Society of St. Vincent de Paul

Contemplation – The Whole Secret

Contemplation – The Whole Secret 940 788 SVDP USA

My kingdom does not belong to this world,” Christ said to Pilate, when asked if He was “King of the Jews”. Indeed, He went on to explain, if it were, there would be armies of angels fighting to free Him from His earthly captivity. In this, Christ modeled for us what St. Vincent de Paul often called “holy indifference” – a detachment from worldly suffering and reward in order that we might better discern God’s will.

Before His passion, Christ had already explained that we must “seek first the kingdom,” that same kingdom which is not of this world. We must, like the birds who neither reap nor sow, like the grass that neither works nor spins, let each day’s troubles be enough for the day. In short, He calls us to trust in providence.

Where does this leave our neighbors in need? Does trust in providence mean that they are on their own, or that we need not “give them the necessities of the body”? On the contrary, Bl. Frédéric once cautioned that we must not let our detachment turn into discouragement from our duties! This, he said, was ”the whole secret and the whole difficulty of the Christian life.” [Baunard, 423]

While we constantly seek to discern God’s will in different circumstances, we already know that “the same authority which tells us that we shall always have the poor amongst us is the same that commands us to do all we can to ensure that there may cease to be any.” [O’Meara, 230] For the poor, it is we who are called to be God’s instruments, providing for their needs as best we can, and by this work, reminding them of God’s love and their hope.

Detachment, indifference, or unrestricted readiness is not an excuse to neglect our works of charity but instead is the necessary condition to pursue them tirelessly and selflessly; to love our neighbor as ourselves for the love of God. As we remind ourselves on each home visit, it is Christ we serve in the person of the neighbor; the same Christ who sent us, the same Christ who awaits us.

“We must think,” Bl. Frédéric said, “as if we were to quit the earth tomorrow, and we must work as if we were never to leave it.” [Baunard, 423]


How can I better offer up my own rewards and my own suffering to God?

Recommended Reading

Faces of Holiness

News Roundup May 14 – May 20

News Roundup May 14 – May 20 1200 1200 SVDP USA

With 100,000 Vincentians across the United States and nearly 800,000 around the world, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul provides person-to-person service to those who are needy and suffering. Read some of their stories here:



Help us share the good news of the good work being done in your local Conference or Council! Email us at with the subject line Good News.

Daily Prayers May 16 – May 20

Daily Prayers May 16 – May 20 940 788 SVDP USA

Monday, May 16:

Holy Spirit live within me,
Strengthen me in my weakness,
Help me to grow in holiness.
Fill me with the joy
And the hope
Of the Kingdom.

Tuesday, May 17:

Lord, send me
Send me to those who no longer cry out to You
Who feel abandoned, forgotten, and alone
Make me Your instrument, God
Serving their needs for Your love alone
To show them they are not forgotten
In wordless witness to Your eternal hope

Wednesday, May 18:

Lead and I will follow, Lord,
Seeking to make Your will mine.
Let me be Your branch, O Lord,
Bearing the fruit of the vine.

Thursday, May 19:

Lord Jesus, I rejoice in Your name
In Your promise
In Your love
In Your presence
In Your word
In Your way
In Your light
In Your life

Friday, May 20:

Dear God, I love You, show me the way
Lead me to do Your will
You have called me by my name
And I am listening
To the word that You have written
On my heart
Daily Prayers are written by Tim Williams, National Vincentian Formation Director. 

05-19-2022 Disaster Services Update

05-19-2022 Disaster Services Update 836 627 SVDP USA

SVdP-USA Disaster Services Corporation (DSC) has deployed a Rapid Response Team this week to respond to the wildfires that are aggressively spreading across New Mexico. The fires have burned more than 468 square miles over the last 42 days to earn the distinction of being the largest fire in the arid state’s recorded history. It’s also the largest fire currently burning in the U.S.

Gov. Michelle Grisham estimates that at least 1,500 homes have been destroyed. Residents are staying in mass care shelters, hotels, vehicles, and others have been evacuated to northern New Mexico. There are currently three towns on alert who may have to vacate their homes at any given moment.

DSC’s Rapid Response Team is meeting with local Vincentians to train volunteers, document their needs, assess damage, pre-plan DSC’s Parish Recovery Assistance Center (PRAC) deployment, introduce Vincentian leadership to other nonprofits they can work in partnership with, and share best practices in how to handle a disaster while it is still affecting their community.

DSC has been in contact with our collaborating partners, FEMA, Red Cross, Salvation Army, New Mexico VOAD, Catholic Charities, and local government in New Mexico.

