Society of St. Vincent de Paul

Contemplation — Only Visiting

Contemplation — Only Visiting 1080 1080 SVDP USA

When we think back on our experiences visiting the homes of our neighbors, we are justly proud of the many times that we “solved the problem,” often with a little money, or some food; sometimes with advice and encouragement. We may not always change the lives of the poor, but we can often check off one problem from the list, and share in their happiness at that. But this is not always the case.

Sometimes it seems that there is nothing we can do; the problem is too big, or the situation too complex; we don’t have money, or the expertise, or it’s just…too much. Often, we know this before we even schedule the visit. So why do we go?

St. Vincent taught about affective love and effective love. Effective love is not emotional, it is active. It is an act of will, to provide for another – to give them the things that they need. This is the love we think about when we commit ourselves to serving for love alone. [Rule, Part I, 2.2] So what happens when “effectiveness” is off the table?

Think, for example, of the neighbors we visit who have no homes, who live on the streets or in the parks, and who suffer from all of the health and wellness problems that often accompany long-term homelessness. In severe weather, we may sometimes be able to offer a shelter that will prevent death. We may be able to provide clean clothes and some food, and then…we send them off again.

Effective love, though, does not come at the expense of affective love. When we sit with the suffering, perhaps especially those who are suffering what we can barely comprehend much less alleviate, we may sometimes find ourselves overwhelmed with emotion. We try to choke it back, certain that we can be more comforting if we can remain more placid. But affective love, Vincent taught, “proceeds from the heart” making us “continually aware of the presence of God”. [CCD IX:372]

It is in your silent tear that you share the burdens and the pain of the neighbor. For so much of their lives, these suffering people are unseen by so many who avert their eyes when walking past. When we see them clearly enough to shed a tear, they know that tear is “an act of love, causing people to enter one another’s hearts and to feel what they feel”. [CCD XII:221] We share both God’s love and our own.

Ours is a ministry of doing, but it is first and always a ministry of loving presence. Just as Christ shared in our suffering, that we might suffer no more, we share the neighbor’s burdens that they might know the promise of His kingdom, where He will wipe every tear from our eyes.

After all, this world is not our home. We are only visiting.


Do I fully open my heart to both tears and joy with the neighbor?

Recommended Reading

Vincentian Meditations II

SVdP News Roundup January 28 – February 3

SVdP News Roundup January 28 – February 3 1080 1080 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:



A Week in Prayers January 30 – February 3

A Week in Prayers January 30 – February 3 1080 1080 SVDP USA

Monday, January 30

O Lord, my heart is restless
Until it rests in You.
I stumble in the darkness
‘Til Your light the day renews.
In illness or in suffering,
A stranger, or alone
Help me seek Your Kingdom,
For this world is not my home.

Tuesday, January 31

When I am fearful, Lord, give me peace.
When my body is failing, Lord, give me peace.
When I am alone, Lord, give me peace.
When my mind is troubled, Lord, give me peace.
Deep in my heart, Lord, give me peace.

Wednesday, February 1

Lord Jesus,
May the light of Your love
Shine upon me
From the face of the neighbor
In need
And may I in serving
Be a sign of Your hope.

Thursday, February 2

Through the darkness of night,
I sleep in peace,
O Lord, with my faith to sustain me.

Through the troubles of day,
My heart is at rest,
O Lord, with my hope to sustain me.

Through all of life’s trials,
There is joy in my heart,
O Lord, with Your love to sustain me.

Friday, February 3

Thank You, Lord,
For the beauty of Your creation,
The living image of You,
Unique and unrepeatable,
Standing before me hungry,
Sitting before me alone,
Huddled against the cold,
Inviting me into Your presence.
Help me, Lord, to find You,
Lead me, Lord, to serve.

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

A Black History Month Reflection

A Black History Month Reflection 1080 1080 SVDP USA

Written by: Wayne Bugg and Connie Steward, SVdP African American Task Force Co-Chairs

The 2023 theme for Black History Month is “Black Resistance.”  What does that mean to you? Is it good or bad? We initially concluded that resistance was not a good thing. We perceived it as negative energy. But, after further thought and reflection, we understand this theme is an acknowledgement that over the years many Black Americans have led the charge to resist the evils of racism, calling for a more just society. Therefore, “Black Resistance” is a good thing, and these individuals should be celebrated.

To resist something is to oppose it or stand firm against it. Just as Vincentians oppose or stand firm against poverty, we should all oppose racism. It is appropriate to celebrate “Black Resistance” during Black History Month because it is a specific time set aside to reflect, relate and release – the three R’s.

