A Canadian View: Charity and Justice

by | Apr 13, 2023 | Formation, Reflections

The on-going struggle to introduce and promote social justice within the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul in Canada is one that continues to challenge us in many ways. One of these challenges is the term social justice. Social justice can mean a number of things to people. It can also be difficult to explain what it is and how it is different from the better known ways we serve those in need and of course we have members who simply don’t accept the fact that social justice is and must be a key component of who we are and what we do.

Those of us who have worked to explain and gain the full support and acceptance of our members for social justice may also hinder our goals by separating our many charitable works from social justice. We have separated these two foundational characteristics from one another in our efforts to explain social justice. It is becoming quite clear that this has been an error, whether done intentionally or unintentionally. Frederic Ozanam told us that charity and justice go hand in hand and that you can’t have one without the other as they represent the two feet of love. We need to accept the fact that quite often charity leads to justice and in seeking justice we may be exposed to the need for charity.

Here in Canada, we are now placing a focus on topics such as formation or rejuvenation of our membership as we face the challenges of a dwindling and aging membership. We need to recruit new members while also introducing ways by which we may retain and inspire current members to continue and perhaps even engage in new ways to address the growing poverty we now face.

If we use the teachings of Ozanam and Catholic social teachings, we can easily see the inseparable relationship between charity and justice. Why not use the connection between charity and justice as the basic component of formation and rejuvenation? The other critical element of our continued existence and indeed growth, is the need to be a more open, diverse and acceptable option for both Catholics and non-Catholics who are seeking ways they can be part of the solution to poverty. Do we look like those we serve? How can we become more diverse and inclusive?

Our commitment to both charity and justice can offer an opportunity for current and potential new members, supporters and collaborative partners to share our values and to care for the common good of all.

Charity and justice should be celebrated as our Two Feet of Love for our neighbours in need.

About the author:

Jim Paddon lives in London, Ontario, Canada and is a Canadian Vincentian.  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.

I respectfully acknowledge the traditional, unceded territories of the Indigenous Peoples, including First Nations, Metis and Inuit, on which lands we meet, work and live.

Tags: Canada