St. Vincent de Paul is well known for his service to the lowliest members of society. He was a French Catholic priest who dedicated his priestly career to the community outreach and evangelization of the poor by founding the Congregation of the Mission. Through his example, St. Vincent de Paul teaches us to see Christ in the poor and suffering, helping us to live out Jesus’ calling, “Whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25:40).
St. Vincent de Paul said, “The poor have much to teach you. You have much to learn from them.” As we speak and listen to the poor, we come to know God better and are humbled by the circumstances of others. By extending a helpful hand or lending an ear to the less fortunate, we show God’s love and acceptance of all. There are many ways we can demonstrate this love and acceptance. Consider one of the following:
- Become a better active listener by: focusing on the speaker through good eye contact and body language, repeating back what he or she has told you to show you are listening, removing all distractions from your conversation (like cell phones), keeping an open mind, and by letting organic pauses in the conversation form — silence allows time for reflection! By adopting these techniques for good listening with the poor (and anyone!) you are not only demonstrating the care and concern of Christ, but also putting yourself in the right frame of mind to grow and learn too.
- Develop a family charity project that you and your siblings, parents, and other relatives can work on together. Clothing drives, holiday food bags, giving trees, and school supply drives all provide important resources to struggling families during expensive times of year.
- Serve at a homeless shelter or other organization geared toward helping the poor.
- Share what you see with others in the community and write an editorial for the local paper with positive solutions.
- Pay attention to what your friends, coworkers, and family members are saying or doing — maybe they are going through something difficult and could use a homemade meal, babysitter, or some other assistance.
I recently came across a picture quote that read, “It’s worth the trouble to become the person you were meant to be.” I was instantly reminded that God has an individual plan for me, just as he does for everyone else. God utilizes us to do his good work in our communities, striving to serve both those who lack financial resources or are poor or dejected in spirit. St. Vincent de Paul said to his priests, “Do the good that presents itself to be done…God lets us know he wants of us. We belong to him and not to ourselves. If he increases our work, he adds to our strength.” We must be open to the good work God wants to accomplish through us. To do this, we must continue our daily prayer, pay attention to opportunities where God is calling us to serve, and keep an optimistic heart.
St. Vincent de Paul, pray for us!