As you REFLECT on your thoughts about “Black Resistance” – do you reinforce racism or do you resist racism. Hopefully we can all join hands and resist racism.

How do you RELATE to members of the opposite race. Are you comfortable conversing? Are you honest and transparent? Are you respectful? Strong, genuine relationships make for a more just and equitable society.

RELEASE or let go of racist thoughts or actions. They are toxic and will wear you down.

One might ask – what does this have to do with the Society of St. Vincent de Paul? We are an organization committed to “resisting” the many barriers that keep our vulnerable brothers and sisters in poverty. As we journey together and bring our spirituality and friendship to those we serve, it is imperative that we Reflect, Relate and Release.

02-02-2023 A Letter From Our Servant Leader

02-02-2023 A Letter From Our Servant Leader 900 900 SVDP USA

Dear Vincentian Friends,

Over the past few years, COVID-19 has meant many organizations’ well-intended plans and initiatives were put on hold or received little attention. For our organization, one such set of delayed efforts were our plans to improve the policies and practices needed for safeguarding vulnerable persons. At the National Council meeting in Houston in August 2021, your delegates approved Resolution 189 – National Safeguarding Policy for all Member Councils. The resolution asks all Councils to create a safeguarding policy that would follow the guidelines provided and also address their local circumstances, paying attention to local laws and the policies of their diocese.

This is not a popular topic to bring up. Creating and implementing a safeguarding policy is complicated, can cost money, and brings a variety of responses from our membership. My own Conference had a member resign when we put a safeguarding requirement in place many years ago. That departing member told us, “So, some priests have been abusing children, and now I have to take a class and have a background check.” Many members had similar reactions to our national policy at first, but I hope we have moved past this attitude.

For the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, not much of our work is directly with children, but all of our neighbors in need should be considered as vulnerable persons. I am sorry to say that we have had credible reports of incidents of that vulnerability being exploited, which reinforces my belief that we need to keep working on this.

The safeguarding resolution we approved details a number of reasons why it is important to have an appropriate policy and effective training. Certainly, we want to prevent abuse and protect those we serve, but having a plan for what to do if something is reported or suspected is an equally compelling reason for having our members well-trained. There are many states in which our home visitors and volunteers are even considered “mandatory reporters.” By law, they are required to report observed incidents of abuse. Do you know whether that includes you? Do you know what constitutes a reportable incident or to whom you must report it? Does this include reporting a neighbor in need whom you have visited? Are you clear about the process you should take if one of our members violates our safeguarding standards?

At the January Board of Directors meeting, we discussed the implementation of Resolution 189 at length, and it is clear to your National Council leadership that this is a complicated matter. Many Councils already have policies and training in place. Some of them were required to do so by their dioceses many years ago. Many others have not even started – finding the effort too complex or maybe too costly, or the resistance from members too significant.

As we move forward, our National Council is looking for ways to support your safeguarding efforts and share best practices. Please support your local leaders as they create and implement your local safeguarding policy. Your Council leadership already has plenty on its plate, and I would encourage some of you to step forward to help lead the effort. Forming a local task force of members who see the importance of this process and are willing to spend time investigating options will help us make the progress needed.

Doing nothing is not an acceptable option. So far, fortunately, we have avoided major lawsuits and harm to our reputation. The time to act is before something happens. Our Church and many other organizations have suffered incredible harm because they were not proactive. From the beginning, our founders realized that our home visits should always be done in pairs. That early practice of safeguarding is still a key element of our protecting vulnerable neighbors in need. Unfortunately, it is not enough in today’s environment.

Serviens in spe,
Ralph Middlecamp
National Council President

Contemplation — Spiritual and Religious

Contemplation — Spiritual and Religious 1080 1080 SVDP USA

Perhaps you have friends who say “I am spiritual, but not religious.” For Vincentians, our spirituality is not only religious, it is our very special and specific way of living our Catholic faith.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that there are many and varied spiritualities that have been developed throughout history, and that “the personal charism of some witnesses to God’s love for men has been handed on… so that their followers may have a share in this spirit.” [CCC, 2684] For us, that “refraction of the one pure light of the Holy Spirit” is the charism of St. Vincent de Paul.

Unlike many well-known saints, Vincent never wrote a treatise about his spirituality; there is no Vincentian Summa Theologica, Introduction to the Devout Life, or Spiritual Exercises for us to study. We can learn a great deal by reading the words he spoke in conferences and letters, but more importantly, we learn through his example, his actions, passed down to us through more than 400 years of Vincentian Family tradition, and especially through our primary founder, Blessed Frédéric Ozanam.

