In our parish, as in many others, we have a St Vincent de Paul Society.
On the website of this society, it says “Our 10,000 members, motivated by faith, visit vulnerable or isolated people across England and Wales and offer them friendship and practical support. The essence of our work is person-to-person contact and spending time with people is our greatest gift.” Our group here at St Thomas’s do great work reaching out to those in need.
The inspiration for the work of this group is the life of the Saint whose feast we celebrate today: Vincent De Paul. The third child of six from a peasant family he was ordained at the early age of 19. While chaplain to the powerful Gouda family he not only began to lead a life of self-denial and prayer but while ministering to some of the peasants on their estates he discovered the conditions of religious and moral destitution these people were allowed to remain in; the ignorance and laziness of many of the clergy were the main causes of this lamentable state of affairs”
In 1625 he founded a congregation of priests who lived from a community fund and devoted themselves to work in small towns and villages. In 1633 they were given the Paris priory church of St Lazare. That year, Vincent founded the Daughters, or Sisters, of Charity – the first congregation of unenclosed women to be devoted entirely to the poor and sick. The project with St Louise de Marillac was a great success, especially in providing hospital care for the poor.
In the office of readings today there is an extract from one of his letters.
“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. On the contrary, if you consider the poor in the light of faith, then you will observe that they are taking the place of the Son of God who chose to be poor…….It is our duty to prefer the service of the poor to everything else and to offer such service as quickly as possible. If a needy person requires medicine or other help during prayer time, do whatever has to be done with peace of mind. Offer the deed to God as your prayer. Do not become upset or feel guilty because you interrupted your prayer to serve the poor. God is not neglected if you leave him for such service. One of God’s works is merely interrupted so that another can be carried out. So when you leave prayer to serve some poor person, remember that this very service is performed for God. Charity is certainly greater than any rule.”