Posted by: fvbcdm | September 28, 2011

Feast of Saint Vincent de Paul (27 Sept 2011)

Within the past week, I’ve had two conversations with friends which indicate the quality of human life in some areas these days. In one case, a young man who is a school teacher was telling me how he cannot motivate some of his students to study, do their homework, and learn.  And their parents show no concern about the intellectual or educational progress of their children.  Thus nothing gets done in the minds of those children.
In the second conversation, a former student of mine who is now in his early 60s and is doing volunteer work in his home parish described his Sunday morning activities. After Mass, he goes over to the parish hall where three kinds of services are offered to the poor and homeless of that city: there are coffee and doughnuts for anyone who want them; there is a sort of non-denominational religious service for anyone who wants to take part in it, and several social workers are there with information about jobs available for those looking for work.  My friend, whom I’ll call Bob, told me that the coffee and doughnuts are very popular.  But the religious service has no takers, and NEVER do any of the unemployed people who come show any interest in the available jobs.  To stand on the street and beg is easier than honest work which pays about $7 an hour.
I think of this today because we’re celebrating today Saint Vincent de Paul, one of the patron saints of the poor. In one of his writings which we read today in the Liturgy of the Hours, Saint Vincent says: “Even though the poor are often rough and unrefined, we must not judge them from external appearances nor from the mental gifts they seem to have received . . . the Son of God chose to be poor and was considered a fool by the Gentiles. . .  We ought to have this same spirit and imitate Christ’s actions, that is, we must take care of the poor, console them, help them, support their cause.”
Do you totally agree with Saint Vincent?  I do not.  Certainly we must help the poor and even give them what is called a “preferential option.”  But we must also remember what Saint Paul says in Sacred Scripture:  Those who will not work should not eat. Put those two ideas together, weigh one against the other, and then formulate your opinion about our treatment of the poor.  We are told that most homelessness and street poverty is caused by mental illness, alcoholism, and drug addiction.  Some poverty is culpable; some is inculpable.  That which is inculpable deserves the help of the community.  That which is culpable can be left to itself, to go hungry if it chooses not to work, or not to pursue an education.  As one of our seminary professors used to say, when it comes to dealing with the poor, some people are all bleeding heart, and no bloody head.  We are getting into politics here, and that is not my intention.  But we should be aware that a number of religious leaders, like Our Divine Lord, Saint Paul, and Saint Vincent de Paul have had something to say about poverty and the poor. Thank you for seeking God’s truth.  God bless you.  Father Victor Brown, O.P.


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