A Week in Prayers April 17 – April 21

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Monday, April 17

Lord when I see Your face
How can I help but smile?
The face of hunger, the face of joy,
The face of need, the face of love,
The face of the neighbor,
Unique and unrepeatable.
Open my eyes to see You, Lord,
Open my heart to smile.

Tuesday, April 18

Lord Jesus, Your bore Your cross for me
Up the rocky path, buckling under its weight.
Open my eyes to see the struggling neighbor
Bending low under the weight of a cross.
Give my heart the strength to share the burden
And the love to wipe the neighbor’s brow.
Lead me on the way of the cross.

Wednesday, April 19

Father in heaven,
Hear my prayer;
Hear the groanings
Of my heart.
Hear me, Lord,
In the silence.
Answer me, Lord,
In Your mercy.
Answer me, Lord,
In Your love.
Answer me, Lord,
In the silence.

Thursday, April 20

I am in Your hands, O Lord,
Carry me where You will.
Lift me up from darkness,
Give me rest when I am weary,
And when my neighbor is in need,
Lord, let me lend Your hand.

Friday, April 21

Lord Jesus,
Help me guard against the false humility
That shows empty hands to the needy
Because I believe what I have to offer
Is not enough.
Teach me instead to find abundance
In five loaves and two fish.
Help me to share
My time, my possessions, and myself
With all who hunger.

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

Contemplation — There Is Truly Nothing Better

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What does it mean to serve in hope — serviens in spe, as our international logo says? Surely, when we visit a neighbor whose lights have been shut off, who faces eviction, whose cupboards are bare, we (and they) hope for relief from these needs. Thankfully, more often than not, we are able to provide the assistance that is needed. Sometimes, though, the needs are too great, or our resources too limited, and what then?

Thinking back on our own lives, we all can recall times that we narrowly escaped misfortune — the car wreck we walked away from that easily could have been fatal; the illness that was almost accidentally diagnosed before it became untreatable; the unemployment we weathered until finding a job that was better than the one we lost.

“God was with me!” we exclaim with joy. “He answered my prayers!” Surely He was and surely He did, and our joy is not misplaced! Yet when we think it through, we realize that God was also with the ones who don’t survive the crash or the illness, and the ones whose joblessness leads to destitution. He heard their prayers, He loves them equally, His great and universal plan of redemption is for them, too. It is, if we are to take the Savior’s words to heart, for them especially.

This knowledge of God’s special blessings on the poor can ironically make us hesitant at times to even try to offer the true hope, the eternal hope, through our gentleness and our prayers; to allow ourselves to be caught up in the tyranny of the moment, too; to become too discouraged when our own money runs short.

We can remind ourselves that our prayers are the most important part of our home visits, and say them even if only from a sense of habit or duty, but, Bl. Frederic once asked, “How do we preach resignation and courage to the unfortunate when we feel devoid of it ourselves?”

Our virtue of humility is a reminder that everything we have is from God, and everything we do is for His glory. That includes the comfort we may offer, because all comfort comes from God. We don’t ask His comfort on behalf of the neighbor, but together with the neighbor. We ask Him to wipe away our shared tears, to lift the burden not of bills, but of fear from both of us — from all of us.

This is the joy and the challenge of our vocation. It is also the reason that whenever we share our stories with each other, whether in correspondence or in the home visit reports during Conference meetings, our focus must first be on the true hope of salvation, and not, as Bl Frédéric explained in 1838, “statistical documents where success is defined in prideful numbers. We have to exchange ideas, inspiration perhaps, fears at times, and always hope. These … communications are like a form of circulation that brings the Society to life. There is truly nothing better.”


What inspiration, fear, and hope can I share with my fellow Vincentians?

Recommended Reading

Apostle in a Top Hat

Contemplation — The Fact Remains

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There are some popular sayings we sometimes repeat such as “Facts don’t care about your feelings” or “Facts are facts, whether you like them or not.” Both sayings are quite clever! They also are true, as far as they go, but both really mean the same thing: Shut up and do what I say.

A fact does not care about anybody’s feelings, but that’s only because a fact is not a person. In the same way, rocks don’t care about your pain. But we don’t just throw them at people’s heads to make that point. Facts don’t care about your feelings, but we should. This doesn’t mean we must abandon truth in favor of sympathy – quite the contrary!

