Job Crafting

Hands holding a hammer and chisel, depicting a sculptor at work

Recently, I rediscovered some previous research I had done about a relatively new concept known as job crafting.[1] This idea is highly relevant for our current realities in the world of work, including the challenge of finding work-life balance and infusing our work with a sense of meaning. Job crafting may be needed more than ever after these pandemic years and the concurrent shifting nature of the workplace.

In brief, the idea is that we can almost always find certain concrete ways to redesign and/or reimagine our work to make it more personally meaningful. Such redesigning or reimagining might be related to changing what you do or to reprioritizing how you spend your time, to the extent you have the power to do so. However, job crafting focuses more heavily on other aspects of work that are more likely to be in our control and that can make a significant difference in our ability to find meaning in our jobs. This might include how we go about our work, our workplace relationships, and how we think about our work. Making small changes to the tasks we perform and the way we go about them, as well as to our workplace relationships and to the way in which we cognitively frame or imagine our work can improve job satisfaction, motivation, performance, and well-being in the workplace.

Revisiting this idea of job crafting also drew me to some advice from our beloved Vincent de Paul. He told those in the Congregation of the Mission to reframe their busy lives in a way that gives their activities a deeper sense of purpose:

“But, Monsieur, there are so many things to do, so many house duties, so many ministries in town and country; there’s work everywhere; must we, then, leave all that to think only of God?” No, but we have to sanctify those activities by seeking God in them, and do them in order to find [God] in them rather than to see that they get done [Emphasis added].[2]

Vincent’s advice invites a certain intentionality, depth, and meaning to simple everyday duties by framing them as opportunities to find God, rather than just as tasks to get done. His words help to sanctify the ordinary, as he invites his followers to enter into a way of thinking about their work that can change it from burdensome drudgery to purposeful opportunity.

The idea of job crafting as well as Vincent’s words invite us to renew our understanding of our work in order to move beyond a focus only on the completion of tasks and responsibilities. Instead, we should consider the way in which we go about our work, the quality and depth of our presence and relationships with others in the workplace, and the vision that guides us in doing all we do.

An often-shared piece of folk wisdom tells the story of three bricklayers engaged in the same work. When asked what they were doing, the first person said they were laying bricks. The second said they were putting up a wall. But the third said they were building a cathedral. I believe this third bricklayer’s sense of perspective beyond the task at hand almost certainly resonates with finding satisfaction by understanding the bigger picture.

How are you going about—and thinking about—your work these days? How might it connect to your deeper sense of purpose or vocation, whether through (a) the way in which you do your work; (b) the way you relate with people in the workplace; or (c) the way in which you envision your work?

Reflection by: Mark Laboe, Associate Vice President, Mission and Ministry

[1] For more on the idea of job crafting, see: J. M. Berg, J. E. Dutton, and A. Wrzesniewski, “Job Crafting and Meaningful Work” in B. J. Dik, Z. S. Byrne, and M. F. Steger, eds., Purpose and Meaning in the Workplace (Washington, DC: American Psychological Association, 2013), 81–104; and a YouTube Video about Job Crafting by Amy Wrzesniewski, Yale University: https://‌www.‌youtube.‌com/‌watch?‌v=_‌WEArwy316c.

[2] Conference 198, “Seeking the Kingdom of God (Common Rules of the Congregation of the Mission, Chap. II, Art. 2),” February 21, 1659, CCD, 12:111–12. Available at: https://‌via.‌library.‌depaul.‌edu/‌vincentian_‌‌ebooks/36/.

 

Busy Person’s Retreat Day 5: Are You Ready?

View an illustrated PDF version of this reflection here.

We have come to the end of our week…and to the end of our Busy Person’s Retreat.  Five days of thought and reflection on themes meant to help us find calm in the midst of storms and reassurance when uncertainty overtakes us.  On day one we began by recognizing how busy – or full – our lives are and how, even amidst the bounty of this fullness, we yearn for moments of stillness and pause.  Day two’s reflection reminded us that we thrive when there is a balance between action and inaction – or agitation and serenity – in the lives we lead.  Day three introduced us to multiple forms of meditation as a means of cultivating inner awareness, compassion and calm.  While on day four, we learned about the different types of rest that we need in order to maintain a sense of wellness.

