When us older (and hopefully wiser) Vincentians look back on what this world has achieved in our lifetimes it is truly amazing. Perhaps we could even look back at the world since Frederic Ozanam conducted his first home visit or the first conference meeting of the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul.
Since the early 1800’s we have seen many scientific discoveries that have improved our way of life. Electricity, oil and gas, rail and automobiles, air travel and many others. We have found medical cures and treatments for diseases and afflictions that had caused death, pain and sorrow. Many nations moved to a more democratic government model. The legal slavery of our fellow women and men has been abolished.
There have also been instances that we would hope would come to an end. The world has seen two World Wars and many other examples of warfare. Religious and cultural persecution has been a prime motivator in many of these wars. Despite the end to legal slavery, human trafficking is a serious issue in today’s world. Terrorism in all of its’ ugly forms continues.
As the world continues to evolve towards being a more humane, caring and sharing society, how has the Vincentian world evolved? We have always maintained our charitable actions for those in need, but have not always accepted the inseparable obligation, as Ozanam told us, to also seek justice for those we serve. This commitment to both charity and justice should be ingrained in our Vincentian spirituality. The justice component is also firmly established in Catholic social teachings, which Pope John Paul II gave much credit to Ozanam for being one of the founding voices for Catholic social teachings.
When I look at how the Vincentian world has evolved, I see many great accomplishments regarding social action. However, I also see resistance to justice. Many simply want to do the charitable work but refrain from social justice. They prefer putting a band aid on the wound rather than finding the cause of the pain. If we are to undergo a spiritual evolution that clearly aligns with modern thinking on causes of poverty, we must also commit to action. There are many reasons that cause poverty in todays world, but we are also obligated to address injustices that are often part of the causes of poverty. These injustices include systemic racism, and gender and cultural bias.
To experience a truly effective and very personal spiritual evolution we must address the evil of systemic racism on both an organizational and personal level. This evolution can only lead all Vincentians to a more enlightened understanding of our world while providing us with many opportunities to be a more effective and affective force for human dignity for all.
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.