Sometimes, We Forget Who We Are

Photo by Erik Eastman on Unsplash

Human beings are creatures who can drift away from who we are at our best. We make mistakes, show poor judgment, or operate from a wounded place. In such moments, we add to the world’s dysfunction and even unwittingly contribute to harm and injustice, despite our best efforts not to. This dynamic seems to be part of our human experience, which suggests that we would be wise to walk through the world with an ample supply of humility and that we need a community to hold us accountable.

Recognition of this human tendency that plays out in our individual and collective lives is at the root of the Christian practice of Lent, which begins this coming Wednesday, February 14, with the celebration of Ash Wednesday. The annual season of Lent is a communal practice that invites Christians to a time of intentional pause to reflect on ways that we may have gone astray in our habits and caused harm to our relationships. Lent is a season when we join our mindful attention and willpower together with the healing and restoring mercy and love of God. Through prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, we seek to realign our lives with what we value most. (Learn here about plans for DePaul Ash Wednesday Services and Lent.)

I wonder what regular practices and habits in our work environment might play a similar role in helping us rectify ways we have fallen off course. Perhaps we might benefit from auditing how we have strayed from our mission, developed habits of relating and working together that are ineffective or even harmful, or allowed ourselves to drift into a state of “just going through the motions.” Perhaps, as an institution founded in the Catholic tradition, we might also use this season of Lent for organizational purposes to reflect on how we can refresh our work with new positivity, creativity, and efficacy.

The season of Lent runs from Ash Wednesday on February 14th through Easter on Sunday, March 31st.

Questions for reflection:

What might you commit to doing over these 6+ weeks (40+ days) to put your own house back in order, individually or collectively? How can you realign how you are living with what you value most?


Reflection By: Mark Laboe, Associate VP for Mission and Ministry

The Times They Are A-Changin’

For many, this week marks the ending of the Christian liturgical season of Lent. As a period of preparation and self-examination, Lent encourages us to intimately, sometimes painfully, confront our own humanity, our shortcomings, our frailties, and our most searching questions. But, always, this personal exploration is meant to be done with a spirit of compassion and understanding that mirrors the love God feels for us. Truly, Lent can be a time of personal and spiritual challenge but equally it can be a time of self-improvement and growth in our relationship with God.

It seems DePaul University itself is also experiencing a moment in our history that resembles the Lenten season. Spurred by budgetary challenges, as an institution we are being asked to scrutinize ourselves with rigorous honesty and courage to determine where changes need to be made. These changes will hopefully guarantee our relevance and sustainability long into the future. The difficult choices to be made will require sacrifice, commitment to the common good, and deep reserves of wisdom if we are to honor our mission and preserve our most distinctive and valuable identity: that of being a Vincentian Catholic university.

As lifelong Catholics, co-founders of what we now call the Vincentian Family, and astute observers of human nature, Vincent and Louise were familiar with the personal challenges of Lent and the systemic challenges of institutional change. Based on the voluminous records left behind, we know they approached the latter with pragmatism, compassion, and faith. They accepted that change—in communities, in responsibilities, in plans—needed to occur for their mission of serving the poor to be effective.[1] But they also taught that these changes, like all decisions, must be inspired by love and guided by that great rule of charity requiring us to do to for each individual that good that we would want them to do to us. As leaders, colleagues, and community members, we must make decisions animated by compassion and bound by ties of friendship and respect.[2]

Underlying every decision Vincent and Louise made was their abiding faith in the providence of God. They had confidence that even amid struggle and uncertainty, God would eventually provide a path forward and the clarity to see this path. In light of this faith, as followers of Vincent and Louise, it is our responsibility to be attentive to the signs of where we are being led and to work tirelessly, with good will and honest effort, toward the worthy purposes given to us.

Today, the signs seem to be pointing DePaul toward a path of strategic change and investment to ensure that we are able to best fulfill our purposes as a Vincentian Catholic university. These changes may require difficult decisions and painful cuts and must be made not only with pragmatism but with love, compassion, respect, and faith. To do any less would be a violation of our mission and a disservice to our community’s heritage and to its future.

Reflection Questions:

At DePaul, when have you observed decisions being made that are grounded in pragmatism, love, and respect? How might you better be able to incorporate these values into your own decision-making?

If you were to scrutinize your own life, your choices, and attitudes, what might you identify as something that needs to change? How would you approach that change? Are you coming from a place of self-love and understanding?


Reflection by: Tom Judge, Assistant Director and Chaplain, Faculty and Staff Engagement, Division of Mission and Ministry

[1] See, for example, these two quotes from Louise de Marillac: “Changes can and must occur. If they are not accepted, we shall never enjoy the peace of soul that is essential,” (Document A66, “(On the Necessity of Accepting Changes),”Spiritual Writings, 813); and “You are well aware that changes are always difficult, and that it takes time to learn new ways of serving the poor skillfully and well,” (Letter 337, “To My Very Dear Sister Cécile Agnès,” December 30, (1651) Spiritual Writings, 385). Available online at https://via.library.depaul.edu/ldm/.

[2] See Conference 207, “Charity (Common Rules Chap. 2, Art. 12),” May 30, 1659, CCD, 12:217. Available online at https://via.library.depaul.edu/vincentian_ebooks/36/.

Change in Systems, Change in People

Last week on February 22, Christians celebrated Ash Wednesday, the traditional start of the Lenten season. Lent is the liturgical season of about forty days that leads to the celebration of Easter by millions of people throughout the world. For them, it is a time of preparing their minds and hearts to receive more fully and to remember again the transformative meaning and power of the Easter story, most notably that of the resurrection of the crucified Christ. This annual ritual of the Lenten season embodies the learned wisdom of the Christian community: humanity benefits from a regular time of “spiritual fine-tuning” to remember and return to what is most essential and to remain open to ongoing transformation.

The season of Lent is in many ways about remembering what we have forgotten and returning to what we already know, which becomes a transformative experience for many. The return to what we know most deeply about self, God, and life becomes a movement toward change, renewal, and a new way of being, doing, and relating. It is something that our entrenched habits may have prevented us from seeing or engaging in previously.

Surprisingly, I thought of the annual ritual practice of Lent during a recent seminar, “Charity, Justice and Systemic Change in the Vincentian Tradition,” led by Father John Rybolt, C.M. In this seminar, Father Rybolt spoke of the necessary relationship between systemic change and the change that must take place within and among people to make participation in systemic change possible. Always fascinated by the question of what makes positive change or transformation possible, I have come to believe there is something important in this insight about systemic change. It connects directly to the spiritual purpose of Lent – that is, the transformation of minds and hearts is necessary for the transformation of systems. They rise and fall with each other.

This insight is central to understanding the tenuous yet profound connection between Saint Vincent de Paul and what we now know of as “social justice,” which was an unknown concept in the minds of those in seventeenth-century France. While Vincent may not have known of the concept of social justice as we know it today, he seems to have clearly understood this fact: for lasting social transformation to occur, we must recognize the unavoidable relationship between the change in systems (economic, political, religious, social) and the change needed within and among persons. Systemic change requires intrapersonal and interpersonal change as well as a change in minds and hearts.

Vincent saw with the eyes of charity, or caritas, which can be translated most meaningfully as love. Vincent paid attention to people and to daily life and events. He recognized what was not right and responded to address the immediate needs of people, while also building new systems that would prove more effective in caring for them. He preached, taught, persuaded, and cajoled his contemporaries, often transforming minds and heart to become more open to encounter the suffering poor of his day. He encouraged the cultivation of habits (virtues) that led to active participation in working for the common good. That said, he did not work for the wholesale teardown of the existing system. He worked within existing systems, and then relationally among and for people, to make change and transformation possible.