Blessed Frédéric took great consolation in knowing that “while defending the truth with all my might, I never offended anyone.”  In our polarized time, this seems like a remarkable thing to say, and it turns out that our times are far less contentious and polarized than Frédéric’s.

Facts don’t care about your feelings. Rocks don’t care about your pain. Yet it can be so easy sometimes, during encounters with the neighbor, to become too focused on the facts. You have been evicted, and a shelter is the best place for you to go right now. That’s a fact. Many of the problems you face are the consequences of your own bad decisions. That’s a fact. Your debts are insurmountable. You need a plan for next month. Money won’t fix your problem. Fact, fact, fact.

It also is a fact, whether we remember it or not, that the neighbor’s problems can feel overwhelming. Some of them may garner nobody’s sympathy. The facts can make people feel very isolated, forgotten, helpless, and small, because facts, like rocks, don’t care about your feelings or your pain.

We do our neighbors no good by simply repeating to them the facts of their situations. The poor, our Getting Ahead training emphasizes, are experts in their own situation. They have already been hit in the head by their rocks. Like the Good Samaritan, we are not there primarily to focus on the facts; the passersby knew the facts. We are there to pour oil on the wound, to speak in a soothing tone, to offer a smile or a tear, to pause from our own lives and problems and truly share the neighbor’s.

Our virtue of simplicity calls us to speak not merely truth, but the Truth; the One Fact that stands above all others; the Fact that counts the hairs on our heads; the Fact that wipes away all tears; the Fact that transcends all worldly suffering.

Let he who is without challenges, has made no bad decisions, and has never needed help cast the first rock, and let us instead try to build Christ’s church upon it.

We serve in hope, and that’s a fact.


In light of the facts, how can I best convey hope?

Recommended Reading

‘Tis a Gift to be Simple

Week in Prayers April 3 – April 7

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Monday, April 3

Lord, grant me the virtue of simplicity
In my life and in my words.
Animated by love of the Holy Spirit,
With full faith in the Truth of Your Word,
May my honesty reveal You to all.
And may I never be separated from You
By my own pretense or falsehood.

Tuesday, April 4

Lord Jesus, in my heart of hearts,
Deep within my soul,
In every fiber of my being,
Help me to follow Your way.

Wednesday, April 5

When I stand tall with undeserved pride,
Help me, Lord Jesus, to kneel.
When I am brought low by the things of this world,
Help me, Lord Jesus, to stand.
When I’m at a loss for the right words to say,
Lord Jesus, hear my prayer.

Thursday, April 6 (Holy Thursday)

Lord Jesus,
In Your infinitely creative love
You share Your true presence
In bread and wine.
May it remind me that through
The anointing of my Baptism,
I also am sent
To bring glad tidings to the lowly,
To heal the brokenhearted,
To comfort those that mourn,
Not to be served, but to serve.

Friday, April 7 (Good Friday)

Lord Jesus, lead, and I will follow,
Taking up my cross daily,
And bearing its weight gladly,
No matter how difficult.
For the pathway is narrow
That leads to the Kingdom
But it is marked
By the sign of the cross.

Saturday, April 8 (Holy Saturday)

Lord Jesus,
Fully divine and fully human,
You fully revealed my nature
And my calling
Through Your life on earth.
You fully paid the price for my sins
By Your suffering
And death on the cross.
Lead me into Life, Lord Jesus.

Sunday, April 9 (Easter Sunday)

Roll away the stone, Lord Jesus,
So that I may follow Your way!
Roll away the stone, Lord Jesus,
Your truth is as bright as the day!
Roll away the stone, Lord Jesus,
Like the weight of all sorrows and strife!
Roll away the stone, Lord Jesus,
Lead me from death into life!

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

Contemplation — The First Bloom

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When we hear the expression “from the heart” we understand it to mean that the speech or action is both emotional and sincere; it is powerfully felt, so much so that the action it inspires cannot be resisted. When we open our hearts, we invite others in so that they may know us more deeply. When we are sad, our hearts are broken; when happy, they fill with joy.