What will we take with us from this week?  What new wisdom or action are we ready to invite into our lives?  Vincent de Paul often reminded his community members that they had to “learn how to free yoursel(ves) and be open to God’s will[1]” in order to live with meaning and purpose.  In other words, to learn how to detach from the distractions, fears, and disturbances that keep us from hearing and going to where we are being called.  Once we have freed ourselves all we need is a “ready heart.[2]”  With this in mind, ask yourself: am I ready?

Pause for Reflection and Action:

As you look back upon the Busy Person’s Retreat, were there moments that stand out for you?  Were there thoughts or images that especially resonated with you?  Pay attention to these moments and these thoughts.  Jot them down in order to remember.  They may help you discern how to introduce new peace and balance into your life.

Consider taking some time and building into your day some of the lessons you learned from this past week. Experiment with different forms of meditation.  Make a plan for how you will pursue multiple types of rest.  Or, simply take time to sit and breathe in quiet stillness.   Be attentive to these experiences and endeavor to continue them.

How does it feel to be part of a community at DePaul whose Vincentian heritage encourages you to grow by participating in things such as reflection, prayer, meditation, service and community?  Are you feeling called to deepen your engagement with our university’s Vincentian mission?

[1] Go, learn how to free yourself and to be open to God’s Will; let that be your lesson. (Volume: 12 | Page#: 197) Indifference, 15 May, 1659

[2] (Volume: 13a | Page#: 36) Sermon on Holy Communion

Busy Person’s Retreat Day 4: The 7 Types of Rest We All Need

View or download an illustrated PDF version of this article here

Rest is to work what harmony is to melody.  They complement each other and when the two come together, the results can be beautiful.  The human need to cease working and relax has been proclaimed by world religions, extolled by poets, and legislated by governing bodies.  Children have rest periods in school, highways have rest stops for travelers, and the faithful have eternal rest after lives well lived.  Rest has many well-documented health benefits [1] and, for the good of our minds, bodies and spirits, it is essential.

However, getting the rest we need is not always easy and is not as simple as just getting a good night’s sleep.  Recently, attention has been paid to something called the seven different types of rest.[2]  The idea being that we need multiple ways of taking a break from our daily labors and renewing our energy.  These seven different types of rest are probably not surprising to anyone and include the following dimensions: Physical, Mental, Emotional, Social, Sensory, Creative and Spiritual.   Being mindful of these different areas of our lives and the need that each has for the restorative effects of rest is a step towards health and wellness.

For physical rest, of course, getting good sleep is important.  So, too, is regular exercise.  But, also beneficial are simple things like stretching in our chairs and getting up from our desks to walk around for a few moments every half hour or so.  With mental rest, we can use a similar approach by taking long stretches of time away from work when possible as well as scheduling in short breaks during our workdays to do things like scroll through the news or entertain ourselves with a few quick Youtube videos.   Emotional rest can be challenging due to the self-awareness and vulnerability it demands.   However, when we are able to do things like minimize our negative self-talk or comparing ourselves to others, the emotional relief is real.  Social rest may involve intentionally being with people with whom we can be our total and authentic selves; where energy is actually gained when we are together.  Sensory rest may often go overlooked but involves being aware of what sensory input exhausts us and then mitigating it.  Limiting our screen time or turning down the noise that constantly distracts us are ways to gain sensory rest.  Creative rest engages our imagination and allows new thoughts a chance to breathe.  An art project or journaling time are simple examples.   Finally, spiritual rest involves connecting with something transcendent; something bigger than ourselves that helps to give us meaning.  Prayer, meditation and community service are some examples of this.

