Contemplation: What Good Have I Done?

Contemplation: What Good Have I Done?

Contemplation: What Good Have I Done? 1080 1080 SVDP USA

In the course of the works of a busy Conference, we often become overwhelmed. The needs are many, and often are greater than our resources enable us to alleviate. We no sooner complete one Home Visit than the phone rings again. It can be exhausting, and even discouraging, if we measure our works the way they are measured by social service agencies or philanthropic societies. We may begin to question whether we are really helping the neighbor at all.

This feeling can lead us to a crossroads where we must choose: do we seek “efficiency” by trying to divvy up the resources as widely as possible, substituting phone calls for Home Visits, or asking the neighbor to come to us instead of we to them? Do we stop meeting, because our “business” can be conducted by phone or email? Or do we pause to reflect that these are the same questions that led to the Society’s founding and defined its purpose; the perpetual questions raised in the minds of members for nearly 200 years? Do we choose to recommit ourselves to the true good that we are called to do?

The introduction to the first edition of the Rule, written in 1835, assures us that “we must never be ashamed on the smallness of our alms.” Indeed, shortage of funds for “considerable works of charity” is, it said “one of the conditions of our existence.” [Rule, 1835] Our works and the good that we do have never been measured by the amount of money we can offer, or by the number of problems that we “fix.”

In founding the Society, Frédéric and his friends were challenged to show the good of the church in the modern world. Their challengers were quite convinced that they had better answers to poverty and the social question. What they could not see, but Frédéric could, was that the true good of the church, the message of Christ’s incarnation, is not that we are promised material abundance, but that we are promised eternal life by a God who loves us so much, He sent us His only Son. Bringing ourselves closer to eternal life and His love to the poor, is the good that God calls us to do.

Our Conference meetings are not business meetings. They are opportunities to share in prayer and reflection the ways in which we have grown closer to God, and the ways in which we have encountered Christ in our works. To the critics of his own time who accused the Society of not doing enough, Frédéric replied that they were only repeating the challenge the Saint Simonians had posed 15 years earlier. [Baunard, 279-280] But the measurement of achievement only in material terms will always lead to disappointment. The poor, we are taught, will always be with us – not as burden, but as a challenge, a measure not of our alms, but of our love.

The good that we do is not in our works, but in our charity – our love of God and neighbor.


How often do I pause to reflect on the presence of Christ in my Vincentian encounters?

Recommended Reading

What Good Have I Done – a poem that asks and answers the question

  • Tim, Outstanding!

  • Thank you for this reminder that we are called to love. it does get overwhelming when there is so much need and it doesnt seem as if it will stop. I will work to remember to love and if I do that know that I have don’t what I have been called to do and if I am able to do a material thing then I have gotten to do extra.

  • Hi Vincensions,
    After Christmas, a homeless family called into our Church in Canton, MI. We were able to put them up in a motel for a week. At the end of the week they called to see about another week. That family had moved around so much in a short period of time that the young boy in the family said to his mom ” being here feels like being in a house.” He was so glad not to move every day and appreciated not having to ask to take a shower then going somewhere else to sleep at another relative’s place. That break was enough to feel like things were back to normal. Yes, we gave the family a 2nd week since they had a plan. The family was going into an apartment soon.

  • What Frederic saw “is not that we are promised material abundance, but that we are promised eternal life by a God who loves us so much, He sent us His only Son.” This needs to be said out loud at every home visit. Otherwise, there’s no reason to make them. Social workers and the Amazon driver can provide the material stuff.

    • I was thinking just what you said about this being remembered and said at each home visit, Tom. The material stuff is passing, the eternal is not. We all need to be reminded of this truth. Thank you for calling attention to this.

  • These contemplations are beautiful, especially this one. We do what we do for love alone and beg for the Holy Spirit to do what we cannot. That’s the faith and beauty of the Vincentian vocation.

    • Timothy P Williams January 13, 2024 at 10:25 am

      Thank you for the kind words. Your thoughts about our vocation echo Blessed Frederic, who once said we should “do all the good we can, and trust to God for the rest.”

  • This is one of the most helpful reflections that I have received. I often wonder how will I be judged one day for my Vincentian responses? If I am unable or unwilling to let this calling become my entire life, will I be judged harshly for that at life’s end?
    Thank you for these thoughts to ponder.

    • Timothy P Williams January 13, 2024 at 10:27 am

      Perhaps we can take solace in a dream Bl Rosalie once had, in which she stood before the judgment seat of God, fearful, then the many poor she had served came forth to ask God to admit this one who had helped them.

  • Maureen Chukwumah January 9, 2024 at 12:30 pm

    The reflections are apt and point on the basic existence of the society, to love , to share, and lead souls to God and to enjoy eternal life through our contributions.

  • I love st Vincent’s and my fellow Vincentians

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