Reflections on Service to the Poor


Fr. James Cormack, C.M., reflects on the Vincentian charism from his own experience. Vincentian service is a call from God’s love to return that love. It requires seeing Christ crucified in persons who are poor. It takes faith but also deepens faith. As Cormack sees them, the main qualities of the charism are compassion, courage, weakness, a commitment to smallness, and a change of heart. Weakness is necessary because we must recognize that we, too, need help and that the strength to serve comes from God. A commitment to smallness entails being satisfied with doing ordinary things; if we desire personal fulfillment too much, we risk ignoring the poor’s needs. A change of heart means not only loving but also being open to having love and service reciprocated. The charism requires people who can work without seeing the goals of their service fulfilled and who are consumed by the desire to serve.

“Reflections on Service to the Poor” is an article published in the Vincentian Heritage Journal, Volume 13, Issue 2, Article 5 (1992) and is available at: