Contemplation: Another Advocate

Contemplation: Another Advocate

Contemplation: Another Advocate 800 800 SVDP USA

By Timothy Williams, Senior Director of Formation & Leadership Development

In 1833, President (and Spiritual Advisor) Emmanuel Bailly opened the first meeting of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul praying “Veni, Sancte Spiritus…” We continue this special devotion to the Holy Spirit today, beginning our Opening Prayers at Conference Meetings with the very same invocation, but now in our own language: “Come Holy Spirit, live within our lives, and strengthen us by Your love.”

The Holy Spirit, Jesus told His disciples, would be sent to them after His ascension to heaven as “another Advocate” – in other words, to represent the continued presence of Christ, the first Advocate, on earth. In this way, He introduces us to the Third Person of the Holy Trinity. The word used in the Greek is paraclete, which carries the same meaning as the Latin advocatus, a term that referred to legal counsel, but in our use refers to one who provides counsel, comfort, protection, and much more.

The Paraclete, the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, then, is our protector, our comforter, and our mediator with God the Father. As Vincentians, we seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit in our discernment, the fire of the Holy Spirit in our hearts, and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit in all of our works.

Interestingly, many Conferences and Councils refer to members of Home Visit teams as “advocates.” Whether or not your Conference uses this term, it is a helpful way to understand our role in serving the neighbor. We are called not only to “see the suffering Christ” in the poor, [Rule, Part I, 1.8] but to hope that it is Christ who loves through us, so that “the poor may catch a glimpse of God’s great love for them.” [Rule, Part I, 2.1] In other words, we seek to be “another advocate,” sharing and showing the face and the love of Christ, offering not only material assistance but prayer, comfort, and counsel. We are called to share the face of Christ, and to be a channel of the Holy Spirit.

We’re further called to be a “voice for the voiceless,” sharing “the perspective of those we visit who suffer” in order to address issues of justice in our wider community. [Rule, Part I, 7.4-7.5] This is a role the Society has played quite prominently throughout our history, beginning with Blessed Frédéric himself. In 1898, for example, Edmond Butler, who later served as National Council president, served on New York’s Committee on Dependent Children where he advocated the natural rights of parents, informed by the understanding gained through the relationships the Society had built with the poor.

Today, our advocacy continues not only through formal programs, such as Voice for the Poor, but also, and more importantly, in every conversation we have with friends and neighbors, giving voice to the struggles of the poor, and seeking solutions in collaboration with others in our communities.

Give me the gentleness to offer comfort, the hope to offer prayer, and the zeal to be a voice for the poor. All this and more is what we mean when we pray “Come Holy Spirit, live within our lives.”


How often do I pray specifically for the Holy Spirit’s guidance and inspiration?

Recommended Reading

Antoine-Frédéric Ozanam – especially Chapter 6

Sign Up for Our Newsletter

    Skip to content