I think Vincent de Paul and Louise de Marillac would have appreciated the wisdom behind these seven different kinds of rest.  They understood that repose and renewal of all types were essential for themselves and their communities.  Prayer and meditation were regular parts of their days and they both frequently urged their community members to take good care of themselves, work a little less and adopt healthy habits that leant themselves to balanced lifestyles[3].  Vincent insisted that his missionaries take the months of July, August and September off from heavy labor and travel in order to “catch our breath and recoup a little energy.”[4]  And, on a more personal level, Vincent is known to have taken Thursdays off from his heavy workload.  Moreover, Louise is known to have loved and appreciated art, perhaps for the restorative effects it had on her spiritual and creative energies.

Rest is indeed a valuable, normal part of our day-to-day human journey albeit something we may overlook at times.  Whether for its health and wellness benefits or because it is fundamental to our Vincentian identity, let us honor the role of rest and its restorative powers in our lives.

Pause for Reflection:

Briefly review the seven types of rest mentioned above.  Without putting too much time and effort in, which ones strike you as needing attention in your life?  After identifying these, is there something(s) you can do to give yourself a bit more rest in these areas?

If you wish to take more time exploring your rest-needs, feel free to take this free Rest Quiz:  https://www.restquiz.com/quiz/rest-quiz-test/#quiz

What are actions that make you feel rested, renewed or rejuvenated?  Can you make a plan to do a few of these in the near future?

Reflect back on the first 3 days of the Busy Person’s Retreat.  What wisdom or gift from them do you wish to take with you?

[1] https://integrisok.com/resources/on-your-health/2021/april/why-its-important-to-allow-yourself-to-rest

[2] Dalton-Smith, Saundra. Sacred Rest: Recover Your Life, Renew Your Energy, Restore Your Sanity. Faith Words, 2019.

[3] Blessed be God that your health is better! Take care of yourself for the love of God and reflect that one way to do this is to remain cheerful by conforming yourself completely to the holy will of God and not worrying about anything. State your needs very simply and do not be upset that your illness makes you useless.  Louise de Marillac (Volume: | Page#: 56) added on 6/2/2012; I ask you once again to work a little less and take care of yourself. Vincent de Paul (Volume: 5 | Page#: 506) To Edme Jolly, 7 January, 1656 added on 6/28/201

[4] Now, you know that our missions come to a halt during these three months of July, August, and September, which we set aside to catch our breath and recoup a little energy. Vincent de Paul (Volume: 8 | Page#: 39) To Edme Jolly, 18 July, 1659 added on 6/28/2011

 

Busy Person’s Retreat Day 3: Meditation, with a Purpose

View an illustration PDF version of the reflection here.

What do you think of when you hear the word meditation? I’ll be the first to admit that my thoughts immediately picture a yogi, sitting cross-legged in lotus position, floating a few inches from the ground, blissfully empty of thought, their inner-eye open to the Universe.

Or, perhaps you think of the commercials for meditation apps, promising one minute of calm while a soothing image of a raindrop slowly trickles off a leaf, or a close-up of a parent as they close their eyes on the couch while a chaotic maelstrom of children, pillows, and food swirl around them, their mind the calm center of the storm.

Or, maybe you think of yourself, sitting or standing in prayer, either at home or in a church, mosque, or temple, emptying your buzzing thoughts and nagging worries and trying to offer them up to the Divine for help, relief, and community.

Absolutely none of these are wrong. It seems as long as humans have lived in the world, we have needed a way to take our minds out of the world for reflection, even if for a moment. There is a human need to quiet the mind and not get swept up in life’s constant flow of sensations, thoughts, and noise. Meditation exists in a beautiful kaleidoscope of forms, each adapted to the needs of a particular culture. From Buddhism, Hinduism, and Daoism, to Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, most spiritual traditions have a practice of intentional mindfulness, each with their own permutations, perspectives, and techniques. Even outside of religious practice, meditation has become increasingly popular commercially and in the medical community, as its benefits have been clinically proven time and again (from stress, pain, and anxiety reduction to boosted immunity, mental acuity, and psychological wellness).