It seems only right that our spirituality is learned first through action. After all, as Vincent once said, we must “love God…with the strength of our arms and the sweat of our brows”. [CCD XI:32] Two hundred years later, Frédéric would found the Society by declaring “Let us go to the poor!” [Baunard, 65]

Ours a spirituality of action, of doing, of serving. At the same time, we pray “both at the individual and community level” with our own lives “characterized by prayer, meditation on the Holy Scriptures and other inspirational texts and devotion to the Eucharist and the Virgin Mary”. [Rule, Part I, 2.2] Our prayers always include reflection on our service, reminding us, as Frédéric put it, that “visiting the poor should be the means and not the end of our association.” [Letter 182, to Lallier, 1838]

We trust in Divine Providence, in the love and the abundance of God. We do not worry about running out of resources – everything that is given to us belongs to the poor already, and “members should never adopt the attitude that the money is theirs, or that the recipients have to prove that they deserve it”. [Manual, 23] We trust, with Frédéric, that to do works of charity, “it is never necessary to worry about financial resources, they always come.” [Letter 121, to his mother, 1836]

Finally, and most importantly, we see, we serve, and we love Jesus Christ in the person of the neighbor whom we serve. As St Vincent taught, “you go into poor homes, but you find God there.” [CCD IX:199] As Frédéric taught, the poor “are for us the sacred images of that God whom we do not see, and not knowing how to love Him otherwise shall we not love Him in [their] persons?” [Letter 137, to Janmot, 1836]

Through these actions, we grow closer to Christ. This is our spirituality. This is our religion.


How often do I share my Vincentian spirituality with other Catholics?

Recommended Reading

The Manual (especially 3.2, Vincentian Spirituality)

SVdP News Roundup: January 21 – January 27

SVdP News Roundup: January 21 – January 27 1080 1080 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:



A Week in Prayers January 23 — January 27

A Week in Prayers January 23 — January 27 1080 1080 SVDP USA

Monday, January 23

Heavenly Father,
Let Your light shine upon me.
Help me to bear Your light
To share Your light
With all those in darkness.

Tuesday, January 24

Jesus, Savior and Lord,
You suffered in my name,
You gave Your life for mine.
I offer You this day
And the next one
And all the days I have
Not in payment, but in gratitude;
Not with grumbling, but with joy;
Not for penance, but for love.

Wednesday, January 25

Lord Jesus, in my blindness,
Remove the scales from my eyes.
In Your power and glory, Lord, lead me
With all the light of the skies.
Through new eyes I will see You beside me,
Or ahead, by the light from above,
The one that is suffering, forgotten, alone,
The one I will serve in Your love.

Thursday, January 26

Lord, in Your mercy,
Look not on those times
I served myself first,
Or trusted my prudence
Above Your Providence.
Make me Your instrument.
Not my will but Yours.
Not my love but Yours.
Not my life but Yours.

Friday, January 27

Lord, may Your Kingdom,
Like a mustard seed,
Be planted in my heart
To grow within me.
Fed by faith and bearing love,
To be planted again
In all who seek You.

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

The Call of Catholic Social Teaching: A Reflection on Homelessness

The Call of Catholic Social Teaching: A Reflection on Homelessness 940 788 SVDP USA

Written by: Fr. Patrick McDevitt, C.M., Ph. D., Provincial Superior, Congregation of the Mission, Western Province

I was delighted to be asked to submit this reflection on homelessness through the prism of Catholic Social Teaching.  After some initial thinking on the topic, I was overwhelmed by both the immensity of the body of literature called, “Catholic Social Teaching”.  Furthermore, I was personally challenged on the profound reality Catholic Social Teaching calls us to change, to care, to sacrifice, and love our brothers and sisters who live in poverty.

Catholic Social Teaching is rooted in the biblical tradition of “preferential option for the poor”.  According to the commands of God, the care for the poor is the highest priority.  It is a moral imperative for Christians to love and care for the poor because God is the poor and the poor are God (Matthew 25). This great summons of justice is found in the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures, and evident in centuries of Catholic Tradition and articulated in the Magisterium Teaching of the Catholic Church. The Christian mandate is to be both charitable and to pursue justice.  It is not enough for Christians to espouse ideals, principles, and credo. An authentic and integrated Christian life must include charity, service, advocacy, and justice.  “To receive in truth the Body and Blood of Christ given up for us, we must recognize Christ in the poorest, his brethren [sic]” (Cano. 1397).

