Testimony : The usefulness of the home visit
We publish here extracts from a training document produced by the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul in Brazil. These Vincentians provide us with their advice, clearly based on their own long and deep-rooted experience of personal contact with the poor. This wonderful text shows how home visits – the founding insight of the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul - remain so relevant and timely for our world today, suffering as Cardinal Sarah emphasised, from “globalised indifference”.
“The home visit is a unique experience that can only be learned or taught with the heart, and in response to a call from God to ever greater generosity.
During every visit, we are learning alongside the poor. We have the opportunity for this intimate contact with God.[…] The visit to the person in need, in their own home, is one of the most important in the life of a Vincentian. This moment must be an occasion for learning and for mutual exchange. We should make it a moment of prayer. Let us be ready to listen, let us be calm and generous as we seek to understand the difficulties and the limitations of the person receiving our visit.
We must not be intrusive during our visits. We have to know how to respect the private life of people in need, no matter where they live. We should not confuse our role with that of an investigator, trying to find out everything about the person or the family in a short time. Relationships need time to build. This time is necessary so that the people we visit can feel confident to share their problems, their stresses and their dreams with the Vincentian.
We must always take care not to judge those we help. Our judgements are often based on our own reality, forgetting that the reality and condition of each person are different from those of anyone else. […]
In many countries, there are ailments whose victims are most often those in the poorest social classes. […] We may be in a position help people in need suffering from drug addiction or from incurable diseases; our help offers them a way to escape from the devastating evil in their life. In our home visits we may be faced with such situations, and to be honest, we often find ourselves despairing. Dire poverty, loneliness, lack of prospects have inflicted deep wounds on these brothers and sisters. We may struggle to encourage growth and development for victims of such injuries, and to make a real structural change in their lives. But the simple fact of our going to meet these suffering people, trying to bring hope into their troubled lives, is already a great help. In many cases, such people and such families are abandoned by society and by the public authorities. When someone comes to visit them in person, with kindness and courtesy, they can discover the presence of God there with them in their lives.”
Extract from a training document from Society of Saint Vincent de Paul in Brazil
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