Reflection Questions:

  • What is the way in which you believe you can contribute most effectively to the positive transformation of systems and people?
  • What habits or ways of seeing, working, or relating get in the way of your ability to contribute more fruitfully to this transformation?
  • What is the transformation that must take place in you for you to live more fully – perhaps beginning over these next 40 days!?

Reflection by: Mark Laboe, flection by: Mark Laboe, Assoc. VP, Mission and Ministry

Shifting Our Perception

Depending on our mindset, Mondays can be difficult mornings as we face the beginning of yet another week of work. This may involve facing a long to-do list, including some tasks we might not rather do, coming immediately on the heels of a weekend taste of rest and relaxation.

However, with some mental reframing, we might shift and say to ourselves with some authentic enthusiasm: “Today is a new day and the start of a new work week! This is a new opportunity for me to live my values and to put my mission into action!”

What might you need to move into such a mental-emotional space? Are there practices or habits that could help you to do so? Maybe meditation or prayer, walks outside, or seeking the support of a community of friends and colleagues?

As our Mission Mondays continue to follow Christians through their Lenten season, we might find some insight in the words of prophet Isaiah from the readings for this fifth and penultimate week of Lent. Isaiah invites the Hebrew people to change their mindset, to hearken no longer on the hardships of the past, and to recognize what God is doing anew in their presence: “Do you not perceive it?”[1]

How much of our mindset is the result of our perception or our ability to see and focus our attention on the emerging, possible good in our midst?

This week, we also read of Jesus’s often-quoted admonition to those condemning a woman: “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”[2] Jesus is clearly seeing and focusing on something different than the mob of people set on violence.

Shifting our perception—whether to focus on the good and possible rather than what is troubling, or to set our minds and hearts toward forgiveness and compassion rather than judgment and condemnation—can be mightily difficult for most of us. Such a shift will probably not be achieved through our own will alone. The many ongoing daily challenges of life, added to the tragedies now being amplified in our world with the violent destruction and loss of life in Ukraine, can make it especially difficult to adopt a forward-looking hopeful frame of mind. Doing so may require a healthy dose of grace and some proverbial sunshine to emerge in our lives independent of our own efforts.

As Vincent de Paul would advise, we need to remain radically open to the experiences and people in our lives—to first perceive Providence at work, then to humbly and graciously receive the blessings and opportunities before us—so that we may be able to say, as the Psalmist does, “The Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy.”[3]

  • What might help you this week to focus on the good that is possible for you to do and to experience, even amidst difficulty?
  • What holds you back from such openness?
  • When was there a moment in your life in which you embodied an open, positive mindset, and what were you doing—or what was occurring—at that time to make this possible? What might you glean from this experience to apply to your life today?

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

[1] Isaiah 43:19.

[2] John 8:7.

[3] Psalm 126:3.

A Sign of the Times

This Mission Monday continues our journey with Christians throughout the world who move through their sacred season of Lent. In the Lenten Scripture readings for this week, we engage with a familiar story from the Old Testament. Moses, tending his flock, encounters a burning bush. To his surprise, the bush remains intact, continuing to burn but unconsumed by the blaze. So, Moses investigates … and he hears from the flames the call of God. Mysterious, commanding, fearsome, the voice of God speaks to Moses. His life, as well as human history, will never be the same.

Lucky Moses. His sign came in the form of a supernatural occurrence—a non-perishable shrub—and the self-identified voice of God calling him by name. It would have been next to impossible for him not to have noticed these things around him! My signs are usually a little more difficult to discern. Maybe yours are too.

I am not saying they are not there. I believe we do get signs all the time, from God, the universe, our Higher Power, or perhaps just as a result of how we choose to make meaning out of the things in our lives. Whatever the source, receiving a sign can be a purposeful, powerful event. It can give us strength, conviction, and guidance. But it is seldom as obvious as a burning bush.

