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?