Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of June 7, 2004
The poor tell who God is
St. Vincent de Paul Society underlines person-to-person service to needy
By BILL GLEN
WCR Staff Writer
We see Jesus in the poor and the poor in Jesus because that is how he, the Son of God, chose to live his life, said Father Ron Ramson, national spiritual director for the Society of St. Vincent de Paul in the United States.
"The poor speak to our own spiritual poverty. The poor educate us who God is."
Speaking at the society's western regional council's annual general assembly May 29 at Ephphata House near Stony Plain, Ramson told the 40 members in attendance that there is always a mutuality in charity.
"The Society of St. Vincent de Paul calls us to holiness because our principal founder and the other six chartered members saw that the primary purpose of the society was to grow in holiness through direct service to the suffering," he said.
"They were enlightened to see that person-to-person service to the poor was the way Jesus did it."
On the evening of April 23, 1833 the Holy Spirit came down upon Frederic Ozanam and six others in a newspaper office of the Catholic Tribune, Ramson said, not in a mighty wind, but with divine enlightenment and inspiration.
Go to the poor
Ozaman said to them that they must do what is agreeable to God, therefore they must do what Jesus did preaching the Gospel - go to the poor.
This was the birth of the St. Vincent de Paul Society.
"Prayer, community and service were the tripod of formation of Jesus and the Apostles and it is a tripod of Vincentians as well," he said.
"So Jesus takes these rough and tough fisherman, a man who was a morally questionable tax collector and several other dubious characters and he forms them into the future leaders of what we know as the Catholic Church.
"If we were picking 12 people we probably wouldn't get these guys. But these 12 did a 180-degree turn that we call conversion."
Just as Jesus called them to be Apostles and just as God called Frederic Ozanam and the six others, God calls men and women to be Vincentians.
"God called you and you responded," Ramson said. "You are engaged in the four areas of formation: human, spiritual, intellectual and ministerial.
"The pope says that every activity, situation and precise responsibility are the occasions ordained by providence for a continuous exercise of faith, hope and charity.
"Spirituality has to do with the whole of life. The pope uses the phrase 'the unity of life.'
"Our life is not two parallel lines of spirituality and a secular life," he said.
Vincentian spirituality supplies the means for much of formation.
It provides content, motives, inspiration and insights. It evolves around and includes prayer, community and service.