While we get our English word meditation through the Latin meditari, meaning to think, ponder or contemplate, it’s also been used as a translation for similar practices in Hinduism and Buddhism (dhyai in Sanskrit, later adapted into a form of the Xiu Dao in Chinese Buddhism). So, what is meditation? Generally, meditation is the intentional, trained act of contemplation to cultivate greater awareness, empathy, calm, or compassion. The second part of this is key, especially from a Vincentian point of view. To Saint Vincent, one of the greatest values of meditation is in how it changes you, not just in understanding but also “affections,” making you more receptive to compassionate action.

Thus, the focus that comes during a meditative state is not the goal; instead, it is a calm, compassionate mindfulness that endures after meditation. As the Saint Vincent quote above notes, it is in “actions and behavior” that “show clearly how they have benefitted from it.” Meditation, seen this way, does not lead one away from the world, to live in seclusion on a mountain-top; instead it leads one back into the world, but with greater empathy and calm.

It’s not just sitting and breathing

There is a wide world of meditative options out there to try. A few broad categories are described below. Most of these practices incorporate awareness of breath in their technique, which is simply focusing on each breath that comes in and out. Close your eyes. Breathe in.. and out. Focusing on breathing helps clear the mental clutter.

MINDFULNESS MEDITATION

Adapted from the Buddhist tradition, mindfulness meditation is the practice of attempting to become a neutral observer of your own thoughts and feelings. After settling into your breathing, if a thought comes, let it visit like a guest, and then let it leave just as freely. The goal is to not become impatient or engaged in any one thought or feeling. Easy to say, hard to do. Mindfulness can often use breath awareness, a repetition of a mantra, or a physical focus like prayer beads or a rosary to help better focus the mind.

MOVEMENT MEDITATION

Rather than trying to sit still and be as unmoving as your thoughts, movement meditation leans into the fact that we are embodied creatures, and engages our physicality so that our minds can become free of noise. This includes yoga and tai chi, but also activities like walking and gardening. If you find the idea of sitting still excruciating, this might be the one for you. The next time you go for a walk or run (weather permitting) try focusing on your breath, and letting your mind empty. Walking through nature can be enormously helpful in attuning your mind not to the past or future, but to the present.

SPIRITUAL MEDITATION

Spiritual meditation really varies by religious tradition, but it can be best thought of generally as a kind of prayer. Spiritual meditation often incorporates the mantras, stories, and reflective practices of a religious tradition. For example, Ignatian meditation is a Christian practice that heavily uses imagination and visualization, rooted in Catholic cosmology, to guide and focus the mind. Alternately, Sufism, Jewish Kabbalah, and other traditions have rich practices that also incorporate movement and mindfulness in their contemplation of God.

PAUSE FOR REFLECTION

I hope that this brief tour through the world of meditation will encourage you to try it, if only for a week. See what happens! Pick a time every day to spend ten minutes in contemplation. Maybe try different forms of meditation to see what works, and what absolutely doesn’t.

Also remember that emptiness of mind is not the goal; it’s the compassionate clarity that follows that matters.

  • What form of meditation seems to come most naturally to you? What form doesn’t?
  • Is there a spiritual tradition that uses meditation that you’d like to learn more about?
  • How can you incorporate meditation into your daily life?

Busy Person’s Retreat Day 2: Balance and Inner Piece

View or download an illustrated PDF of the reflection here.

There are many different ways in which we may feel ourselves to be busy, or to feel overwhelmed.  We can feel overwhelmed by tasks that we are required or being asked to complete.  Sometimes, however, our minds feel busy whether we are engaging in actions or not.  This leaves us with a feeling that we have no peace in our hearts.

One way of looking at this is that we live in a time in which we are bombarded by information.  We receive news continuously and instantaneously from around the world.  Discussion and distraction of all types: political, entertainment, work related and of so many other types is literally always at our fingertips.