One resident described her horrendous experience of putting her three children and pets into her car and just driving for their lives, sleeping in different hotel parking lots, and doing anything they can to survive. Another resident described that he lost his small herd of animals that he depended on for his income and will now likely fall into situational poverty. Lastly, one elderly couple who ended up in a shelter stated, “We need your help, my town is destroyed.”

DSC will be working with SVdP Councils and Conferences in addressing current needs and long-term recovery. Seasoned DSC volunteer and Vincentian, Cathy Garcia, met with one local Vincentian who was actively contacting people who need assistance, as they were packing up their car to evacuate.

How can you help? Please visit the DSC website at to support our efforts and prevent more families from falling into situational poverty. DSC will be posting the needs of this community and ways you can help on our website and social media this upcoming week.

05-19-2022 A Letter From Our Servant Leaders

05-19-2022 A Letter From Our Servant Leaders 1368 1387 SVDP USA

One of my earliest leadership roles was in the fourth grade. I started a Legion of Super Heroes club among my classmates, based on a popular comic book at the time. Each of us took on the identity of one of the heroes – there were about 25 of them, thus a “legion” – and played that character’s role during the meetings we held at recess. I was, no laughing please, the Invisible Kid. In the comics the Kid was the elected leader, had a pretty cool uniform – with a headband! – and it could have been worse, like being Matter-Eater Lad whose superpower was, correct, to eat all kinds of matter.

As with many things at that age, the club lasted about three weeks. On the other hand, no super-villains ever attacked our school.

I learned at that point some valuable lessons. One, girls who were not that interested in boys anyway at that age, were even less interested in boys pretending games. Different members need their own motivation for joining and staying in a group. Second, and most important, was that you can have a cool name, interesting mission and, in this case, all the logos you could ever want, but you better have something tangible do at the meetings.

Here we are today with almost the same challenges. We might even argue that super villains really do exist, but that’s for another column.

We meet every two weeks or so with a group of heroes – we call them Vincentians. We don’t have a Legion, but we do have a Society, and it’s even global. The group has a cool name, a very interesting and important mission and, somewhat unfortunately, even multiple logos!

When we invite new heroes to join us and save the world, or at least make our neighborhood better by caring for those within it, what do these recruits see? Do they see bickering current members, more focus on the snacks that day than the mission, or discussions not resulting in action, the main heroic purpose? Do they leave without an assignment, a mentorship, or even a member handbook?

Heroes need purpose, or else they hang up their capes.

How blessed I was to learn this at age nine! Through the years, I had plenty of other formal and informal leadership roles, as have most of us. We lead in our families, jobs, military, clubs, sports teams and even in our group of friends. Leadership decisions might range from formal goal setting to figuring out where to go tonight to have some fun. We set budgets, we organize and motivate the group for some purpose, and we evaluate our work for the next time. We might even do this without thinking about leadership concepts or lessons to carry forward.

It amazes me when someone is elected as a Conference President and act as if they have never led a group! Or worse, they did lead but apparently didn’t learn much from the experience. They act as if leadership is something new at the age of 60, or 70 or older.

The Society of St. Vincent de Paul has it own rules (and Rule!) for its leaders, tested and confirmed over decades. Every leadership experience has its unique set of rules of the game. If we choose to see it as such, it’s what makes it fun! Every rule set allows for different innovations and approaches, even when the basic leadership skills are more or less the same.

Please consider the various leadership roles you have experienced. You were thrust into some by circumstances, others you were elected into, and some you no doubt took on because no one else was willing to lead. However you got there, remember that God put you there. Just as He does with all aspects of our lives, God gave us these past opportunities to prepare for future opportunities. As we reflect on each of these experiences, let’s ask what we learned, or should have learned, and how that might help us in our Society leadership roles today. Also, how did these experiences help us to be better followers of other Society leaders?

We all know the saying of “live and learn” and appreciate its truth. To “lead and learn” as we approach new Society leadership opportunities allows us some confidence. We have the experience, maybe just not here. God has provided it for us if we just review the life He has blessed us to live. Everything He has given us prepares us for the moment before us!

Yours in Christ,
Dave Barringer

Contemplation – Sufficient Graces

Contemplation – Sufficient Graces 940 788 SVDP USA

Servant leadership is the calling of every Vincentian, and term-limits for Conference Presidents ensure that every three to six years, somebody new will be invited to serve in that role. [Rule Pt III, St 2 & 12] The next time, it might be you. All too often, though, many of us pull back, insisting that we are not the “take-charge” sort; that somebody else should be President. St. Vincent would say that if this is how you respond, you probably are the right person to lead.

