Jesus goes about doing good; he loves in deed and truth. He does not just commit to an ideology. St. Vincent is like him.
St. Vincent wants those who follow him to commit with zeal to those who are poor (SV.FR XI:133-137). And it seems that he himself cannot but commit to them. For he tells those who follow him:
As for me, notwithstanding my age, before God I do not feel excused from the obligation I have to work for the salvation of those poor folks; for what could prevent me from doing so? If I could not preach every day …, I would do it twice a week! If I could not go up great pulpits, I would try to have the small ones; if, again, if no one could understand me at those small ones, what would prevent me from speaking in a nice and familiar way to those good people in the way I am speaking to you right now, gathering them around me, as you are?
Needless to say, the Founder is not like those who fool themselves. That is to say, those who just love their sweet talks with God. But they do not work for him, suffer, deny themselves, teach those who are poor or seek the stray.
Commit to the poor of flesh and blood
Yes, St. Vincent is one of those who announce the Good News by words and by works. That is to say, for him to commit to the poor does not only mean to preach. He also eases their sufferings, takes care of what they need in body and in spirit, and helps them in all the ways he can (see SV.EN XII:77-79). Besides, he makes sure that others help also, as he does, those who are poor. He shows also that he respects their self-worth as he makes use of “a white napkin.” He thus lifts them up. To commit himself in all these ways is to commit to poor folks of flesh and blood. Not to an ideology. And ideologies put us at risk.
These “crude” folks, in turn, do not let the saint see in a romantic way how he serves (TWVDP 24, footnote 1). Nor do they hinder him from seeing the Son of God in them (SV.EN XI:26). In fact, they open the eyes of the one who cares for them and help him to grasp how wise the Sermon on the Mount is. And to know truly the crucified Jesus, the power and wisdom of God.
These poor folks of flesh and blood are also the letter of recommendation for St. Vincent. For they bear out that he shares in Jesus’ inventive love (SV.EN XI:131). And they proclaim beautiful upon the mountains the feet of the saint, since he brings good news.
Lord Jesus, make all those who follow St. Vincent not to fail to commit, as you and he, to poor folks of flesh and blood to the end.
27 September 2023
St. Vincent de Paul
Is 52, 7-10; 1 Cor 1, 26 – 2, 2; Mt 5, 1-12a