St. Vincent de Paul was born into a poor family and, according to some stories, he hoped to escape poverty. Becoming a priest and a chaplain to the rich and the powerful seemed the way out.
But God has ways of getting through our defenses, and “Monsieur Vincent” became a priest who not only sought out the poor but founded a congregation of priests to care for the poor, to give missions, and to train seminarians. With St. Louise de Marillac, he founded the Daughters of Charity, whose many branches still serve the poor throughout the world.
In one of his letters (#2546) he explains, very directly his response to the poor:
We should not judge the poor by their outward dress and manner, or by their mental gifts, for the poor are often uneducated. If we look at the poor in the light of faith, we will see them to be the children of the God Who himself chose to be poor. When he was suffering, He had almost lost His human appearance and was a fool to the pagans, a stumbling block to the Jews. But He was also proving Himself God’s messenger to the poor: “He has sent me to proclaim the good news to the poor.” We ought to think and act like Christ by being concerned for the poor, consoling and helping them.
Christ willed to be born poor; He made poor men His disciples; He became the servant of the poor and shared their lot, so that whatever good or evil would be done to them, He would regard as done to Himself. God loves the poor and therefore those who love them; for if you hold someone dear, your affection reaches out to embrace all who are that person’s friends or servants. We hope, therefore, that for the sake of the poor, God will love us too.
We ought to embrace the service of the poor to all else and exercise it without delay. If in time of prayer there is a question of bringing medicine or help to a poor person, bring it! Go in peace and offer your actions to God as though you were deep in prayer. Allow yourself no anxiety of mind or trouble of conscience because you omitted prayer for the sake of the poor. God is not neglected if you “leave” Him for His own sake! You are simply doing one of His works instead of another. Let us, then, with renewed spirit serve the poor, especially the abandoned, even the ones who complain, for they are given to us as masters and patrons.
And so today, let us recommit ourselves to accompany the poor, becoming their servants.