St. Vincent often expressed his own love, sympathies, and joy by speaking of his heart, once saying to his beloved friend St. Louise that “my heart is no longer my heart, but yours, in that of Our Lord, Whom I desire to be the object of our one love.” [CCD I:172]

Our hearts are moved by each other, moved by pain, moved by joy, and moved by love most of all; the love of family, of friends, of romance – and the greatest of all loves, agape, the love of God. “That is because,” Bl. Frédéric once explained, “the human heart easily allows itself to be captured by love and there is always much love there where there is much faith.” [Letter 145, to Velay, 1837]

Just as our hearts seek one another and seek God, He also seeks us. His love comes first, unbidden and gratuitous; he is, as St. Catherine of Siena said “crazy in love” with us. [Dialog 153] This is the love that truly fills our hearts. It is the love that Frédéric said “which gives itself without diminishing, which shares itself without division, which multiplies itself, which is present in many places at once.” [Letter 107, to Curnier, 1835]

When we visit the neighbor, seeking to learn what Frédéric called “the secret of his lonely heart” [Baunard, 279], we can really only do so by “serving them from the heart” as St. Louise taught. [SWLM, a.85]

Our first Rule, in 1835, explained that Members share a friendship that “will make of all our hearts one heart.” Our vocation calls us to share that friendship not just with each other, but with the neighbors we serve; to share our hearts, and the love of God within them. As was said at the Society’s National Assembly of 1911, “were we to search carefully, we would find in this world, more hungry hearts than hungry stomachs… Humanity is made up of hearts, and hearts need sympathy more than material aid.”

This is the great lesson of our patron, and the reason Frédéric said in the first annual report that ought to model not only his works, but “the manner in which he understood his works. Charity does not consist so much in the distributing of bread as in the manner it is distributed.” Vincent’s life, he said, “is a life to be carried on, a heart in which one’s own heart is enkindled.” [Letter 175, to Lallier, 1838]

In this, may we each have, as Vincent wished for Louise, “a young heart and a love in its first bloom for Him Who loves us unceasingly and as tenderly as if He were just beginning to love us.” [CCD I:408]


Do I let the neighbor in to my open heart?

Recommended Reading

Praying with Vincent de Paul

A Week in Prayers March 27 – March 31

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Monday, March 27

Lord Jesus, Savior,
Help me to carry my cross daily
As I seek to follow You.
When I sweat, cool my brow;
When I stumble, lift me up;
For the cross is mine alone,
But I am Yours.

Tuesday, March 28

Holy Mary, pray for us,
That we may hear the cry
Of God’s suffering children.
May He lead us to them
With food for the hungry,
Drink for the thirsty,
Comfort for the mourning,
And the love of Your Son,
Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, March 29

Heavenly Father,
My life is Your gift
To do with as I will.
May I in turn give freely
Of my time, my talents,
My possessions, and myself
To my neighbors in need
To do with as they will.

Thursday, March 30

Heavenly Father,
In the silence I await You.
Feed my soul,
Which hungers for Your Spirit,
Which thirsts for Your Word.
Fortified by the strength of Your love,
Send me forth to do Your will.

Friday, March 31

Heavenly Father,
My heart murmurs prayers
Without words.
My soul awaits Your answer
In the silence.
Lord, do not burden me
With everything I want.
Free me instead
To serve You fully
In body and soul,
In word and in deed,
Tireless in Your love.

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

Contemplation — Just Vincentian Enough

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“Well,” we sometimes admonish ourselves when an idea we’re discussing doesn’t seem quite right, “that’s not very Vincentian.” The phrase is a simple reminder of who we are, and how we act. It needs no further explanation. After all, our Rule finds it sufficient to say that “Visits to the Poor are made in a Vincentian Spirit.” [Rule, Part III, St. 8] The very word Vincentian carries with it a depth of meaning that conveys so much more to Members than it does to anybody outside the Society.

It isn’t that the Rule never explains what it is to be Vincentian. Throughout it, we read things such as “Vincentians feel called to pray together,” “Vincentians strive to seek out and find those in need,” “Vincentians serve the poor cheerfully,” “Vincentians endeavor to establish relationships based on trust and friendship,” “Vincentians never forget the many blessings they receive from those they visit,” and, of course, “Vincentians serve in hope.”

It turns out that our little word, Vincentian, is a very big thing. So big that if we were to make a list of all the characteristics and actions of Vincentians from our Rule and Manual, and treat as a list of instructions, it would be overwhelming.