In fact, writing about a priest who had “an unimaginable passion for being in charge” Vincent remarked that “this frame of minds frightened me” even though he was “having a hard time finding anyone among the others willing to be a Superior in certain circumstances.” [CCD II:326]

He went even further in a Conference for the Daughters of Charity, explaining that “to be ambitious for more honorable offices or duties, leading one to want to become a Sister Servant” (the superior) is a “diabolical” sign of hidden pride. [CCD IX:532] By no means, though, did he teach that we ought to avoid invitations to serve as leaders!

Instead, he taught, to be called to leadership is to be called by God, and that therefore when “obedience designates us for a leadership position … we must submit”. [CCD XI:128] Our Rule explains further that leadership positions “are always to be accepted as service to Christ, the members and the poor.” [Rule, Part III, St 11]

When invited to serve, we should always prayerfully discern the invitation, but remember that it is not our own talents or strengths that we are discerning! Rather, we are discerning whether we hear God’s call, whether it comes to us in an invitation from our fellow Vincentians, or in an invitation within our hearts.

Vincentian servant leaders are not commanders or bosses – quite opposite! We believe, as Christ taught, in the leader as the servant, and as leaders we then then take the last place, in imitation of Christ, “who was the natural Master of everyone and yet made himself the least of all”. [CCD XI:124]

It is not so difficult to step up to leadership when you understand it instead as a call to step down, to be humble and gentle, to serve and not to be served. And since it is God who calls us to servant leadership from time to time, we also needn’t worry about our capabilities, because “God gives sufficient graces to those He calls to it.” [CCD IX:525]


Am I open to God’s call to servant leadership, even though I may feel unworthy?

Recommended Reading

Walking the Vincentian Pathway

News Roundup May 7 – May 13

News Roundup May 7 – May 13 1200 1200 SVDP USA

With 100,000 Vincentians across the United States and nearly 800,000 around the world, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul provides person-to-person service to those who are needy and suffering. Read some of their stories here:



Help us share the good news of the good work being done in your local Conference or Council! Email us at with the subject line Good News.

Daily Prayers May 9 – May 13

Daily Prayers May 9 – May 13 940 788 SVDP USA

Monday, May 9

Beloved St. Louise, motherless child,
Your own trials led you to your vocation
Pray for us that the Lord may lead us
To follow your example,
To trust in His Providence,
To seek to do His will,
To serve his poor and suffering.

Tuesday, May 10:

God of my fathers,
God of all time,
God of the earth and sea,
God of all creatures,
God of all things
Who nevertheless blesses me
In you I place my faith, O Lord,
To You I give my love
Your will I seek to do, O Lord
On earth as in heaven above.

Wednesday, May 11:

Your way is truth and life, Lord,
And I will follow and serve
In Your name
For Your sake
By Your grace
With faith enough to move mountains
With hope that is born anew
With love of the one Who sent me

Thursday, May 12:

I long to see Your face, O Lord.
Have mercy on me,
Your undeserving child.
Create me anew in Your love.

Friday, May 13:

Lord Almighty
Who let there be light
Who flooded the earth
Who parted the sea
Who walked on the water
Who healed the sick
Who raised the dead
Who gave Your life
Who conquered death
Lead me from night into day.

Daily Prayers are written by Tim Williams, National Vincentian Formation Director. 

05-12-2022 A Letter From Our Servant Leaders

05-12-2022 A Letter From Our Servant Leaders 1368 1387 SVDP USA

Every week, it seems we Catholics are asked for our positions of the social crisis of the day. For a religion that is so often ridiculed or ignored by the media, they sure do ask often for our opinions!

It fascinates me that our brothers and sisters in different faiths are rarely asked how they feel as a religion about the issues of the day. No, the Catholics are the standard. I choose that word intentionally.

We know that Catholics disagree with each other – just attend any Conference meeting! We also know that some Catholics are at odds with the Church on various issues including life, immigration and borders, climate, and others. We overlook sometimes that our faith is somewhat unique in that it has actual positions, derived over years – sometimes hundreds and even thousands – and that these positions are written down for everyone to see. When a Pope even suggests a departure through imprecise words from these positions, it makes worldwide news.

When some disagree strongly, they may face a crisis of conscience leading even to a departure from the Catholic faith, although many would tell you that they disagree only with the Church and not with the faith. They still believe in Christ and how He died for our sins. They just disagree with the “politics” of the Church. Which is also interesting in that using political yardstick measures, the Church is liberal in some regards and conservative in others. This is not inconsistency; in fact, the Church is remarkably consistent. Maintaining clear and consistent values can lead the Church to the right for some individual issues and to the left for others.

