A Canadian View: Poverty and Vincentian Charism

by | Jun 28, 2018 | Formation, Reflections

I imagine everyone has their own vision of poverty. It is usually a picture of someone dressed poorly, if a man he likely has a beard or long unkempt hair. Women are pictured in old, dirty clothes with no makeup. Poverty can also mean you live in subsidized housing, or in the part of town few people would visit, or even in a shelter or under a nearby bridge or highway. In larger cities it can mean seeing a poor person begging on the street or perhaps huddled in a corner or over top of a heating grate for warmth. Poverty can also be the line up outside of a soup kitchen or drop in centre.

How often are these visions of poverty ones which most people try to avoid, by either walking around them, crossing to the other side of the street or simply looking away from the person? How often do we say how sad it is to see such poverty? Why can’t something be done to help them? Perhaps we start to judge them and assume they are to blame for their current lives?

How do we connect our Vincentian charism to poverty, or rather how should we make this connection?

I believe there is a very deep spiritualty in poverty. Did not Jesus tell us these poor shall be first one day? Yes, Jesus also told us the poor will always be with us but what does this mean? What if we are being judged by how we treat the least of our sisters and brothers? This must be one of the basic characteristics of our Vincentian charism. If we believe in the human dignity of everyone, then we must certainly believe in the very presence of our Lord whenever we engage with our neighbors in need. I would suggest that just as we have a personal contact with Jesus at the Eucharist, so too can we experience this same contact when we meet with those we seek to serve. If we can always remember this simple but profound aspect of our charism, we can avoid having any form of judgement of the poor during the engagement.

About the author:

Jim Paddon lives in London, Ontario, Canada and is past president of the Ontario Regional Council of the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul. He is currently chair of the National Social Justice Committee of the Society in Canada. He is married to his dear wife Pat and they have six daughters and eleven grandchildren. Jim has been a member of the Society since the 1970’s.

Tags: Canada


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