The Story of the White Tablecloth

Sometimes the smallest things can make a very big difference….

Many have shared the “Story of the White Tablecloth” around our DePaul community to emphasize the reverent dignity and care Vincent de Paul expected to be modeled by his followers in their service of others.

In the Foundation documents and the Rules established for the Confraternity in Châtillon in 1617, and later in Montmirail, Vincent de Paul explained how to minister to the sick poor and to treat those they would serve, greeting them “cheerfully and kindly,” “with gentleness, humility, and true charity,” and with a “consoling word.” He noted the importance of taking great care to offer a blessing, and asked that they carefully arrange a napkin, plate, and spoon before serving food. Vincent’s attention to such gestures clearly communicates the importance he placed on the dignity of those being served, as well as on the relational dimension to the service being performed. The fact that Vincent would include such details is remarkable, revealing how essential it was in his mind that we treat others with the greatest of respect and dignity.

What are the small details and gestures that you include in your daily activities at work, or in your home, that elevates the dignity of others?

Vincentian historian, Fr. John Rybolt, C.M., tells the full story in this video, describing the spirit with which Vincent wanted his followers to care for the poor: Story of the White Tablecloth

Reflection by:

Amanda Thompson, Director of Catholic Campus Ministry, Division of Mission and Ministry

  1. Charity of Women (Châtillon-Les-Dombes), 1617, CCD 13b, pp. 12-13.
  2. Charity of Women (Montmirail – II), CCD 13b, p. 40.