November is the month in which heaven and earth seem a little bit closer, and as I mentioned last week, that the boundaries between heaven and earth are rather fluid, perhaps much more so than we can imagine. The Church’s Liturgical calendar has many saints’ feast days this month—heroes, heroines and martyrs of every time and place, many of whom were concerned with the poor: Saint Martin of Tours and Saint Elizabeth of Hungary, for example. As the month will soon greet late fall and winter and, perhaps this year, the rain we pray for, there will be challenges for those who are homeless, outcast and poor, even here in California. With that in mind, I am thinking of one particular Daughter of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul, Sister Rosalie Rendu, who was beatified in Rome on this day by Saint John Paul II on Nov. 9, 2003. She, together with Blessed Frederic Ozanam, founded the Society of St. Vincent de Paul.
The Society of Saint Vincent de Paul is first dedicated to the pursuit of the sanctification of its members and, flowing from that, service and care for the poor. To the founding members of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, Sister Rosalie said: “God has already given you spiritual wisdom, or you would not be sacrificing your precious free time to his poor. Because you see Christ in his poor, I know you will approach each one you visit with humility, as his servant. Always remember, messieurs, that if we had lived through the hardships that they have had to meet – if our childhood had been one of constant want –perhaps we, too, would have given way to envy and hatred as, I must admit, have many of the poor in this quarter. Be kind, and love, for love is your first gift you give to the poor. They will appreciate your kindness and your love more than all else you can bring them.”
St. Vincent de Paul himself echoed that sentiment in his time, and in our own time Pope Francis has said that “the poor have much to teach us.”
In this month of saints and of Thanksgiving, we have many blessings from God to be thankful for, and we are called to share those blessings with the “least among us” in ways great and small. One way of sharing those blessings is the relationships that we can establish with those whom we serve and seek to help: to learn their names, even as we seek to reach out financially and materially. One time in Fort Worth, as I was walking in the downtown area known as “Sundance Square,” one person who came up to me said, “Father , I am not looking for a handout, but thank you for speaking to me and calling my name.” I learned a lesson that evening, for sure!
On this day of the beatification of Blessed Rosalie Rendu, DC, I want to thank personally all of the members of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul here in our diocese. And, as the fall and winter months are soon upon us, I would ask all who read these words to consider becoming part of the ministry of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul: to serve the poor and to grow in holiness. We are looking for new members and contemporary ways to serve the needs of the poor who are among us daily. I would ask that anyone interested in the society to please contact Peter L. Andres, the President of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul Council of Orange County at [email protected].
Blessed Days of the Saints and Thanksgiving to all.