As we are now into September, as a member of the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul and the larger Vincentian family, there are two very important days this month. For many Canadians and our American friends who live in northern states, I think September gives us a chance to reflect on a busy and often hot summer while we prepare for the coming cold and snow of winter. It is a time we get back into our regular routines of work, meetings and perhaps starting a new project.
In addition, we celebrate the feast days for Frederic Ozanam on September 9 and Saint Vincent de Paul on September 27. These two special days can provide us with the time to reflect on what these two men meant to our organizations/congregations and the effect of their actions and words remain relevant in today’s world. When I consider both men I think their dedication to not just saying the right things but to making commitments to the actions required to really make effective change possible stands out as a guide to all of us. While terms such as systemic change was likely unknown in their times, this is exactly what they proposed and often enacted.
Vincent made some major changes in the way the church and religious orders operated. He also realized the importance of including the laity as well as the tremendous contribution that women, both lay and religious could make. The Congregation of the Mission, The Ladies of Charity and the Daughters of Charity were all examples of his desire to establish effective ways to make the Catholic Church and our faith one that becomes engaged with those living in poverty through a personal relationship.
Frederic too saw the great value in the work of Vincent and took it to another level by helping to form the lay Society of Saint Vincent de Paul. He used the words of Vincent to inspire his fellow members as they began their mission by visiting the poor in their homes.
Let us celebrate the feast days of Vincent and Frederic by our own commitment to their ideals and renew our own efforts for charity and justice for all. It is not enough to simply talk or pray about serving those in need. We must act and always seek justice for those we serve. May God bless us and our works of charity and justice and may He truly bless our neighbors in need in their everyday struggle with poverty.
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.
Opinions expressed are the author’s own views and do not officially represent those of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul.