GO To Where The Need Is

by | Jul 16, 2016 | Formation, Reflections

vincent-life-lessons-series-facebookIn this Year of Mercy, the Society St. Vincent de Paul newsletter offers a thought-provoking series: “A  Vincentian Question.” The question for this week, “Do I actively seek and welcome all to the table?” reminded me of a lesson from J. Patrick Murphy’s booklet Mr. Vincent. GO to where the need is.

Vincent was drawn to poor country people. At the time 98 percent of the population lived in the countryside, not in cities.

Lesson: Go where there is need; don’t wait for it to come to you. When opening Saint Lazare for guests he told his staff not to wait for guests to ask for a towel or a bar of soap but rather to provide them with dispatch.

On the political scene, we hear much of the 98%. The SVDP reflection asks whether we welcome all strangers in our midst.

How do we ask forgiveness from those we offend because we haven’t invited them to the table?

Pope Francis recently made a groundbreaking statement about mercy. “I believe that the church not only must say it’s sorry … to this person that is gay that it has offended,” (June 26, 2016, Returning from Armenia).

The Pope didn’t say to simply tolerate people who don’t look like us, act like us, or worship like us. He didn’t say for us to just stop scowling at a same sex couple walking down the street. He didn’t suggest that we forgive people for being homosexual. He said we should apologize to them for our sins of judgement. Francis suggests that we have sinned by not reaching out; by not being a more welcoming and diverse Church. This reaffirms his previously stated view reflecting the Church’s position that homosexual acts are sinful, but homosexual orientation is not, in his famous “Who am I to judge” quote in 2013.

The Bylaws of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul state that we “actively seeks to recruit and retain volunteers without regard to race, creed (with exception to active members), color, gender, sexual orientation, disability, marital status, veteran status, national origin, age or physical handicap.” Actively seek…not just wait for diversity to come to us.

Our sins often involve something we’ve done to offend another. Pope Francis is reminding us, in this year of Mercy, that we also sin when we don’t do something we should be doing; when we don’t welcome all to the table. (Jack Murphy, Goal 4 Leader)

This reflection is particularly appropriate in the year when the entire Vincentian Family is reflecting on the theme of “Welcoming the Stranger.”

Vincentian Family leaders offer some further variations on the theme…

  • Who are the strangers in our midst?  
  • How are we currently supporting them?  
  • What new needs are emerging?  
  • How might we respond to these needs?
  • Might we be the strangers in need of welcoming?