souls our works may have saved. That is up to God, not us, and “We are not commissioned to perform the good which it is out of our power to effect.” [1835 Rule, Intro]


Is my zeal for the salvation of souls tempered by my humility and faith that God is working through me?

Recommended Reading

This week, let’s watch a video about Our Vincentian Virtue of Zeal

Contemplation: The Challenge of Modern Times

Contemplation: The Challenge of Modern Times 800 800 SVDP USA

By Timothy Williams, Senior Director of Formation & Leadership Development

Blessed Frédéric and his friends founded the Society in 1833 in answer to a challenge posed to them by another group of students in a discussion group called the Conference of History. The other students, adherents to San Simonianism, a form of utopian socialism, believed the church’s day had come and gone, and that poverty and other social problems could be best addressed with modern, scientific methods. Yet their challenge to Frédéric was not a challenge to show how much bread or firewood could be distributed, or how many poor families could be assisted. Their challenge was simpler, but more difficult. “Show us,” they demanded, “the good of the church in the modern world.”

To show the good of the church remains our core mission, our evangelical mission, and the good of the church is the same as ever: to bring all people to eternal life in union with a loving God. And so Frédéric and his friends could see no better way to answer the challenge, no better way to demonstrate the good of the church than to “do what Our Lord Jesus Christ did when preaching the Gospel. Let us go,” Frédéric declared, “to the poor.” [Baunard, 65]

Since the beginning of time, God has loved us, awaited us, and answered our calls, but for one moment in human history, He put on the cloak of humanity and came to us. He visited us, walked among us, shared our pains and our burdens, and called us friend; He came not to be served but to serve.

Our primary purpose is to grow in holiness. This is the good of the church. Our secondary purpose is to share Christ’s love with the neighbor. This, too, is the good of the church. The good of the church was shown to us by our Heavenly father, who so loved the world that He sent His only Son to establish His church. And because “love is inventive to infinity” He further found a way to remain in our presence in the Eucharist. [CCD XI:129]; to be present, to act for love alone, as our Rule calls us to do. [Rule Part I, 2.2]

The good of the church is first to lead us to Christ. We do not summon Him to us. Rather, we seek Him exactly where he tells us He will be found: in the hungry, in the thirsty, in the naked, the prisoner, the stranger, the poor. We seek out and find Him in the poor. [Rule, Part I, 1.5]

By coming to us, in person, God established His church and all its goodness in the world. He went to the poor, He went to the hungry, He even went to the sinners, sinners that many others of the day thought were undeserving. Vincentians seek both to encounter and to imitate Christ. We go to the poor, not because it is efficient, not because it is modern. It was neither of those things in 1833, nor even in 30 AD. We go to the poor to bring Christ’s love, and to share the hope of the living Word.

This was and remains the good of the church, and the mission of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul.


How can I better show the good of Christ’s church in the modern world?

Recommended Reading

500 Little Prayers for Vincentians

Contemplation: To Discern, Not to Decide

Contemplation: To Discern, Not to Decide 800 800 SVDP USA

By Tim Williams, Senior Director of Formation & Leadership Development

In the Society of St Vincent de Paul, “all decisions are made by consensus after the necessary prayer, reflection and consultation.” [Rule, Part I, 3.10] In other words, we don’t simply vote the minority “off the island,” but instead ensure that every voice is heard as we seek to arrive at a solution that everyone can support. The process of prayer, reflection, and consultation that we follow to arrive at consensus is discernment.

Discernment, in turn, is not simply a decision-making process, in which we tally up the plusses and minuses, or offer arguments for our positions. It is instead a search for truth, and that truth, for us, is always the will of God. To truly discern requires that each of us let go of our attachment to our own ideas, keeping our minds and hearts open not only to the ideas of others, but to the idea that our purpose is not to choose from among competing alternatives, but to find the one truth that is God’s will.

