Timothy Williams

Contemplation – The Joy of Communion

Contemplation – The Joy of Communion 940 788 SVDP USA

Our journey towards holiness will be more fruitful, our Rule says, if it includes “devotion to the Eucharist” [Rule, Part I, 2.2] which “plays a major role in Vincentian spirituality.” [Manual, p.65] The Eucharist unifies us and sends us forth.

The spiritual dimension of our Vincentian Formation teaches us that our pathway is a shared one, that we are meant to grow in holiness together as members of a community of faith.

Bl. Frédéric once said that although they might not be with him, when he received Communion he was “in close touch with my friends, all united to the same Saviour.” [Baunard, 381] After his mother’s death, he said that he believed that when the Savior visited, his mother “follow[ed] him into my poor heart.” [Baunard, 158]

In this, he echoed St. Louise, who reminds us that “Holy Communion with the Body of Jesus Christ causes us truly to participate in the joy of the Communion of Saints in Paradise.” [Spiritual Writings, A.15]

The Eucharist, which takes its name from the Greek word for giving thanks, is a gift we receive because Christ’s love is “inventive to infinity.” [SVdP, CCD XI:131] Having received Him, we must thank God “by our desire to honor Him in all the actions of our lives.” [St. Louise, Spiritual Writings, A.15]

Following Mass, filled with the “power of conviction,” [Baunard, 342] Bl. Frédéric always visited the poor of his Conference on his walk home. As his biographer Monsignor Baunard put it, he “returned to Our Lord, in the person of His suffering poor, the visit which he had just received from Him in the Holy Eucharist.” [Baunard, 209]

And so, having taken the Body of Christ into our own, we see that Jesus brings “not only Himself … but also all the merits of His mysteries.” [Spiritual Writings, M.8B]

Sending Louise on a mission, Vincent advised her to go to Communion on the day of her departure, so that Christ may “bless your journey, giving you His spirit and the grace to act in this same spirit, and to bear your troubles in the way He bore His.” [CCD I:65]

This sacrament is central to our Vincentian Vocation for the same reason it is the church’s “foundation and wellspring.” [Ecclesia de Eucharistia, 5] Through the Eucharist we are united not only with Christ, but with our entire human community; we are fortified, strengthened, and called to serve them as He served us. Our service to the poor is the expression of our devotion to the Eucharist.

Contemplate
How can I give thanks for the Eucharist in my Vincentian service?
Recommended Reading

Ecclesia de Eucharistia, Encyclical Letter of Pope Saint John Paul II

Contemplation – Our Unlimited Resources

Contemplation – Our Unlimited Resources 940 788 SVDP USA

In the course of its 188 years, many have marveled at the Society of St. Vincent de Paul’s great freedom of action, seeking always to help those in need in the best way possible. As our Rule says, “No work of charity is foreign to the Society.” [Rule, Part I, 1.3] There is only one explanation for this: love.

In 1933, on the occasion of the 100th Anniversary of the Society’s founding, an editorial in The Tablet, a Catholic newspaper in Brooklyn, observed that “The Society is great because it follows in the footsteps of Our Lord and Savior… He was not interested in ‘cases’ or ‘clients,’ but in men, women, and children.”

We are called to form relationships with those in need, to understand them as we would a brother or sister. Like brothers or sisters, like neighbors, like friends, we always want to do what is best for a person we value and love. Because of this, the members who made the visit are assumed by their fellow Vincentians “to have a special insight into the best way to give help.” [Manual, p. 27]

Ours is not the “The organized charity, scrimped and iced, In the name of a cautious, statistical Christ,” from John Boyle O’Reilly’s poem. Rather, with Bl. Frédéric, we believe that “in such a work it is necessary to give yourself up to the inspirations of the heart rather than the calculations of the mind.” [Letter 82, To Curnier, 1834]

The poor are accustomed to standing in line, taking a number, or filling out a form to try to “qualify” for the assistance they desperately need. They are reduced to numbers in the eyes of many agencies. To many in their communities, they are invisible. To us, they are “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, 1837]

The Society of St. Vincent de Paul is not an agency; our help does not come with strings attached, because while agencies’ resources are limited, ours are not. Our funds belong to the poor already, so we “never adopt the attitude that the money is [ours,] or that the recipients have to prove that they deserve it.” [Manual, p. 26]

More importantly, the resource we share on every single visit, is ourselves. But the ultimate reason that no work of charity is foreign to us is that the greatest resource we have, is one that multiplies as it is shared: love.

Contemplate: Are there times that I “budget” my love?

Recommended Reading: The Spirituality of the Home Visit – Read, but also keep your own journal!

Contemplation – It Would Be Ungrateful Not to Hope

Contemplation – It Would Be Ungrateful Not to Hope 940 788 SVDP USA

To trust in Divine Providence is to seek the will of God. This trust does not come for free – we must invest in it our patience, humility, gratitude, and hope.

St. Louise advised the Daughters to “remain at peace until Divine Providence lets you know what It is asking of you.” [Sp. Wri., 249] Often filled with anxiety when things did not go according to her own plans, Louise had learned that abandonment to God’s will requires patience for God’s timing, even when we have already embarked on God’s work.

As Vincentians, we know that in serving the least among us, we are doing God’s will, because he very specifically, and explicitly told us to do exactly this! So, when we run into things that feel like obstacles in the course of our works, we must not be discouraged or anxious. “Having begun His work in us,” St. Vincent taught, “He will complete it.” [CCD XI:31]

If the money seems low in the treasury, but it is enough to help the needs before us now, then it is enough. God knows and will provide for our needs, now and next week, “particularly those which human prudence can neither foresee nor meet,” as St. Louise put it. [Sp. Wri., 174]

As Frédéric put it, we should remain “content to see the stone on which we should step without wanting to discover all at once and completely the windings of the road.” [Letter 136]

Or to use an old cowboy saying, “Dance with the one that brung ya.”

It takes great humility to set aside our own prudence and foresight, earned over many years of worldly experience, with faith that God will provide. At the same time, it is an act of profound gratitude.

If we are thankful, as we pray at every Conference meeting, for the many blessings he has already bestowed on us, then as St. Louise explained “we would be the greatest ingrates in the world” if at the first obstacle we were to abandon our trust in the Providence which has so far given us all that we need. [Sp. Wri., 174]

Trust in Providence is not only for the work of our Conferences, but for every part of our lives. For each time we set aside our anxieties, for each day we let the day’s own troubles suffice, we will be reassured once again of God’s abundance and love, which we receive that we might share.

And in time we will say with Bl. Frédéric that Providence “has for some time granted me so many favors that I would be ungrateful not to hope.” [Letter 365]

Contemplate

Do I sometimes let pride in my own wisdom override my trust in Providence?

Recommended Reading

15 Days of Prayer with Bl. Frédéric Ozanam (especially 14 – Providence)

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