Then how do we discern the signs in our own lives? The rainbow after a shower that gives us hope. The call that seems more like a whisper. The invisible hand of God. If asked how to discover the signs around us, Vincent de Paul would very likely advise paying close attention to our own life experiences.[1] Reflecting upon our thoughts and feelings, our successes and failures, our values and desires, our relationships and behaviors—honestly, humbly, patiently, compassionately— allows us to learn and grow. It is a practice Vincent and his colleagues devoted their lives to, and it contributed to many of the decisions they made in establishing what we now know as the Vincentian Family.

So many of us are eager to encounter and cooperate with the signs that we believe exist in and around us, to connect with that which is bigger than ourselves. Cultivating a practice that helps us attend to the signs in our lives is time well spent. We may never come upon a burning bush. But undoubtedly, we will discern the wisdom, truth, and hope that are there for us and that we are meant to uncover.

Invitation for Reflection:

How do you look for signs around you? How do you discern them? When have you discovered and been led by them in the past?

What might be signs in your life right now? What are they calling you to or pointing you toward? Are you excited by them? Do they evoke other feelings (uncertainty? fear?) in you?

Consider how you can cultivate a practice of reflection and discernment. What questions do you have? What might be helpful for you to make this a successful practice?


Reflection by: Tom Judge, Assistant Director and Chaplain, Faculty and Staff Engagement, Division of Mission and Ministry

[1] See for example, Letter 1138, “To Étienne Blatiron, Superior, in Genoa,” September 17, 1649, CCD, 3:480; and Letter 460, “To Pierre Escart, in Annecy,” July 25, 1640, CCD, 2:84.

 

Moving from Revelation to Action

Have you ever had an uplifting, transformational experience that is so striking that, at least in the moment, you don’t think you can go back to the way things were? Where you lost your routine thoughts and cares and became one with the moment, washed away with wonder? Did it feel as if you were no longer just “you” but part of a broad tapestry of life and being, woven together in uncanny ways? This happens to me most often when I’m on a trip or in nature, quite appropriately in a liminal or in-between space. Often, it takes such distance from the mundane to open myself up to transformation. Hiking the heights of mountains, staring off into the sunset of a boundless ocean, living and caring for others on a service trip, or closing your eyes and hearing the echoes of music in an ancient cathedral … these experiences connect us to something deeper, as we let go of our normal patterns of thought and being. They remind us of who we are and who we can be.

Details of such moments abound in good books, engaging movies, the sacred stories of many faith traditions, and in different narrative accounts of personal and collective transformation. We find one of those in the Christian scriptures in the readings prescribed for this week of the Lenten season. It is a story of a literal mountaintop experience. A few disciples have hiked up a mountain, following Jesus. At the top, they see a “transfigured” Christ, who has been revealed as supernaturally radiant. They also have visions of Elijah and Moses. We don’t need to go into the religious connotations to see this reading’s relevance in our lives. For the disciples, their mountaintop revelation is an uncanny experience—an event that they believe will forever mark a line between the before and after. They are transformed as much as Jesus is transfigured. One of the disciples wants to pitch tents and stay in that moment longer, but it is carried away, quite literally, with a passing cloud.

That’s the thing about transformational experiences. The clarity that they give can pass by as quickly as a cloud. Even as we try to hold on to them, their impact can fade with time. We can be tempted to try and stay within them—lost in their beauty, but without a clear idea of how to integrate that experience into our lives. I’m sure we’ve all been there: we come back from a trip and pledge that we’ll do things differently! But soon we lose that urgency and inspiration and fall back to the status quo.