For some people prayer is a powerful way to bring increased serenity and inner peace.  For others, related processes of naming what is one’s mind and heart can have some of the same benefits.

Agitation of many types, whether among people or internally in one’s heart can be a blessing.  It can lead us to acknowledge a need for change, in unjust systems or in the brokenness of patterns and habits of our lives and relationships.  Our Vincentian patrons were no strangers to this wisdom.  Both Vincent and Louise experienced restlessness which called them to action and encouraged increased awareness in others believing it should lead to change.  Certainly the Vincentian question “What must be done?” can be described as an agitational one.[1]

If we sometimes need to be provoked into action we must also be able to find peace.  Finding peace can make us more effective in our work and make a source of calm and tranquility for those around us.  This is profoundly reflected in many of our spiritual traditions ranging from Prophet Muhammad on the hijrah journey fleeing prosecution in Mecca hiding in a cave stating to his terrified companion “Do not fear or be sad, God is with us”[2] to the gospel story of Jesus calm amidst the storm on the sea and addressing his disciples “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?”[3]

Vincent and Louise also offer this advice strongly.  For them, this tranquility could best be found in realizing humbly one’s own limitations along with one’s responsibility.  We are responsible for our actions but we cannot feel responsible for what lies beyond our control or capacity.  Through a faithful trust in the divine or transcendent or through an acknowledgement of reality, we seek to move to this place of inner peace, even where we experience chaos and especially while we remain engaged in actions. In this life, we cannot expect to reach this once and forever, but it is a condition to which we hope to return over and over again, when it is perhaps inevitably disrupted.

Pause for Reflection:

What are some sources of stress for me at this moment?  What are the actions I can take to address these issues?  What are some things in which I can trust and find security even in the midst of uncertainty?

Most of us are probably familiar with Reinhold Niebuhr’s Serenity Prayer.[4]  This short prayer offers a powerful summary of some of the things we have mentioned in today’s reflection.

God, give me grace to accept with serenity

the things that cannot be changed,

Courage to change the things

which should be changed,

and the Wisdom to distinguish

the one from the other.


[1] Even more so when the question is understood in its fullness as necessarily containing the specific questions “What must I do? What must you do? What must we do?” See Udovic, Edward R. C.M., Ph.D. (2008) “”Our good will and honest efforts.” Vincentian Perspectives on Poverty Reduction Efforts,” Vincentian Heritage Journal: Vol. 28 : Iss. 2 , Article 5.

[2] Qur’an 9:40

[3]  Matthew 8:23–27, Mark 4:35–41, and Luke 8:22–25

[4] Niebuhr went through several different versions of the prayer over his life, and it has been adopted and repurposed with slight changes by many over time but the basic spirit of it seems to be shared by all.

Busy Person’s Retreat Day 1: Take Time and Make Space

To view or download a PDF copy, click here.

So, you signed up for a Busy Person’s Retreat this week. Something drew you to do so. What was it?

What did you assess was needed or desired in your life to sign up to receive these daily reflections for a week?

Congratulations on taking this step… whether toward self-care, toward reflection and mindfulness, toward deeper meaning and purpose, or toward whatever good and authentic yearning inspired you to do so.

As we begin this week of reflection, let me ask you one more question:  When you consider yourself a “busy person”…why is that so, and what does that describe or mean to you?

When I catch myself thinking or talking about how horribly busy I am, I find it helpful and informative to catch myself, to pause and to do a moment of self-assessment. Why am I feeling so busy? And, what does “busy” describe or mean to me in this moment? How much of this “busy-ness” is, at some level, by habit or choice and how much of it is necessity or imposed upon me?

By taking just a moment to pause and reflect in this way over the years, I have come to see that in our U.S. American culture at large, we tend to put a high value on being busy – or, at least, being seen as one who is busy. Being busy, or feeling rushed while moving from one thing to the next, or having so much to do that we can’t possibly slow down, are at times projected or proclaimed as evidence of our productivity in front of others, or as unspoken justifications of our own importance.

