result of this ennui today is the record number of young people dealing with serious drug and alcohol problems. Thankfully, in recovery, they can overcome this social and spiritual languor. Now that I have laid out the bad news, it’s time for some good news. To use a nautical analogy, after we’ve navigated in difficult waters, I bring you relief! I have a bright, shining light- house to guide you in choppy waters, and a safe port to welcome you home. I think you know where I’m going: the light house is the Vincentian charism; the safe port is Vincentians in Partnership. Yes, that’s right- the answers to today’s “real, cruel world” are in your midst. Our charism, bequeathed to us by Saints Vincent and Louise is a “Heritage of Hope”, which for centuries has inspired religious and laity such as Blessed Frederick Ozanam, founder of the St. Vincent de Paul Society, to serve the poor with humility, integrity, and compassion. Just as I laid out four tenets that define today’s “real, cruel world”, I will share four touchstones of the Vincentian charism that bring healing and hope to today’s world. They are: •
reverence for the ‘other’;
caring, competent service;
a graced future.
These touchstones not only provide a striking contrast to tenets of consumerism, individualism, Darwinism, and world-weariness. They were dynamic parts of the lives of Vincent and Louise, who integrated them into enduring foundations of religious and laity to serve the poor. If one reads a few of St. Vincent de Paul’s writings, the first touchstone, “reverence for the other” needs little explication. St. Vincent was given the titled “Pater Indigentiam” (Father of the Poor) by the Church, not only for his great works for the poor, but because he loved them as dearly as a father loves his children. Despite the time he spent organizing and administering two religious communities and groups of laity serving the poor, Vincent never lost his concern or care for the poor. Listen to his instructions to the first Daughters of Charity: “You serve Jesus Christ in the person of the poor. Ten times a day, you will go out to visit the sick, and ten times a day you will find God there. Visit poor galley slaves in chains, and you will find God there; take care of little children, and you will find God there. You go into households of the poor, but there you find God. How wonderful! God kindly accepts the service you render to them and considers it done to himself. - Conf. 24, Daughters of Charity, Vol. IX, pp. 242-253)
Therein lay the secret to Vincent’s reverent interactions with the poor: he saw them as an invitation, not a threat; a manifestation of God’s presence. Sometimes surly and ungrateful, not pleasing in appearances, the poor were a difficult group with which to cast one’s lot. But Vincent and Louise served the poor with tenderness, respect and love; believing that no matter how they
Keynote address at AGM of Vincentians in Partnership