Our own Vincentian tradition at DePaul counsels us to lean into action after these transformational experiences. Vincent de Paul had his own seminal experiences, most of which were grounded in his interactions with others. From the dying peasant in Folleville, to the outpouring of charity and the insistence of Madame de Gondi on “what must be done,” to his lifelong friendship with Louise de Marillac, Vincent was transformed by his mutuality with others. He was able to integrate these experiences into sustainable action. They revealed to him our shared mission to help others with our goodwill and honest efforts. He charged us “not only to do good, but to do it well.”[1]

What are some experiences that made you lose yourself and feel a deeper connection to the world? Did these experiences share anything in common?

Has there been a time when you’ve returned from a trip or a momentous experience, and you implemented change in your life? What was it?

What helps you personally make sustainable change? How about collectively in your work with others?


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

[1] Conference 177, “Repetition of Prayer,” November 25, 1657, CCD, 11:289. Available at https://‌via.‌library.‌depaul.‌edu/‌vincentian_ebooks/37/.

 

 

Moving Beyond Temptation

Christians throughout the world are entering the first full week of the season of Lent, which stretches this year from last week’s Ash Wednesday through to Easter Sunday (April 17th). These approximately forty days (about six weeks) invite Christians to a time of profound reflection and honest life assessment, as well as to return to a deep trust in and fundamental dependence on God’s provision and care, especially where they may have gone astray. The readings in the first week of Lent draw from the scriptural stories of Jesus’s forty days of temptation in the desert, as well as to the Hebrew people’s forty years of wandering in the desert before reaching the promised land. The number forty in Hebrew and Christian scriptures is shorthand for “a very, very long time.”

The season of Lent corresponds this year to an apparent relief from our very long journey through the COVID pandemic, as infection numbers and deaths continue to drop and hope rises for a return to seeing each other’s faces and smiles more regularly. Like the scriptural stories, after this very long and challenging period of time, we hunger to feel wholeness again individually and collectively. Yet just when we begin to feel some hope about that, we must confront the daily realities of war and death in Ukraine. The brutal violence and abuse of power manifest there is deeply troubling.

The challenges that life brings us can feel relentless. Sometimes, the world’s harsh realities can overwhelm us and tempt us to forget the truth of who we are and what we stand for. Into the midst of these challenges, the season of Lent enters, inviting all to remember what is most essential and who we are called to be.

In times when we are troubled or driven by our deepest longings—for love, for peace, for attention, for recognition, for pleasure, for self-expression—we can also be most vulnerable to the tendency to satiate our hungers with a quick and easy fix. Our desperate desire to be rid of our hunger pangs for moments of rest and peace can lead us to seek satisfaction in short-term or even harmful solutions. This tendency can occur with physical hunger, but it is also true with emotional, psychological, and social hungers. Over time, we can easily fall into habits that orient our minds and actions toward easy solutions, rather than toward that which is good.

Jesus’s forty days in the desert serves as a scriptural entry point into the Lenten season. Presented with the opportunities for comfort, power, and an easy fix to his troubles, Jesus withstands temptation because he is rooted in his fundamental identity as the beloved child of God who is filled with the Holy Spirit and called to be the Prince of Peace and the embodiment of love. Regardless of one’s religious, spiritual, or philosophical background, this Christian narrative and the season of Lent offers an invitation to all of us to reflect on our own life temptations and fundamental sense of identity.

Over these next forty days, how might you make the time and space to reconnect to the deep roots of who you are and what you seek to stand for in your life? As you do so, how might you identify and move away from any habits of mind and living that have taken you off course?

Vincent de Paul’s advice to his followers included the encouragement to be faithful to the practice of daily mental prayer, spiritual reading, or quiet solitude.[1] Vincent understood that without such time and space, we are more prone to seeking easy solutions to the challenges that face us rather than following the lead of Providence.

If making such time and space regularly seems impossible right now, perhaps begin with just thirty seconds of deep, restorative breathing, maybe even multiple times a day, and build from there. In doing so, we can grow more attuned to our emotions and anxious thoughts or reactions that can become patterns or unhealthy habits in our lives. And we learn the patience to sit momentarily still before our anxieties and impulsive desires, thereby becoming more intentional and authentic in our response.

