Contemplation: The Challenge of Modern Times

Contemplation: The Challenge of Modern Times

Contemplation: The Challenge of Modern Times 800 800 SVDP USA

By Timothy Williams, Senior Director of Formation & Leadership Development

Blessed Frédéric and his friends founded the Society in 1833 in answer to a challenge posed to them by another group of students in a discussion group called the Conference of History. The other students, adherents to San Simonianism, a form of utopian socialism, believed the church’s day had come and gone, and that poverty and other social problems could be best addressed with modern, scientific methods. Yet their challenge to Frédéric was not a challenge to show how much bread or firewood could be distributed, or how many poor families could be assisted. Their challenge was simpler, but more difficult. “Show us,” they demanded, “the good of the church in the modern world.”

To show the good of the church remains our core mission, our evangelical mission, and the good of the church is the same as ever: to bring all people to eternal life in union with a loving God. And so Frédéric and his friends could see no better way to answer the challenge, no better way to demonstrate the good of the church than to “do what Our Lord Jesus Christ did when preaching the Gospel. Let us go,” Frédéric declared, “to the poor.” [Baunard, 65]

Since the beginning of time, God has loved us, awaited us, and answered our calls, but for one moment in human history, He put on the cloak of humanity and came to us. He visited us, walked among us, shared our pains and our burdens, and called us friend; He came not to be served but to serve.

Our primary purpose is to grow in holiness. This is the good of the church. Our secondary purpose is to share Christ’s love with the neighbor. This, too, is the good of the church. The good of the church was shown to us by our Heavenly father, who so loved the world that He sent His only Son to establish His church. And because “love is inventive to infinity” He further found a way to remain in our presence in the Eucharist. [CCD XI:129]; to be present, to act for love alone, as our Rule calls us to do. [Rule Part I, 2.2]

The good of the church is first to lead us to Christ. We do not summon Him to us. Rather, we seek Him exactly where he tells us He will be found: in the hungry, in the thirsty, in the naked, the prisoner, the stranger, the poor. We seek out and find Him in the poor. [Rule, Part I, 1.5]

By coming to us, in person, God established His church and all its goodness in the world. He went to the poor, He went to the hungry, He even went to the sinners, sinners that many others of the day thought were undeserving. Vincentians seek both to encounter and to imitate Christ. We go to the poor, not because it is efficient, not because it is modern. It was neither of those things in 1833, nor even in 30 AD. We go to the poor to bring Christ’s love, and to share the hope of the living Word.

This was and remains the good of the church, and the mission of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul.


How can I better show the good of Christ’s church in the modern world?

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500 Little Prayers for Vincentians

  • I really love this message and the emphasis on contemplation.. How do I get a copy of “500 Little Prayers”?
    Paul Cravedi
    St Paul’s in Cambridge, MA

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