The Spirit of the Association

According to St. Vincent, the spirit of the Association consists of those virtues which the Ladies of Charity should practice in the corporal and spiritual service of the poor who are the representatives of our Lord Jesus Christ:

  1. HUMILITY - Modest Sense of One's Own Significance

Humility must necessarily be the base of our charitable actions. In seeing and misery of the poor, in confronting injustices, physical and oral downfalls, a Lady of Charity remembers that the spiritual and temporal goods that she possesses are purely gifts of God. In her dealings with the poor, far from untactfully making them feel her social superiority, she will be humbled in imitation of our Divine Master: "Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal to God; but emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of man and in habit found as a man." She looks to God alone as the witness to her charity, her labors and her sacrifices. She does not forget that God desires that her left hand should not know what her right hand does. She shuns praise, willingly takes second place in the good that is done, seeks to remain in the background, and when ingratitude is manifested, accepts it without resentment.

  1. SIMPLICITY - Absence of Pretentiousness

A Lady of Charity inspired by the virtue of simplicity acts with her eyes fixed only on God. She does not seek recognition; she goes straight to the goal by the means that faith, religion and experience suggest. She works faithfully for the poor, and, in her contact with them, is not affected either by their word or manner. She knows that there is nothing small in the service of God and that the merit of her action lies in the purity of her intention.

  1. CHARITY - Synonymous to Love

Charity will become the Christians who bear the name - Ladies of Charity. This virtue makes it a duty to love not only God but also our neighbor. It is in the love of our neighbor that we find the proof of our love of God. As St. John said, "If he does not love his brother whom he sees, how can he love God whom he does not see?" And this commandment we have from God, that "He who loves God, loves also his brother... Let us love in deed and in truth and not merely talk about it." That is the interpretation St. Vincent de Paul gave when he said that our charity for our neighbor should not be only affective but effective. A Lady of Charity shows this effective love towards the poor by visiting them regularly, interesting herself in all that concerns them, aiding them by material help, by her counsel, and if need be, by her efforts to secure employment or assistance for them from public and organized charities.

St. Vincent recognized that the corporal care of the poor often precedes the spiritual. Ordinarily, the demands of the body are more manifest than those of the soul. The poor feel more forcibly by gnawing pains of hunger of the burning heat of fever than the privation of knowledge or sanctifying grace. Once the material needs have been satisfied, it is easier to work for their spiritual needs.

Jesus Christ declared in Matthew 24:31-46 that what we do to the poor, we do to Him. Our Lord does not identify Himself physically with the poor; His is not present under the appearance of the poor as under the Eucharistic Species, but He is morally one of them. When we give a load of bread to the poor, we give it to Jesus Christ; when we offer a garment to the poor, we offer it to Jesus Christ; when we visit the poor, we visit Jesus Christ.

The Lady of Charity knows how to sympathize with the poor in their pains and their trials, listens patiently to their frequently repeated tales of woe and bears with their little whims. She will not be frightened by the difficulties inevitably found in the exercise of good works and she will not readily abandon what she has undertaken for the Glory of God. She is not afraid of fatigue and she is always willing to undergo inconvenience or trouble to relieve the misery of the poor. Thus she imitates Him who is the Lord of Charity.