As you remember most deeply who you are, what do you feel called to stand for in your life? What values do you seek to embody as you face life’s challenges and temptations?

What are the times, places or situations when you are most prone to pursue mental or life habits that draw you away from what you know to be best for you and for others?

What would help you in this season to be rooted again in what is most authentic to who you are?


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

[1] See for example: Conference 25, “Love of God,” n.d., CCD, 11:33; and Conference 67, “Meditation,” n.d., CCD, 11:76.

 

 

 

Living Our Words through Actions

During this Black History month, I have been reflecting a great deal, as I often do, on the life of Malcolm X. February 21 marked the fifty-seventh anniversary of his martyrdom. Encountering the life and work of Malcolm, also known as El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz, changed the course of my own life, and I have studied and taught about him for three decades now.

There is often mystery involved in who becomes known and influential and who is largely forgotten to history. Some people are famous during their lifetimes and become unknown later. Others are obscure in their lifetimes and become famous after their deaths. Many people become known and thought of in ways that would surprise them and those who knew them. For those of us who have faith, we believe there is divine providence in these processes, and yet none would deny that many truly good people are never known or recognized beyond their families.

One of the Vincentian virtues, in fact the virtue most beloved to Vincent de Paul, was simplicity.[1] Although Malcolm first came to national prominence on the basis of his rhetorical powers, I believe it is his simplicity that continues to inspire. Simplicity involves actions such as witnessing to what is true, living in a way where deeds match words, and believing with complete sincerity in ideals. None of us—not even Vincent or Malcom X—are perfect, but if we strive in a way that honors this virtue, it will show in our lives.

It can at times be easier to love such exemplars from a distance. Simplicity requires us to tell the truth, as we understand it, to ourselves, those whom we love, and those who have power. It requires us to push ourselves and others to live up to our words when hypocritical virtue is often more comfortable. It requires us to not only speak what is popular but to say what needs to be said and do what needs to be done. It requires us to change and grow, which often demands more courage than facing physical danger.[2] In the last years of his life, Malcolm was passionate about acknowledging the shortcomings of people and institutions to whom he had devoted all his gifts and energies. He saw it as necessary to honoring the ideals that he held sacred.

Some may say Malcolm X is far different than Vincentian role models such as Vincent, Louise de Marillac, or Frédéric Ozanam. Malcolm’s rhetoric was revolutionary and at times harsh, even if often marked with humor and love that are salient to anyone truly familiar with his life and character. Yet the similarities are what strike me. Malcom and our Vincentian role models were all committed, not just to speaking about suffering or injustice, but acting effectively to lessen it. They were all driven by a need to be true to their ideals and to form and live in vibrant, life-giving communities. And they were all willing to change and grow even when it was hard or scary. They were all able to embrace these challenges due to their profound faith in God and love for humanity.[3]

Christians around the world are preparing to enter the season of Lent, when, through intensified worship and closeness to God, they prepare themselves to better meet such challenges. This year, the fasting month of Ramadan falls shortly after, when Muslims will pursue similar goals.

What are some ways you can live up to your own ideals effectively through your work at DePaul? Are there ways in which you have changed or may feel a need to change to be true to your values, even if it is hard or frightening?


Reflection by: Abdul-Malik Ryan, Assistant Director and Muslim Chaplain, Office of Religious Diversity and Pastoral Care, Division of Mission and Ministry

[1] For past reflections on simplicity, visit https://blogs.depaul.edu/dmm/tag/simplicity/.

[2] For Malcolm, change involved physical danger as well. Vincentian role models also faced danger in their work. For example, Marguerite Naseau, who is regarded as the first Daughter of Charity, followed God’s call to serve the poor and the sick. This resulted in ridicule and, eventually, in her own illness and death. For more, see https://daughters-of-charity.com/marguerite-naseau/.