The depth of love for our sisters and brothers in poverty need to be accompanied by a commitment to advocacy (a commitment to stand with and to work in the best interest of the poor) for systemic change in policies that deny or limit access to needed resources for the poor.  Catholic Social Teaching shows that we must do more than just “help out” – “give some of our time” – “be nice” – and to do for the poor in order to “feel good about ourselves”.  The Christian call is to advocate for real systemic change to directly alleviate and liberate our brothers and sisters from the suffering and shackles of poverty.  The disease of poverty kills the body and spirit in both those directly affected by the rage of poverty and it deeply affects all of society.

Homelessness is just one of the many symptoms of the complex nature of poverty in our society.  From a clinical perspective, one cannot just address the symptom of a problem; one must look at the etiology deeply underlying the symptoms.  It is only when one “drills down” deep beneath the surface of a problem that real healing and systemic change are possible.

Homelessness perpetuates the victimization and traumatization of highly vulnerable people.  The psychiatric community is only beginning to learn how devastating trauma disables and immobilizes individuals.  Trauma can only be treated within a safe and secure place.  The reality of homelessness continues to expose people to the harsh elements of violence, exploitation, prejudice, loneliness, and fear.

Catholic Social Teaching emphatically states that everyone has the inalienable rights of dignity, community, and care.  Without these inalienable rights, people are devoid of what truly constitutes their basic humanity.

The concept of “Home” is more than just a structure or a shelter.  A home is meant to be a place of safety, security, and grounding for our bodies and souls.  It is only in this type of environment that our humanity can really thrive and grow. Furthermore, it is in this “sacred” place of home that humans discover and rediscover the goodness and divine nature of humanity.  Home is to be a “holy” place for healing and the “safe place” where vulnerability and love can be shared.  The sacred externals of home leads us to the holy and sacred places of our hearts and souls.  “Home is where the Heart is” (Song by Elvis Presley).

Catholic Social Teaching illustrates the communal responsibilities we have to care and advocate for the poor in their material needs, humanitarian needs, and spiritual needs.  The Catholic call is to “look beyond” the bread you eat; to “look beyond” the cup you drink” (hymn by Darryl Ducote, 1969), and to look deeper into life and the social challenges facing society.  In looking beyond and looking deeper, we will find Christ in the poor.  The late British author, Graham Greene reminds us that, “most things disappoint till you look deeper”.

The wealth of wisdom in Catholic Social Teaching serves as a guide to address the global epidemic of homelessness with authentic values and principles.  This treasured wisdom provide us with the constant reminder of our duties and responsibilities to respond with the armor of charity and justice for God’s homeless people.  Finally, Catholic Social Teaching inspires hope that we can and we will bring an end to this cruel reality of homelessness in our lifetime.  We are reassure of this hope by the prophet words of Joshua, “Now behold, today I am going the way of all the earth, and you know in all your hearts and in all your souls that not one word of all the good words which the Lord your God spoke concerning you has failed; all have been fulfilled for you, not one of them has failed” (Joshua 23:14).

Rendu Orientation: The Spirituality of the Home Visit

Rendu Orientation: The Spirituality of the Home Visit 2560 1920 SVDP USA

The SVdP Seattle/King County Council hosted its Rendu Orientation on January 2t at St. Thomas Catholic Church in Tukwila, WA. There were 28 participants representing 15 parishes and Conferences from across King County.

The orientation, facilitated by SVdP Seattle Executive Director (ED), Mirya Munoz- Roach and former ED and senior advisor Ned Delmore, complements and completes the basic orientation of new members following the Ozanam Orientation. New Vincentians felt inspired and seasoned Vincentians felt a sense of renewal in their Vincentian vocation. The Rendu Orientation focuses on the Spirituality of the Home Visit and is inspired by our founders including Fredric Ozanam and his mentor, Daughter of Charity, Blessed Rosalie Rendu.

Saturday marked the second in-person training this year in King County. Many Vincentians felt revitalized and ready to go back to conducting Home Visits, which is the cornerstone to our Vincentian ministry. The session, which is a part of SVdP Formation Basic Program, explores the significance of seeing our ministry as a vocation and of exercising love of neighbor. This is done by slowing down and dedicating time, putting into practice the act of loving through listening.

The session tackled the importance of reflective listening to hear the deeper needs of our neighbors and of each other in the Conference meeting. The orientation also offered significant points on “twinning” as a necessary spiritual practice that encourages Vincentians to act as One Society, living, sharing, and growing Spirituality together in service to our most vulnerable neighbors and to each other as Conference members.

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