While this tendency certainly has been and remains part of my own erroneous way of thinking, a habit present to me from my early years, I can say fairly confidently that it is also clearly a tendency that we absorb from the broader cultural milieu in which we live. In other words, when I stop to pause and reflect for just a moment about why I am feeling so busy and what the word is describing or means to me in any given moment, I realize that I am at times simply wrapped up in a cultural norm that is assessing my worth in a way that is, quite frankly, just not healthy, meaningful, fair, nor accurate. Assessing our worth based on how busy we are is absurd – yet it is so commonplace.

In speaking of the Jewish/Christian practice of Sabbath as a day of rest each week, author Walter Brueggemann points out the way in which such rest can actually be seen and practiced as a fruitful form of resistance to the dominant culture: “Sabbath is a practical divestment so that neighborly engagement, rather than production and consumption, defines our lives.” [i](18)

At times, being or feeling busy may indeed allow us to see that we have put unrealistic expectations on ourselves, or that impossible expectations have indeed been put on us by others – whether in a job or in our home life – and we are  entangled in them. This insight has the potential to be liberating, if we are able to accept and name it for what it is, to ask for the help of others to alleviate some of the pressure, or to make other changes within our control to bring us back into a more healthy and realistic balance.

Very often, we may find that the fullness of our life and who we are may in fact be harmed or lessened to some degree by our being overly or constantly “busy.” Our “busy-ness” does not allow the time and space for new growth, for the flowering of seeds planted, for the fire within us to breath in the fresh air needed to fuel our authentic creativity and passion. It also doesn’t allow us room to reflect, an essential behavior or practice necessary to look objectively at our life experiences and to learn from them. Being overly busy doesn’t allow time and space for rest and relaxation, for friendships to be nurtured, or for us to be fully and truly present to the people in our lives and to the realities before us. When we are busy, we are rarely “mindful” and certainly not “soul-full.”

What is hurt by your taking a few minutes now and regularly in your life to pause, to breathe deeply, and to slow down just a bit? Answer:  Probably nothing and no one at all.

What is gained by doing so?  Answer:  The fullness of who you are. And, that is a very good thing for you, for others around you and for the world. Your wholeness is not only healthy for you, but is also a gift to others. Taking a few minutes each day – maybe several times a day – simply to pause, breathe and reflect will help you to be happier, more at peace, more creative and effective… and in the end, if you and others around you need to know… it will probably help you to be more productive as well!

One little life hack that I have found helpful is to catch myself when I use the word “busy” and – if it makes sense to do so – to describe my life situation instead as “full.” My life is very full has a different ring to it, a different meaning.  I like the idea of my cup overflowing with the life that I am receiving – not something I am doing or accomplishing, but something that I am choosing to fully embrace and engage in the best way I can.

May this week’s reflections allow you the space and nourishment you need to grow into a new and more fruitful fullness!

[i] Walter Brueggemann. Sabbath as Resistance: Saying No to the Culture of Now (2014). Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press. P. 18

Saint Nicholas, Wonder-working, and Mischievous Joy

I never celebrated—or even knew about—Saint Nicholas Day until I met my wife, but it is now one of my favorite holiday traditions. Observed more widely in Europe, especially Eastern Europe, December 6 is the day that Saint Nicholas comes to give presents—or coal—to the hopeful who put their boots outside. Don’t worry, you still have time to put yours out for tonight!

The celebration originated in the feast day of Saint Nicholas of Myra—a fourth-century bishop nicknamed the Wonder-worker who was known for secret charity to those shunned by “reputable society” (such as prostitutes, thieves, and sailors), and for helping those experiencing poverty, especially young women. But the day’s traditions, and the figure at the heart of it, soon gained an imaginative life of its own outside of the ecclesiastical calendar.