In a similar way, if we were to make a list of all the times Jesus says things like “go and do likewise”, “as I have done for you, you should also do,” “do this and you will live,” “love your enemies,” or “whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me,” we would have an even longer list!

The good news is that these lists are not in conflict; Vincentian spirituality is Catholic spirituality. To be Catholic, and to be Vincentian, is not to carry these lists only in our books, but in our hearts, and in our actions. We know that to be Vincentian is always to err on the side of compassion, even though those words are not in the Rule.

Challenged by the Pharisees to pick out the greatest of the commandments, Jesus responded with an entirely new commandment, in two parts: “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind… You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” He was not dismissing the Ten Commandments, but was instead answering the “why” of those commandments.

Few Vincentians have the Rule memorized, and although we try to live it fully, most of us will fall short from time to time. That doesn’t make us any less Vincentian, as long as we remember the “why”. Our “ideal is to help relieve suffering for love alone,” and that is just Vincentian enough.


In serving, is my foremost motive always love of God and neighbor?

Recommended Reading

The Spirituality of the Home Visit

Contemplation — Accompanied by Justice

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There is no act of charity,” St. Vincent once wrote, “that is not accompanied by justice…” [CCD II:68] We so often see the words “charity” and “justice” used together that we perhaps don’t often think enough about what these words mean, and what they mean for us to do in practice.

We know that charity, the greatest of the theological virtues, is love, and that our acts of charity are in turn the means by which we express and live this virtue: loving God and neighbor. [CCC, 1822]  But justice seems like a harder word, doesn’t it?

Our human justice, the legal system, seems focused mainly on punishment, and when we think of God’s justice we may think mainly of the Final Judgment. Yet it should be clear that St. Vincent is not asking us to pass judgment on anybody, much less to punish them. Nor is Frédéric, when he calls upon us to “to make charity accomplish what justice alone cannot do.” [Letter 136, to Lallier, 1836]

Taken in context, Vincent’s letter was to a missioner regarding a large donation that had been sent to him to support the religious, reminding hm to “use none of it for any other purpose under any pretext of charity whatsoever.” [CCD II:68] In other words, taking what belongs to somebody else, even to help the poor, cannot be an act of charity because it is unjust.

In a similar way, Frédéric was calling to “to make equality as operative as is possible among men; to make voluntary community replace imposition and brute force; to make charity accomplish what justice alone cannot do.” [Letter 136, to Lallier, 1836] It’s the Christian duty, in other words, for those who have much to give it away of their own accord. It is not our duty to try to force them. And if what each of us can spare is not enough, then we dig deeper, beyond what we think we can spare.

We sometimes say of convicted criminals that “they got what they deserved!” That is justice, but all persons deserve certain things. After all, God did not place us on the earth, living in community, so that some of us might starve. As John the Baptist preached, for the man who has two coats, one belongs to him, and the other belongs to the man with no coat. Having “two coats” was a sign of wealth 2000 years ago, but each of us can ask ourselves today “what is my second coat? To whom does it belong?”

As Pope Saint Gregory the Great explained, when we give “necessaries of any kind to the indigent, we do not bestow our own, but render them what is theirs; we rather pay a debt of justice…” [P.R., Bk III] Giving our time and ourselves is charity. Treating the poor with dignity is justice. Assisting them with money donated for that purpose is justice. That is why “Conference members should never adopt the attitude that the money is theirs, or that the recipients have to prove that they deserve it.” [Manual, 23]


What is my “second coat”? To whom does it belong?

Recommended Reading

Serving in Hope, Module IV – Our Vincentian Mission

Contemplation — Between Vincent and Francis

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Writing to his friend Auguste Materne, a 17-year-old Frédéric Ozanam tried to sum up his good points and his bad points. The bad side he reduced to “four predominant faults: pride, impatience, weakness, and an extreme meticulousness” which he went on to explain in more detail, then closed with an odd self-assessment: “Add to these faults that of despising the neighbor a little too easily and you have my bad side.” [Letter 12, to Materne, 1830] Less than three years before founding the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul, whose members are dedicated to loving and serving our neighbors, this man, this role model of holiness, admitted to “despising the neighbor a little too easily”?

