Living with Zeal

“If love of God is a fire, zeal is its flame; if love is a sun, zeal is its ray.” 211, The Five Characteristic Virtues, 22 August 1659, CCD, 12:250.

Vincent de Paul once stated, “If love of God is a fire, zeal is its flame; if love is a sun, zeal is its ray.” (CCD, 12:250) Such an image invokes the idea of a love that burns with compassion for one’s neighbor and motivates us to serve. Vincent saw zeal as a spreading fire that attracts others to its light. Robert Maloney, C.M., writes, “A love that is on fire will seek to communicate itself to others. It will seek to draw others into the same wonderful mission that it is carrying out.” (Maloney, The Way of Vincent de Paul [1992], 68)

Through a Vincentian lens, the love that gives birth to our zeal must be both affective and effective. Driving the wisdom of this home, consider Vincent’s much-quoted exhortation, “Let us love God, but let it be with the strength of our arms and the sweat of our brows.” (Maloney, Way, 46) Working for a Vincentian institution such as DePaul, we are invited to act and respond in a compassionate, pragmatic, and creative way. In order to achieve this, affective and effective love held in faithful dialogue characterizes our decision-making processes, shapes our approach to work and our interactions with colleagues, and gives direction to our zeal.

For Vincent, the virtue of zeal also meant hard work and a commitment to furthering the principles and shared values of the community. As important as this virtue was to him, however, he also was cognizant of what can impede zeal’s benefits, namely inattentiveness and burnout. For Vincent, inattentiveness involved allowing ourselves to become distracted by trivial things. This can be difficult for us today given the constant noise of contemporary society (social media, multi-tasking, etc.). He also was wary of the dangers of burnout, once advising Louise de Marillac, “Be very careful to conserve it (your health) for the love of the Lord and his poor members and be careful not to do too much.” (Maloney, Way, 47) Vincent seemed to understand the need for a balanced lifestyle with healthy boundaries.

As part of the DePaul community rooted in the Vincentian mission, we are invited to adopt this virtue of zeal, grounded in affective and effective love, and lived out with a balance and thoughtfulness that enables us to sustain our mission over the long haul. In contemplating the meaning of zeal in your life, think of the experiences or people that exhibit a “love on fire.” What else might help stoke the flame of zeal within you?  What are the actions that you and others might take to keep the fire of DePaul’s mission burning today, almost 400 years after the Congregation of the Mission began?

Reflection by:

Siobhan O’Donoghue, Director of Faculty and Staff Engagement, Division of Mission & Ministry


Upcoming Events:

Day with Vincent: A Day of Service and Reflection for Faculty and Staff

Friday, March 6th, 2020: 9:00 am – 4:00 pm

DePaul faculty and staff are invited to a day of service, reflection, and community. On Friday, March 6th, we will gather at DePaul’s Lincoln Park Campus for breakfast then go out into the city to serve with and learn from our community partners. This is a great opportunity for staff and faculty to serve Chicago, grow in community, reconnect with your values, and deepen your understanding of our Vincentian mission. We hope you’ll join us! For questions, contact Tom Judge at: To register go to: