On the Eminent Dignity of the Poor in the Church: A Sermon by Jacques Bénigne Bossuet


Jacques Benigne Bossuet gave this public sermon at Vincent de Paul’s request in 1659. It was written during a time of unprecedented poverty, when the French government was forcing the poor into institutions. Bossuet’s sermon “represents a classic statement of the theology of the seventeenth century’s charitable revival.” Its thesis is that like Jesus, the Church reverses the order of the temporal world to mirror that of the kingdom of God. The rich have all the privileges and advantages of the world, but the kingdom of God and the Church belong to the poor. This is because Jesus chose to be poor as part of the new covenant. The rich may only gain the blessings of heaven if they respect and serve the poor, and this is their only admittance to the Church. Edward Udovic’s introduction to the sermon outlines Bossuet’s career, his relationship to Vincent de Paul, and Vincent’s influence on him.

“On the Eminent Dignity of the Poor in the Church: A Sermon by Jacques Benigne Bossuet” is an article in the journal Vincentian Heritage, Volume 13, Issue 1, Article 3 (1992) available at: https://via.library.depaul.edu/vhj/vol13/iss1/3/

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: https://via.library.depaul.edu/vhj/vol13/iss2/5