The myths surrounding this secret gift-giver adapted to different cultures and found new faces over the centuries (transforming from the dark-skinned Saint Nicholas to the rosy-cheeked Santa Claus and Father Christmas). However, two core elements remained: selfless compassion, and acts that bring about an almost mischievous, joyful surprise. The original stories surrounding Saint Nicholas are full of these. In one, he secretly tossed bags of gold into a house of an impoverished family over three consecutive nights to help their three daughters (the bags of gold are now represented by the oranges that sometimes fill Christmas stockings). In another story, a terrible storm was sure to destroy the ship on which he traveled and drown all the sailors. In an unexpected turn of events, he rebuked the waves, and all lived to see the shore. In yet another story, three innocent men were about to be executed, but he appeared, pushed the executioner’s blade away, and chastised a juror who had been bribed. What all these stories have in common for me is the power of unexpected wonder and joy—imagine waking up and finding your life utterly transformed with a bag of gold. Imagine the waves crashing—or the executioner’s blade swinging—only to stop, and you realize that your life is saved.

For me, Saint Nicholas Day is a reminder to bring some of that inspirational wonder-working and playful compassion to my daily life and interactions. While our dear Saint Vincent lived more than a millennia after Saint Nicholas, you can see something Vincentian about Saint Nicholas’s attention to the poor and helping the hungry, even if his efforts lacked our namesake’s organizational prowess (and critical collaboration with Saint Louise). Our mission—much like Saint Nick’s—is vital and needed in our world. But we need joyful sustenance to carry it forward and not be overcome by the waves and storms of the times.

What are some ways that you can bring playful, supportive, unexpected joy to your colleagues?[i]

Reflection by: Alex Perry, Program Manager, Division of Mission and Ministry

[i] Vincent said, “Another effect of charity is to rejoice with those who rejoice. It causes us to enter into their joy. Our Lord intended by His teachings to unite us in one mind and in joy as well as in sorrow; it’s His desire that we share one another’s feelings.” Conference 207, “Charity (Common Rules, Chap. II, Art. 12),” 30 May 1659, CCD, 12:222. Available at: https://‌via.library.depaul.edu/‌vincentian_ebooks/‌36/.

Reminder: We will be hosting (virtually and in-person) a festive Day with Vincent on December 15 titled “Inspired by Joy.” Fill your reservoir before the holiday break with a morning retreat grounded in our mission and focused on reconnecting to what brings you joy. You can register and learn more here: https://december-day-with-vincent.eventbrite.com

 

 

Who Has Shown You the Way?

Image of torch lighting the way

“Let us often recall all the actions of the life of our Beloved so that we may imitate them.” [1]

Today marks the annual Christian feast of All Saints Day, commemorating those who preceded us and are recognized as saints for their exemplary lives of faith and service. Regardless of your background, you probably know a few official Catholic saints, starting with Vincent de Paul and Louise de Marillac, of whom we speak often around here. Or you may know of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton, influential in early Catholic education in the United States and founder of the Sisters of Charity, a part of the Vincentian family. Perhaps you’ve also heard of such popular Christian saints as Saint Francis of Assisi, founder of the Franciscans, Saint Dominic, founder of the Dominicans, or Saint Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuits. Each of them are remembered and honored for the way in which they modeled values and virtues that we admire and for their long lasting legacies sustained by their followers.

Beyond formally recognized saints, we might also take this opportunity to consider those in our own lives, whether living or dead, personally known or admired from afar, who have shown us a way of living that we admire and may even want to emulate. It has been said that saints are people through whom God’s light shines.

We may never think of ourselves as being anywhere near the level of sainthood, and yet even in our simple and sometimes fumbling humanity, in any moment or situation of our lives, we can be people through whom love and generosity shine for the benefit of others. As we reflect this month on those who have gone before us, let us be inspired by the evidence of goodness in the lives of so many others and the way they have helped to show us a way forward. May we each contribute plenty of evidence of a similar goodness in the way we live our lives here in our DePaul community and beyond.

For your reflection:

Who has modeled a way of living that you aspire to emulate? Who are the people who have preceded you in history who have been torchbearers for you, lighting the way forward? Who have you learned from … perhaps simply by watching the way they live their lives … and who has inspired or challenged you to grow into new levels of wholeness, service, or commitment?

