Receiving Christ from the poor takes listening heart

Complete the circle
By George Evans
I have recently returned from the four day national assembly of the St. Vincent de Paul Society of the United States held this year in Columbus, Ohio. It was a fantastic gathering and my wife and I are energized to continue our journey to bring Christ to the poor and impact poverty in our nation and in doing so perhaps save our souls with God’s help.
Many of you may know that members of the St. Vincent de Paul Society (SVDP) make home visits to people requesting assistance with bills such as utilities, rent, food, transportation etc.  Many of you are not aware that SVDP is primarily a spiritual program for its members to work and pray as a community and then to take the Christ met in prayer and sharing to the poor to help them meet their own needs, be they financial, spiritual, hopelessness or whatever as revealed in the home visit.
At times the presence of caring Vincentians (we always go in pairs) listening lovingly and without being judgmental is as meaningful to the needy person as the payment of any unpaid bill or other act of charity.
Born In France in the 16th century, St. Vincent de Paul, after some years of priesthood, found his ultimate fulfillment in service to the poor of Paris. He founded the congregation of the Mission, an order of priests (Vincentians); the Ladies of Charity to visit the sick in their homes and in collaboration with St. Louise de Marillac, the Daughters of Charity in 1633.  St. Vincent had been named the Universal Patron of Charity and was an obvious choice of Frederick Ozanam, a brilliant 20-year-old student at the Sorbonne in Paris, when in 1833 he formed, with other students, The Society of St. Vincent de Paul.
The national assembly through great daily Eucharistic liturgies, principal addresses by nationally acclaimed speakers and 12 or more workshops on particular topics such as Catholic Social Teaching, the spirituality of home visits, restorative justice 101, how to start a new conference and many other topics inspired all of us in improving our service as Vincentians.
One of many highlights was a session entitled “Spiritual Retreat: Pope Francis and the Vincentian Embrace of the Poor” by Bishop John M. Quinn, episcopal liaison to the National Council of St. Vincent de Paul Society. Bishop Quinn is currently Bishop of Winona, Minnesota. Previously he was an Auxiliary Bishop of Detroit.
Bishop Quinn called the audience to follow Pope Francis’s embraces of the poor and handicapped in his audiences at St. Peter’s Square. We should, he said, not to preach to them from above, but instead love and bring Christ to the poor and receive Christ from the poor using the home visit as the perfect vehicle. We should bring a listening heart and listening ears to the poor so we can truly hear their cry for humane and equal treatment.
He reminded the audience of Pope Francis’s address to Congress in which he brought to mind four great Americans, Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Jr., Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton, all of whom served the poor in their own special way in service and prayer and only two of whom were Catholic.  He called on all of us present to be inclusive and open hearted as is Pope Francis.
Finally, Bishop Quinn urged us, as does Pope Francis, to bring joy and hope to the poor in service and never be a sour puss of which there are too many. He urged us to be aware of and work for eternal life and be assured that the poor will welcome us into the kingdom –“they will plead our cause.” Bishop Quinn was terrific and my short recap could never do him justice. He was a great contributor to the national assembly.  I can’t wait to go to Tampa for the one next year.
(George Evans is retired, but still active at Jackson St. Richard Parish.)