The Ladies of Charity are asking a key question. Is what we are doing transforming lives?

The questions Jesus was asked

As I was reflecting on Peter’s question “How many times must I forgive my brother? Seven times?” I realized he was asking the wrong question. Almost any answer to the question of how many times will often lead to further intellectual questions about conditions but little insight into forgiveness.

If Peter wanted to understand forgiveness he could have asked “How many times do I want to be forgiven?” When asked this way the answer is obviously “As often as I need it!” That gets at the point that God does not put limits on forgiving us… nor should we.

Is it any wonder why Jesus responds to the question by telling the story of the servant whose debt was forgiven but would not forgive a fellow servant. He tells a story of God’s amazing free gift of forgiveness.

Reframing the question with stories

Jesus has a knack for reframing questions by telling a story. Just think of the parable of the good Samaritan. Who is my neighbor? Rather than arguing about where you were born, what your religious beliefs are or the color of your skin, etc., put yourself in the situation of the robbery victim. Then you understand that you hope anyone who sees you will consider you as a neighbor.

Too often in ministry, I fear we only ask the superficial question “what does this person need now?”

It may be that this person needs to be fed, have wounds bandaged, etc. But shouldn’t we also be asking “Is what we are doing transforming lives”? “Why does this person need help?” What needs to be done to help this person function better?

As followers of Vincent and Louise, we have a long tradition of taking care of immediate needs. But we forget the stories of how Vincent transformed lives by addressing the root causes. Yes, he encouraged the people of the village to come to the aid of a sick and starving family, But he also immediately recognized that the charity of others needed to be organized.

We are just now beginning to realize that his pastoral plan in every village he visited was to set up the Confraternities of Charity that would continue his work.

Fr. Robert Maloney urges us to look at the seeds of systemic change in the stories of Vincent and Louise.

The Ladies of Charity reframe their questions

So It is with great delight that I saw the new series of presentations from the Ladies of Charity which asks: “Is What We Are Doing Transforming Lives?”

The presentations have been developed for the Ladies of Charity USA based on work completed by the St. Vincent de Paul Society in conjunction with aha! Process Inc. and the Getting Ahead in a Just-Gettin’-By World program.

The presentations are brief and to the point.


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