The younger Frédéric recognized his own pride and impatience, which sometimes led him to intolerance. He concluded that he thought he “could become either a very wicked or a very virtuous man.” Ozanam’s frankness may be a reminder that each of us has a saint within us, struggling to be set free from our human weaknesses, whatever they may be, and in order to achieve the holiness we seek, we all need help. As our Rule puts it, “Vincentians are aware of their own brokenness and need for God’s grace.” [Rule, Part I, 2.2]

Frédéric, whose beatification attests to the holiness he ultimately attained, found the grace to go beyond his own brokenness in the very place that we may find it, too – in the Society he founded for this very purpose. Indeed, only nine years after delineating his own weaknesses, he would write to Father Lacordaire, saying “I greatly fear to lose in useless efforts time I could more modestly and surely employ for my salvation and the service of the neighbor.” [Letter 211, to Lacordaire, 1839] His impatience had reversed itself, and he now urgently sought to serve the neighbor.

Each of us, Frédéric wrote, “carries within his heart a seed of sanctity”. [Letter 137, to Janmot, 1837] It is in the poor that we see God, and are able to serve Him and thus grow closer to Him; to nurture that seed. This is both the lesson of Frédéric’s life, and the example he leaves for us; an example of holiness attained, but more importantly, an example of growth in holiness.

Beyond even that, Frédéric shows us how to grow in holiness together, asking his fellow Vincentians to “not allow yourselves to be stopped by those who will say to you, ‘He is in Heaven.’ Pray always for him who loves you dearly, for him who has greatly sinned. If I am assured of these prayers, I quit this earth with less fear.” [Baunard, 386] In return, Léonce Curnier would say after his lifelong friend’s death that “I never think of Frédéric without an inclination to invoke his assistance… I seem to see him in Heaven between St. Vincent de Paul and St. Francis de Sales, whose faithful disciple he was.” [Ibid, 406]

May we continue to serve Christ, and to pray for each other’s salvation. Pray for us Blessed Frédéric!


Do I always pray for my fellow Vincentians, living and dead, and ask also for their prayers?

Recommended Reading

15 Days of Prayer with Blessed Frédéric Ozanam

Contemplation — To Boldly Go

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The bold, five-year mission of the starship Enterprise was “to seek out new life and new civilizations” on “strange new worlds.” Vincentians, though constrained to our same old world, and not limited to a mere five years, are similarly called “to seek out and find those in need and the forgotten” in our mission of charity. [Rule, Part I, 1.5]

Our hands are full, it may seem, just answering the calls for help that arrive unannounced; our treasuries may strain to meet the needs presented to us. So why would we go around trying to find more? After all, don’t our neighbors find us, just as we receive donations, through God’s providence? Of course! But recall that trust in Providence is not a mandate to be merely passive. As Blessed Frédéric once wrote, “Providence does not need us for the execution of its merciful designs, but we, we need it and it promises us its assistance only on the condition of our efforts.” [Letter 135, to Bailly, 1836]

What greater or more important effort could we offer but to seek out those in need – especially the forgotten? After all, as both Moses and Jesus remind us, the land will never lack for needy persons and the poor will always be with us. The most needy may be forgotten by their neighbors and by society, but they are not forgotten by God, their Creator. It is exactly that message, that hope, that we are called to share on our home visits.

It is our respect for the dignity of every person that should motivate us to seek them, to find them, and to share God’s love in the form of bread, in the form of help, and most importantly in the form of our presence and love. We can never let the fear of a depleted treasury stop us from seeking out those most in need, because we know that “giving love, talents and time is more important than giving money.” [Rule, Part I, 3.14]

God does provide. He provides generously and lovingly. It is the will of God that our neighbors in need call us, and the will of God that enables us to help them. But as St. Louise reminds us, we must “never take the attitude of merely getting the task done.” [SWLM, A.85] We are not the Society of Bill Payments, we are the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, following the example of our Patron, as he in turn imitated Christ.

We are called to see the face of Christ. He is out there; not on a strange new world, but perhaps on a park bench, perhaps in a darkened apartment, perhaps in a hospital or prison. The world may have forgotten Him, but we hear His cry, and seek Him, unafraid.


Where can I go to find Christ, and how can I serve Him best?

Recommended Reading

Faces of Holiness

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