St Vincent de Paul Mass

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St Vincent de Paul Mass
14 March 2013

For  us who have an involvement with the St Vincent de Paul Society, this is a year with a very special commemoration as we celebrate the 200th anniversary of the birth of the founder of the Society, Frederic Ozanam in the year 1813.

In only 40 years, his life had come to an end, but he achieved a considerable amount in that time, and it was a very turbulent period in French history as well.

In an article in the current edition of the Madonna magazine, information is provided about professional career of Frederic Ozanam, which included lectureships in law at the University of Lyon and then a position as Professor of Foreign Literature at the Sorbonne University in Paris, a position he gained at just 27 years of age.

But as we know, Frederic and his companions, the founders of the St. Vincent de Paul Society, set a very strong example, based on the teaching of Jesus, of visiting the poor in their own homes, bringing wood and coal to their homes, using the funds that they had been given through donations. There can be no more powerful message given than to visit someone in their own home, taking the time and the effort to seek them out so as to make it all happen.

I have always been moved by the example of the Blessed Virgin Mary, who, when in the early stages of pregnancy herself, undertook a strenuous journey on foot, to visit her older cousin, also expecting a baby in unusual circumstances, and living in what the gospel describes as the “hill country.”

We are told that the order of society is based on the two virtues of justice and charity. In order to ensure that there is justice, a considerable amount of love is a pre-requisite. That ensures that there is enough love to respect the rights of others, which will in turn mean that our own rights are limited in some way. Likewise the liberty of others is respected, that will place limits around our own liberty at the same time. 

I think you will have noticed that there is a proliferation these days of tests that have to be applied or undertaken, often for the right reasons, but numerous just the same. Electrical appliances, and their cords all  have to be tested;  people holding important positions have to undergo an appraisal on a regular basis.

For a long time, the religious leaders put Jesus to the test. It was a carry- over from the theme of the reading from the Old Testament: “Let us lie in wait for the virtuous man, since he annoys us and opposes our way of life….He claims to have knowledge of God and calls himself a son of the Lord.. He is a reproof to our way of thinking and boasts of having God for his Father.”

The leaders tested the powers of resistance of Jesus and measured the effectiveness of his words. The results were clear – in their view Jesus was a dangerous person and he needed to be dealt with, preferably in a permanent way.
You know that the only test that God puts before us is that of  living a life of commitment to loving others.  We show our love by our actions – by our love for one another in the same way as Jesus loved us. It is not something that we do alone but together. In taking the steps to get close to those in need, we are, at the same time, drawing closer to God.  “The Lord is close to the broken-hearted;  those whose spirit is crushed he will save.”

Love is what motivates you as members of the St. Vincent de Paul Society. If you enter into the spirit and activities of the Society, you will certainly be doing the right thing to pass the test.

In addition to the Presidents of the various school conferences, we are also officially recognising the new incumbents in the position of  Chair of the Southern Regional Council, Tony Brennan, and the Co-ordinator of Junior St Vincent de Paul, Claire Scallon. I congratulate both of you on your appointments, and knowing you as I do, I am sure you will contribute greatly to the work of the Society in your new roles. I also thank those who have been chosen to be Presidents of the Conferences in the various Colleges here in Southern Tasmania.

The time of the Feast of the Tabernacles was harvest time in the calendar of the Jews. I am sure that there is much that will be harvested during the coming year through the work that each of you will perform. And those who are the beneficiaries of what you do will be grateful for the improvement that you bring to their lives, no matter what form that may take.