Our first Rule explained the importance of self-denial in this process, saying that “The man who is in love with his own ideas, will disdain the opinion of others… We should, therefore, willingly acquiesce in the judgment of others, and should not feel annoyed if our own propositions be not accepted by them. Our mutual good will should proceed from the heart and should be without bounds.” [Rule, Intro, 1835]

These words echo St. Vincent de Paul, who said that we should “deny ourselves totally for love of God, to bring our judgment into harmony with that of our neighbor… and conforming to God’s judgment of things!” [CCD XII:175] For Saint Vincent de Paul, the will of God was always the center of holiness, and always the guiding light for his works and his plans.

Discernment is not a contest to determine whose will is strongest, but instead is always a seeking of God’s will to guide us, whether discerning our individual pathway, discerning the best way to help a neighbor, or discerning a plan for new special works. If we truly believe that God called us to this Vincentian vocation, we must also believe that the God who called us here is here; that he is within and among us; that each of us individually and all of us as a group were called here by God; and that it is His voice and His will we are called to continue to serve. He makes His will known to us through Holy Scripture, through the Rule and traditions of the Society, and through the people and events in our lives. To deny ourselves in this process doesn’t mean refusing to say what we think. It means offering our reasons, but not our judgment. It means having the humility to recognize that we do not know all the answers, and being willing to accept God’s will as it is revealed to us, even – and especially – when it contradicts our own preconceived notions.

In other words, if we truly wish to hear His voice, we must first lower our own.


Am I sometimes too attached to my own opinions at Conference meetings?

Recommended Reading

Serving in Hope, Module VII – especially 7.4 “Discerning With a Vincentian Heart”

Contemplation: Another Advocate

Contemplation: Another Advocate 800 800 SVDP USA

By Timothy Williams, Senior Director of Formation & Leadership Development

In 1833, President (and Spiritual Advisor) Emmanuel Bailly opened the first meeting of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul praying “Veni, Sancte Spiritus…” We continue this special devotion to the Holy Spirit today, beginning our Opening Prayers at Conference Meetings with the very same invocation, but now in our own language: “Come Holy Spirit, live within our lives, and strengthen us by Your love.”

The Holy Spirit, Jesus told His disciples, would be sent to them after His ascension to heaven as “another Advocate” – in other words, to represent the continued presence of Christ, the first Advocate, on earth. In this way, He introduces us to the Third Person of the Holy Trinity. The word used in the Greek is paraclete, which carries the same meaning as the Latin advocatus, a term that referred to legal counsel, but in our use refers to one who provides counsel, comfort, protection, and much more.

The Paraclete, the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, then, is our protector, our comforter, and our mediator with God the Father. As Vincentians, we seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit in our discernment, the fire of the Holy Spirit in our hearts, and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit in all of our works.

Interestingly, many Conferences and Councils refer to members of Home Visit teams as “advocates.” Whether or not your Conference uses this term, it is a helpful way to understand our role in serving the neighbor. We are called not only to “see the suffering Christ” in the poor, [Rule, Part I, 1.8] but to hope that it is Christ who loves through us, so that “the poor may catch a glimpse of God’s great love for them.” [Rule, Part I, 2.1] In other words, we seek to be “another advocate,” sharing and showing the face and the love of Christ, offering not only material assistance but prayer, comfort, and counsel. We are called to share the face of Christ, and to be a channel of the Holy Spirit.

We’re further called to be a “voice for the voiceless,” sharing “the perspective of those we visit who suffer” in order to address issues of justice in our wider community. [Rule, Part I, 7.4-7.5] This is a role the Society has played quite prominently throughout our history, beginning with Blessed Frédéric himself. In 1898, for example, Edmond Butler, who later served as National Council president, served on New York’s Committee on Dependent Children where he advocated the natural rights of parents, informed by the understanding gained through the relationships the Society had built with the poor.

Today, our advocacy continues not only through formal programs, such as Voice for the Poor, but also, and more importantly, in every conversation we have with friends and neighbors, giving voice to the struggles of the poor, and seeking solutions in collaboration with others in our communities.

Give me the gentleness to offer comfort, the hope to offer prayer, and the zeal to be a voice for the poor. All this and more is what we mean when we pray “Come Holy Spirit, live within our lives.”


How often do I pray specifically for the Holy Spirit’s guidance and inspiration?

Recommended Reading

Antoine-Frédéric Ozanam – especially Chapter 6

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