"It is only for your love alone that the poor will forgive you the bread you give to them." St Vincent de Paul (1)
St Vincent de Paul has always been one of my favorite saints. His words are clear, direct and uncompromising. Two of his more noteworthy sayings are: “Extend mercy towards others, so that there can be no one in need whom you meet without helping. For what hope is there for us if God should withdraw His mercy from us?” And, "Make it a practice to judge persons and things in the most favorable light at all times and under all circumstances."
But no saying of Vincent has impacted me more than his demand that we love the poor, not just feed them. In truth, one can only know the power of this directive by experiencing it. Of all the ministries to which I have been called, it is my encounters with the poor, the homeless and the bed ridden that have been most life changing.
For many years I offered mass on Sunday’s at the Shattuck hospital in Boston. The Shattuck welcomed Boston’s street people, many of whom remained in the hospital for years. One fellow, I’ll call him “Charlie,” had been a police officer for many years. Unfortunately, his own life unraveled with drug and alcohol abuse and he found himself homeless and living on the streets. By the time he arrived at the Shattuck his diabetes had taken away one of his legs, but his spirit had been transformed by a return to his faith, and he became an advocate for many of the patients whose lack of education or social anxiety made it impossible to voice their own concerns and needs.
Today, ask God for the grace of merciful eyes and a forgiving heart.
Have you known poor people whose faith challenged and changed you?