It seems to me that often the terms “care for the poor” and “social justice” are found in many documents, which certainly make one reflect and think. However, they do not seem to go much further than that. Just this past week, however, I was reminded of a family who has lived care for the poor which is anchored in a Eucharistic spirituality. This is the Vincentian family. I had the blessing to visit with some of the Daughters of Charity , who are part of the Vincentian family, this past weekend at the Religious Education Congress in Anaheim. The Sisters and I spoke about some of my professors in the seminary in St. Louis who were Daughters of Charity who had a great and lasting impact on me to this day.
Within the same time period, I had the blessing to visit with Peter Andres, who is the President of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul Council in Orange County. The Society of St. Vincent de Paul was founded by Frederic Ozanam ni the 1830s when he was a student at the Sorbonne in Paris. He was being taunted by atheist students who said that Catholics had no care for the poor. Frederic thought of St. Vincent de Paul, who in the 1600s had founded the Congregation of the Mission to train priests and care for the poor. With St. Louise de Marillac he founded the Daughters of Charity.
And so he founded the Society of St. Vincent de Paul to do just that, minister to the sick and the poor, as the mission of all Catholics, especially the laity. When he wrote his rule he said “We must do what is agreeable to God. Therefore, we must do what our Lord Jesus Christ did when preaching the Gospel. Let us to the poor.” And so he did! I should note that when he began the Society he was only 20 years old and he did this with six other students!
The Society of St. Vincent de Paul has done great work here in Orange County, and I would encourage membership in this, to learn about this great family in the Body of Christ, and to be able to live and practice love and justice with others! This is nothing new , and has been a part of the life of the Church in many ways, but especially since the foundation of the Society. Mr. Andres and I are working to strengthen the local councils of the Society and to increase their outreach. If you are interested, please contact Peter L. Andres at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As the Rule of the Society says “The vocation of the Society’s members, who are called Vincentians, is to follow Christ through service to those in need and so bear witness to His compassionate and liberating love. Members show their commitment through person to person contact. Vincentians serve in hope.”
The mission of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul is also a way to ensure that the Lenten practices of “Prayer, fasting and almsgiving” have a permanent place in our lives and spirituality !
Blessed Lenten days to all!