Christmas Compassion


Compassion is a year-round virtue, but many of us suffer “compassion fatigue” when faced with the endless stream of stories of the lonely, the sick, the destitute, the abandoned, and the displaced in our world today.  What are we to do?  Jack Melito, C.M., discusses Vincent de Paul’s instruction about living a life of compassion:

First of all, we must remind ourselves that our first experience of compassion was the compassion we were sown by God.  As a result, we must make every effort to be compassionate to ourselves and to others.  We must pray for a spirit of Compassion and Mercy.  A life of compassionate action will result in a heart open to carrying the sufferings of the poor.  Though there may be times when regret creeps in, you must remember that, though you may judge yourself as having neglected opportunities to be merciful and compassionate, you did your best.  Therefore, always pray for a spirit of compassion and mercy.

“Christmas Compassion” is a chapter from the book, Windows on His Vision, (pp. 112-113) available at:

It is also available as an ebook here:



Education With a Heart


Gregorio Banaga, C.M., explains how Catholic education in the Philippines created and became limited to the elite. He describes the history of Adamson University and what it is doing to increase poor persons’ access to education, raise students’ awareness of poverty, and create motivation for social change. Adamson fosters social responsibility and has made service part of all students’ learning. All of this is part of Banaga’s definition of Vincentian education, which he says is “of the poor, from the poor, with the poor, and for the poor.” In addition to the actions mentioned above, this philosophy requires the university to be attuned to the experience of persons who are poor and to construct curricula that will best use their gifts and promote their growth.

“Education With a Heart” is an article in the journal Vincentian Heritage available at:


St. Mary’s of the Barrens and the American Catholic Church, 1818-2016

Lecturer: Richard J. Janet

Description: In 1818, a small group of Catholic clerics established a religious community in southeastern Missouri and opened a school, grounded in its European Vincentian roots but influenced by the isolation of its rural location. St. Mary’s of the Barrens became the first American institution of higher learning west of the Mississippi River and only the fourth Catholic seminary in the United States. Over the years, St. Mary’s emerged as a significant institution whose early leaders played an important role in the development of the Catholic Church on the American frontier. The school’s subsequent history reflected the changing status of the growing American Catholic community. In this history of “the Barrens,” Rick Janet demonstrates how its story reflects the broader sweep of the American Catholic experience.

“Caritas Christi Urget Nos”: The Urgent Challenges of Charity in Seventeenth Century France


A 1656 royal decree outlawed begging and private almsgiving in Paris and forcibly confined persons who were poor in various institutions of the General Hospital. These measures were later mandated throughout France until 1715. The poor were treated as enemies of the state because of their numbers and the violence, crime, and social unrest that accompanied poverty. This was a radical shift in society’s perspective. During the Age of Faith, poverty was a sign of election since Christ chose to be poor. The poor had a right to seek charity and the rich were obligated to give it. In the Age of Reason, poverty was evidence of moral failure that was to be “corrected” in institutions. Though slow to respond at first, the Church revived its Christocentric theology of charity and became a powerful ally to poor persons. The efforts of Vincent de Paul and Louise de Marillac led this response. The Vincentian charism developed to serve the most abandoned and marginalized of the poor. The Vincentian discernment process is discussed, as is the legacy of charity. The diverse forms and causes of poverty in France are explained in detail.

“‘Caritas Christi Urget Nos’: The Urgent Challenges of Charity in Seventeenth Century France” is an article published in the journal Vincentian Heritage available at:

The Cross in Vincentian Spirituality


In this reading, Robert Maloney, C.M., “focuses on: 1) the cross in the New Testament; 2) the cross in the Vincentian tradition; 3) some problems in reflecting about the cross; 4) some reflections on the cross today.”

“The Cross in Vincentian Spirituality” is a chapter in the book He Hears the Cry of the Poor: On the Spirituality of Vincent de Paul (pp. 30-51) available at:

From the book cover: “In He Hears the Cry of the Poor Robert Maloney addresses vital questions of religious communities today.  His vision is filled with hope and promise as he discusses the renewal of community and prayer life, the apostolate, and the growing international character of communities.  Throughout the book, Father Maloney puts into active and creative dialogue voices from the past and the present.  Vincent and his spiritual friends come alive, not only as a force in seventeenth century France, but as partners in conversation with men and women of today.  This book is an excellent resource and guide for those who follow a Vincentian spiritual life, as well as anyone who takes an active role in their Christian community.”

“The Cross in Vincentian Spirituality” appears also as an article in the Vincentian Heritage Journal, Volume 16, Issue 1, Article 1 (1995) available at:


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:

Vincent de Paul as Mentor


When leading the Congregation or advising individual members, Vincent de Paul acted from spiritual principles as well as an understanding of psychology. He believed that everyone should follow God’s will by loving others and helping them to imitate Christ’s example of charity. By doing this, each served as a mentor to one another. He guided from both a paternal and fraternal perspective. While discipline and judgment were sometimes necessary, he more often dispensed advice and wisdom. Humility, empathy, gentle persuasion, suggestion, affirmation, and flexibility were the cornerstones of his leadership.

“Vincent de Paul as Mentor” is an article published in the Vincent Heritage JournalVolume 27, Issue 2, Article 1 (2008) which is available at:


The Complex but Necessary Union of Charity and Justice


Meghan Clark discusses the relationship between charity and justice as set forth in two of Benedict XVI’s encyclicals, Deus Caritas Est and Caritas in Veritate, and then considers what Vincentian tradition contributes toward the understanding of that relationship. Clark writes, “What emerges is a model of cultivating solidarity through justice and charity as integral to the life of Christian discipleship.” Deus Caritas Est calls for direct service to those in need because it is only through charity and loving others that we are fully aware of God’s love for us. As Clark summarizes Caritas in Veritate, “Justice in relations is a precondition for living charity. . . . Both charity and justice are required for healthy relationships with God and neighbor.” Justice and charity require work toward the common good, and charity expands justice to include the marginalized. Clark defines the institutional nature of charity in the Church and explains how Vincent de Paul, Louise de Marillac, and their communities exemplify it. Vincent and Louise recognized that effective charity required organized personal and institutional responses to systemic injustice. Vincentian tradition seeks to foster solidarity through commitment to each person’s dignity and to nurture justice within all levels of society.

“The Complex but Necessary Union of Charity and Justice: Insights from the Vincentian Tradition for Contemporary Catholic Social Teaching” is an article that appears in the Vincentian Heritage Journal, Volume 31, Issue 2, Article 1 (2012) and is available at:


Saint Vincent de Paul as a Leader of Change


An examination of noteworthy change efforts enacted by Vincent de Paul underscores the importance of believing in the higher purpose of one’s goals. Empowered “followers” need to believe and find meaning in the “leader’s” vision, in order to buy into and support the change efforts. The empowerment of Louise de Marillac as a Vincentian leader was critical to the accomplishment of many great works. Organizations undergoing change or renewal can look to Vincent de Paul and Louise de Marillac for examples of servant leadership, and the change roles they enacted are integrated with a well-regarded organizational change model for the twenty-first century.

“Saint Vincent de Paul as  Leader of Change: The Key Roles of a Higher Purpose and Empowerment” is an article by Margaret Posig, Ph.D. appearing in the Vincentian Heritage Journal, Volume 26, Issue 1, Article 4 (2008) available at: