I learned quite a few things from the Daughters of Charity today. Sr. Sally and Sr. Naomi spoke at Colonna (Catholic Book Club in Nashville, my first day) and they were delightful and insightful. I had no idea that they renewed their vows each year. I had no idea that Sr. Naomi who I have waited on in the bookstore many times in the past had gone from house to house in North Nashville in the late 80's and reported back to the State about the poor and their life situations. (Could be East Nashville, I wasn't taking notes). Sr. Sally shared that this is the 350th anniversary of St. Vincent de Paul's death. In giving us 5 sayings of St. Vincent, she shared their mission.
1. The Poor are your Lords and Masters.
Sr. Sally told the story of a young man who came for a lunch and asked one of the people serving if he could have fruit instead of chips (or some substitute). The server answered, "Be grateful for what you get." Sr. Sally answered, "Of course, you may have a choice. What would you like?" We are given choices every day in our lives. Why can the poor not have a choice? We should give them what they want. We assume that we know what they need and oftentimes should just listen to what they want.
2. Leave God for God
Sr. Sally explained that their day is filled with Mass, Christian Prayer, rosary, etc. etc. but they are told to stop everything to serve another in need. In the middle of prayers, when someone knocks on the door for help, she sets aside her prayer to help. She leaves God for God.
***3. Be inventive unto infinity. Marked as my favorite story. They do not have a place to store furniture, only food and clothing and household supplies. They had a family with six children who had no furniture. One of the priest found them some furniture and connected the two groups for a smooth transition but on that day, no truck. So the priest went to his house and strapped his rowboat on the back of his car and transferred all of the furniture, in trips, via boat. Whatever it takes. Be inventive.
4. We hurt the poor more by our lack of organization than by our lack of charity.
Sr. Sally told the story of St. Vincent vesting for mass one day and hearing of a large family with many sick children and no food. Changing his plan for Mass, he spoke to the people about the needs of the family. After Mass, he gathered all he could and went to the home of the ones in need. When he arrived, he found that he couldn't even get to the door because of all the people who had come with baskets of food. That very day, he gathered the women and organized groups that would take charge of the needs of the poor so that food would not go bad or certain people would not have their specific needs go unmet.
5. "It is only because of your love, only your love, that the poor will forgive you the bread you give them."
Probably the hardest to understand, Sr. Sally explained that the poor are bitter that they have to be fed by others. St. Vincent says, "You will find that charity is a heavy burden to carry, heavier than the kettle of soup or the basket of bread. But you must keep your gentleness and your smile. Giving soup and bread isn't all that the rich can do. You are the little servant of the poor, the maid of charity, always smiling and in good humor. They are your masters, terribly sensitive and exacting as you will see, but the uglier and dirtier they are, the more unjust and bitter, the more you must give them your love."
I sat in awe listening to the fact that they care for about 9,000 people. I listened as she explained the wearing out of tires and lack of funding sometimes and the donations and the needs and the work. All the huge amounts of tireless work! God bless these women and all of the many, many groups and societies that help them.