Manchester Universities Catholic Chaplaincy
“It is possible for each one of us to meet the Son of God, experiencing all of his love and infinite mercy. We are able to recognize Him in the faces of our brothers and sisters, especially in the poor, the sick, the imprisoned, the displaced: they are the living flesh of the suffering Christ and the visible image of the invisible God” – Pope Francis, Angelus 11/01/2015
Really?! What do homeless, alcoholic, drug addict can possibly have to do with Jesus? How could St Francis hug a leper, how could St Teresa live among the poorest of Calcutta? I mean, I can understand social workers – it’s their job after all. It’s good if someone does some street cleaning from time to time. Life on the street is dirty, smelly and desperate. Lock these wrecks somewhere we cannot see them! Right?
Then I joined the Chaplaincy SVP, beginning to go out for evening food runs once a week. And the unexpected happened. Instead of faceless tramps I met human beings, like me. With fears, wounds, hopes I can relate to only too well. In pain, scared, bitter, because the life they are living is painful, scary and though. But also capable of smiling with the sincerity of a child when somebody offers them a brew in a cold night.
I met people who refused that extra sandwich: “Cheers mate, but save it for somebody else who would need it tonight. I have enough food.” I talked with an old man, more than 30 years on the street, his short-term memory gone after an heart attack, whose way to say goodbye was a sincere “Oh man, I love life”. I felt a terrible pang of sadness in front of that kid crushed by his drug problems and sense of guilt. I didn’t know I could feel that way for total strangers, as if they were brothers.
You know, perhaps I’m beginning to understand what the Pope meant last year.
~ Luca (SVP Volunteer)
When I first signed up to be a Vincentian Volunteer, I must confess that I did not completely understand what it meant to be a Vincentian. I knew that it had to do with St. Vincent de Paul who spent his life serving the poor and less fortunate, and that was enough for me. I am now 4 months into the programme and have realized that the term “Vincentian” has different interpretations depending on the individual and the circumstances. So what does the term “Vincentian” mean to me at this point in my journey?
First off I believe there is a slight difference in what a Vincentian does vs what a Vincentian is. Many say a Vincentian is one that alleviates the suffering and addresses the needs of those living in poverty. That is true, but I feel that is more of what a Vincentian does. A Vincentian, to me, is almost more of a state of mind – a different way to see people and the world around us, particularly in regards to those suffering from poverty. Poverty can take many forms. It can mean a lack of money, but it can also refer to a suffering or lack of something crucial in life.
Here are some of my thoughts:
I strive every day to embrace and live up to these ideals, but I am still learning and transforming. It is a life-long journey and my 10 months as a Vincentian Volunteer in the UK is only one chapter in that journey and I am loving every minute of it. I can’t wait to see what God has in store for me each and every day!