“Charity is certainly greater than any rule. Moreover, all rules must lead to charity. With renewed devotion, then, we must serve the poor, especially outcasts and beggars. They have been given to us as our masters and patrons.” –St. Vincent De Paul
I can’t think of a better hidden example of outcasts and beggars then those who suffer from mental or emotional problems. These people are often sidelined and avoided as they die inside, practically begging for compassion and inclusion. Nine times out of ten, these conditions are triggered by situational problems. Therefore, I would like to make some strong suggestions on this, the feast of St. Vincent de Paul.
Don’t gossip about those who are having marital problems, going through a divorce, dealing with substance abuse in themselves or their families, or having trouble with their teenage child. If you do you increase their risk for becoming clinically depressed, anxious to a greater degree than they already are, and worse, you directly contribute to their loss of hope. Think a minute. Who wants to have marital problems or be facing divorce, especially if there are children involved? Who would welcome addiction into their homes? Who wants to struggle with emotional and mental problems? Who would want to be a family member that feels helpless in the face of such things? Next time you gossip remember you have just reinforced their status as an outcast, the worst position for these people to be.
Don’t judge, call names, or label. It isn’t your place. We are told by Jesus to love one another. Sometimes that means holding your tongue and guarding pride run amok in your mind. Pride is the thing that makes one judge. These people you judge “have been given to us as our masters.” Let them teach you humility, the key to virtue.
It can be uncomfortable to be around people who are having mental, emotional, or situational problems. What do you say? How do you act? You can worry that what you say might trigger a bad response. Yet offering friendship, assistance, or simple respect is what Christian duty demands. A simple invite to a parish activity or just informing them about it suffices. You can sit next to them at Mass and give eye contact with a smile when you give the handshake of peace, even if they avoid your glance. You can even go to the pastor and suggest adding public prayers for such difficulties in the Prayers of the Faithful. I can’t think of a better way to be welcoming as a parish. Finally, feel free to chide those who gossip or judge. It’s called defending the outcast and poor.
Pray for us, St. Vincent that we may realize our calling to love one another, all others.
Picture of St. Vincent de Paul is public domain. Retrieved on Wikimedia Commons.