As a Vincentian and as a Catholic, you may be asked for your opinion of the Society’s position on the topic of the day. The Rule provides us with guiding elements to help us. The first is in Part III, Statute 29 on our Relationship with Civil Society. The Society does not identify with any political party, we are nonviolent, we bring Christian values to political matters, and those holding political offices are asked not to hold any “mission of representation” within the Society while in office. That alone covers a lot of ground these days!

The second relevant element is in the Rule, Part I, 5.3, in which the Society recognizes the right and duty of the diocesan bishop to confirm that the Society acts in accordance with Catholic faith and morals. In other words, while we are officially autonomous of the Church (see I.5.2), we maintain a close relationship with the church hierarchy and its values. Many of the political battles and policy decisions we face come down to moral decisions, don’t they?

The third relevant element is not in the Rule but in the Manual of the National Council of the United States, in Section 2.1: Speaking for the Society. It’s one simple sentence: “Only the National President may ‘speak for the Society’ on national issues. For local issues, this is delegated to the Council President.”

It is tempting, when asked for your opinion, to give it! As Americans, we enjoy freedom of speech. This freedom, however, does not extend to us speaking on behalf of most organizations to which we belong, including the Society. It can be challenging to hold one’s tongue when the issue is important and we have such brilliant commentary, but please do resist when asked about “your take” on any Society position.

Allow me to offer two alternatives. When asked for my opinion “as a Catholic” I can often respond by directing the inquirer to the local bishop or to the USCCB. When asked by media for my view as a Vincentian, I let them know that even as the national CEO I don’t speak for the Society, but often I will add a question of my own. “What are the consequences of this issue, intentional and perhaps unintentional, for the poor? Please consider them in forming your story.”

Catholics, through the formal Church and its many informed and cause-related organizations, have a voice, even if this voice is sometimes ridiculed or ignored. The poor, however, often have no voice at all. It seems that every social issue affects them more than everyone else, and usually negatively. As Vincentians we can work to free their own voice, or if not possible, work to speak on their behalf.

As noted above, the Catholic viewpoint is often used as a standard. Let our Vincentian actions speak as standards of love and care for our neighbors, humility, and everyday work to make our world a better place for all. Our own lives are testament to our Catholic faith and values. By our lives we can be the standard for Good.

Yours in Christ,
Dave Barringer

Contemplation – Where Charity is Practiced Cheerfully

Contemplation – Where Charity is Practiced Cheerfully 940 788 SVDP USA

Commenting on Conference meetings, President-General Jules Gossin wrote that “In France, what even the best men fear most is boredom; and, in that respect, the men of every country are more or less French.” He went on, in his Circular Letter of November 1, 1847, to say that “Boredom is to a Conference what smoke is to a beehive.”

Much of the responsibility for avoiding boring meetings rests on the Conference President and other leaders. Indeed, the Manual stresses that “meetings should not be lengthy” and goes on to suggest ways in which leaders can keep the meetings short, but meaningful. While a tight agenda is important, though, the Manual also explains that “the Conference meets less to conduct business than to celebrate and deepen its unity for essentially spiritual reasons.” [Manual, Ch. 2]

Indeed, this drift towards pure business meetings became a problem in the very first Conference, of which Bl. Frédéric wrote “the session is nearly always concerned with business, it seems long.” [Letter 90, to Curnier, 1835] As a result, he said, they were losing their enthusiasm, not growing in friendship, and many were becoming discouraged.

In almost all cases, the meetings, the works, and the Conference itself can be rejuvenated with a renewed focus on keeping the Spirit at the center of our meetings, bringing to them once again what our Rule describes as “a spirit of fraternity, simplicity and Christian joy.” [Rule, Part I, 3.4]

As St. Vincent reminds us: “Be quite cheerful, I beg you. Oh, what great reason people of good will have to be cheerful!” [CCD I:84] Our laughter not only erases tensions between Members and alleviates boredom, but makes our meetings more welcoming for new and potential Members!

In that 1847 letter, Jules Gossin observed the importance of laughter in Conference meetings, noting that although you don’t go in in hopes of “provoking occasions of hilarity” it is nevertheless the “Conferences that afford the most generous relief to the poor are those in which charity is practiced cheerfully.”


Is there joy and laughter in my Conference meetings? Do I help to foster it?

Recommended Reading

Instead of reading this week, let’s pray together.

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