Vincentians are called to serve the hungry, the homeless, the poor — all those who are suffering or deprived. Doing this work can sometimes lead us to discouragement, because we see so many problems we cannot solve, and we know that today’s groceries won’t satisfy next month’s hunger.
And after all, who are we to try to ease the suffering of others when we are weighed down by burdens of our own?
Writing to his lifelong friend Ernest Falconnet, Bl. Frédéric once confided that many times he felt burdened by his own problems and worries, but then he went “into the dwelling of a poor person confided to my care. There, because so many unfortunates have more to complain about than I, I scolded myself for being discouraged.” [15 Days of Prayer, p.81]
The poor will always be with us, as surely as our own hunger will return each day. This is why our Rule reminds us, we “should never forget that giving love, talents, and time is more important than giving money.” [Rule, Pt. I, 3.14]
Our primary purpose is not the feeding, but the sharing, and in the end, whatever loaves and fishes we have to offer will be enough for God’s plan, if we share them for love alone. And as we comfort, we will in turn be comforted, just as the five loaves and two fish, shared by Christ’s disciples, returned to them as twelve baskets filled with food.
To invert the old saying, “there because of the grace of God go I.” There to the poor; there to the hungry; there to deprivation and to sadness; there to Him who beckons us; there to Him who comforts and redeems us, even as we, “weak Samaritans,” seek to offer comfort.
As Bl. Frédéric taught, the poor are “the messenger of God to us, sent to prove our justice and charity…” [O’Meara, p. 177]
How can we ever tire, or be discouraged, when what we offer is to Christ Himself? As Frédéric realized when those impoverished families lifted his spirit:
“From that time on, how could I not love them?”
In giving, do I keep my heart open to receiving?
Apostle in a Top Hat More a novel than a biography, this is an inspirational story of Frédéric’s life.