[3] For a deeper examination of what we may learn from Malcom X, see my article, “Lessons from the Life of Malcom X.” Available at https://muslimmatters.org/2011/06/29/lessons-from-the-life-of-malcolm-x/.

 

UMMA’s Fast-a-Thon Iftar Dinner will take place this year on March 9, 2022, at 5:30 PM in Cortelyou Commons. DePaul community members can RSVP on DeHub: https://‌dehub.‌campusgroups.com/‌event_‌details?uid=d5ef46fe6af4f974d637b60ec8a25c2b

Learning to Discern Well

“Virtue loves discernment and can never be excessive—neither too little nor too much.”
(Document 57, Journal of the Last Days of Saint Vincent, 5 June 1660, CCD, 13a:196.)


“…in the final analysis, virtue is not found in extremes, but in prudence.…”
Letter 881, To Etienne Blatiron, In Genoa, 26 October 1646, CCD, 3:101-02.


As the global community faces uncertainty and fear surrounding the COVID crisis, we are invited into a period of ongoing discernment individually and collectively about what to do and how to live in the midst of this current and unprecedented situation. Discernment might be thought of as both the art of making wise decisions about particular matters, as well as developing the habit of learning and growing in wisdom through our daily challenges and experiences.

A focus on discernment is especially suited to the current season of Lent, practiced by Catholics and in many other Christian traditions during these 40 days leading to the celebration of Easter. What wisdom might this time-tested annual spiritual practice hold for us now as we seek to discern well?

While we find little in Vincent de Paul’s writings specifically concerning the practices of Lent, he clearly invited his followers to consider what they might do in order to use this season well. For many Catholics in the northern hemisphere, the Lenten season is a sort of spiritual “spring training” during which we re-assess where we are on our journey and re-focus ourselves on what is most important.

For some, using the Lenten season well, therefore, means committing to positive action consistently over this 40-day period, hoping to build or deepen habits that reflect important values or goals. Others find it helpful to use the Lenten season to focus on refraining from habits that may be unwittingly pulling them away from what is most important—because sometimes we are swayed into navigating the stresses of life in ways that are ultimately harmful and do not reflect the best of who we are.

Vincent’s unswerving focus on moving from espoused values to lived virtues offers a timeless challenge particularly relevant for this season of Lent, as well as during this time of public crisis. Virtues, as Vincent understood them, are values that are embodied or put into practice consistently through our actions and in concrete ways. He believed that virtues are “acquired only by repeated acts,” and are not realized all at once but only “gradually, gently, and patiently” over time (1933, To Pierre de Beaumont, CCD, 5:443). Vincent tended not to rush making decisions, but waited for the best path to be revealed through careful attention to prayer and to the realities of life.

Certain situations in our lives offer us compelling opportunities to practice the art of discernment. We are living in such a situation now.

The Lenten season invites us to exercise these discernment muscles as a regular and ongoing practice in our lives, such that making wise decisions becomes more our habit. Vincent’s wisdom invites us to focus on putting our values into practice, and to pay careful attention to what is being revealed through our daily life, our experiences and relationships.

As we move through this season and the challenges before us, we also can look forward to the promise of springtime. May this season bless us with a deepened wisdom and a stronger connection to one another, as well as with hope for the abundance of new life on its way in the near future.

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

Season of Lent

Wednesday, March 6 marks the beginning of the Christian season of Lent. For many Christian communities throughout the world, Lent is an important time of reflection and sacrifice, spiritual renewal and transformation. This period of 40 days before Easter provides an opportunity for introspection and for reconciling our lives against our ideals by way of spiritual practices such as prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.

During Lent, millions of Christians will commit themselves to 40 consecutive days of developing or reestablishing a positive habit, abstaining from some negative ones, or seeking to grow in their own personal integrity. Regardless of your spiritual background, Mission and Ministry invites you to participate in one or more of these practices during this Lenten season as a way for personal growth.