Share your responses to these questions in the comments below!

Reflection by: Mark Laboe, Associate VP, Mission and Ministry

Please join us for our annual Gathering of Remembrance honoring the lives of loved ones and family members of those in our DePaul community. The gathering will be broadcast on Wednesday, November 17th at 4:00 pm as a premiere video on YouTube Live.

If you have names of loved ones you would like to be remembered, please share them here by the end of today, November 1st: Name Submission Form

[1] A.27, On the Pure Love We Have Vowed to God, Spiritual Writings of Louise de Marillac, 829. Available at: https://via.library.depaul.edu/ldm/.

Effective Charity

hands holding hands

The Catholic tradition names Saint Vincent de Paul the patron saint of charity. While today the term “charity” is sometimes caricatured as a Band-Aid approach to addressing social problems, the effective charity demonstrated by Vincent and Louise in seventeenth-century France, and the effective charity of the Vincentian family today, calls for a radically different understanding.

The word “charity” derives from the Latin term, caritas, which denotes a generous and self-giving love.[1] During their lifetimes, both Vincent and Louise “vigorously called upon charity as an indispensable source of power to confront the poverty and injustice of their day.”[2] Indeed, charity provided a way of resisting the dictates of the state, which, as a result of the “War of Great Confinement,” criminalized those who were poor and forbade begging as well as almsgiving.[3] Yet, through their ministry, Vincent and Louise refused to discount the dignity of those who were poor. Instead, they demonstrated an effective charity that went far beyond mere philanthropic efforts to alleviate need. They focused on developing meaningful relationships with those to whom they ministered, whom much of society had shunned. Such connections allowed them to “build a parallel and contradictory world of charity”[4] that acknowledged right relationship and was shaped by the power of the human encounter.

To this day, this kind of effective charity continues to inspire Vincentian social institutions, which focus not only on addressing the immediate needs of those who are disenfranchised, but root themselves in accompaniment and the construction of meaningful transformative relationships. Such institutions equally commit themselves to calling society to justice and working for systemic change.

Frédéric Ozanam, one of the principal founders of the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul, described the complementary nature of charity and justice in the following way: “The order of society is based on two virtues: justice and charity. However, justice presupposes a lot of love already, for he needs to love a man a great deal in order to respect his rights, which limit our rights, and his liberty, which hampers our liberty. Justice has its limits whereas charity knows none.”[5]

So from a Vincentian perspective, rather than charity being dismissed as a lesser form of justice, effective charity should be understood as a complement to justice in effectuating social change.[6] From a Vincentian perspective, effective charity must lead to effective justice.

In what ways do you see evidence of the Vincentian traditions of effective charity and justice in your work at DePaul? How does this description of effective charity challenge your own understanding of charity?

Reflection by: Siobhan O’Donoghue, Ph.D., Faculty and Staff Engagement Director, Mission and Ministry

[1] Mark Laboe, “Connecting Charity with Justice,” The Way of Wisdom (blog), 24 August 2020, https://blogs.depaul.edu/dmm/2020/08/24/connecting-charity-with-justice/.

[2] Craig B. Mousin, “Vincentian Leadership—Advocating for Justice,” Vincentian Heritage 26:1 (2005): 263, https://via.library.depaul.edu/vhj/vol26/iss1/14.

[3] Edward R. Udovic, C.M., “Caritas Christi Urget Nos: The Urgent Challenges of Charity in Seventeenth-Century France,” Ibid. 12:2 (1991): 86, https://via.‌library.‌depaul.edu‌/vhj/‌vol12/iss2/1/.

[4] Ibid., 102.

[5] Pierre Pierrand et al., Ozanam, Husband and Father, Champion of Truth and Justice, Lover of the Poor, Founder of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul (Albagraf, Pomeezia Italy: 1997), 35.

[6] Mousin, “Vincentian Leadership—Advocating for Justice,” 263.