Blue Demons and Butterflies

When you see a butterfly fluttering its wings, what comes to mind? For some, possibly the complete metamorphosis from eggs to caterpillar to chrysalis to adult; others might imagine grace and beauty. In the richness of its diverse expressions, nature provides many images of transition and change like the dynamic life of a butterfly. For example, the genus Morpho butterfly includes 29 species and 150 sub-species. Living harmoniously, the size, color, and wingspan of each manifests its unique beauty amid natural diversity. The life and behavior of butterflies teach many lessons if we take time to observe them. Ponder the possibilities.

The royal blue color and dazzling iridescent wings of Morpho butterflies reminds me of the Blue Demons of DePaul University wherein true blue signifies respect, loyalty, and search for truth. As nature is enriched by its diverse expressions, diversity enriches our academic community. When embraced and celebrated, diversity inspires transformation, which butterflies symbolize.

The fleeting, flickering presence of butterflies reveals not only delicate designs but also fragility. Their ongoing fight for survival challenges us to sustain their existence in our world. Created to flourish, human life is also fragile. Human and natural diversity challenges us to live, work, and play together harmoniously—to care for one another, to tend our common home, and to nurture the earth community. Personalism makes that possible.

As a diverse, multi-faith, and inclusive community Vincentian personalism enables us to uphold the dignity of everyone. Respect for each person is foundational. Vincent de Paul taught, “Respect is an expression of the esteem you have for the person you respect…Respect has its source in the understanding because it comes from the knowledge of a person’s worth.”1

We honor one another as Blue Demons and show our Vincentian spirit when we wear DePaul blue on Thursdays or at events. Like the Morpho butterfly with its royal blue robe and fluttering wings, Blue Demons wear blue with pride as their DePaul robe of distinction. Vincent de Paul encouraged his collaborators to “Strive always to have the robe of charity” because that signified love of God and love of neighbor.2 Actions, attitudes, and attentiveness to others express our Vincentian values—the spirit of DePaul.

  1. Just as a caterpillar undergoes change and transformation before spreading its wings as a butterfly, what new attitudes, or behaviors must I develop to appreciate and respect others who do not believe or look like me?
  2. In what ways can I participate in cultural transformation for greater equity and justice for the DePaul community? For the global city of Chicago? For the neighborhood where I live?

1 Conference 96, Cordiality, Respect, and Exclusive Friendships, 2 June 1658, CCD, 10:394. Available at: https://via.library.depaul.edu/coste_en/

2 Conference 93, Mutual Charity and the Duty for Reconciliation, 4 March 1658, CCD, 10:379.

 

Reflection by:    Betty Ann McNeil, D.C., Vincentian Scholar-in-Residence, Mission & Ministry

Discovering a Resilient Joy

My heart is still overflowing with joy on account of the understanding which, I believe, our good God has given me of the words, “God is my God” … Therefore, I cannot help communicating with you this evening to ask you to assist me to profit from this excess of joy…”1

The ups and downs of the election season and the continued uncertainty that lingers regarding the state of our nation and a public health crisis make evident to us that unless we want to ride an emotional rollercoaster, we need to find a deeper, steadier, and more sustainable source of joy.

As quoted above from a letter to Vincent de Paul, Louise de Marillac found a source for such resilient joy in the ongoing presence of her God. From her Christian imagination and faith, she spoke with confidence of a belief that even in moments of loss and hardship, there is always the possibility of new life and resurrected hope. This way of making meaning offered her the possibility of a resilient joy that sustained her generative life of service and charity.2

What about you? Where do you seek and find a joy that is not dependent on the daily fluctuations of your external environment, such as the post-election results or COVID numbers, or the inevitably temperamental nature of human emotions and thoughts?

As I have aged, I’ve come to realize that much of the quality of my life is about learning how to live with loss. Whether the loss of a loved one to death, the loss of an idealistic dream or well-designed plan, the loss of a favorite sports team, or even the loss of my hair, losses can sting and leave us flustered, sad, angry, and off-balance. Furthermore, there is often a tendency to turn that hurt or sadness inward on ourselves in the form of self-critique or self-loathing, or outward onto others with blame and judgment. Handling loss like this does not lead to the kind of meaningful joy that Louise speaks of and we desire. Such joy will only come with a willingness to accept what we cannot change or control, to accept reality as it is, even if we would rather it be different.

Staring reality in the face, might we find joy simply in knowing that we can begin again from where we now are? Life offers us an infinite number of opportunities to begin again and ultimately reach our goals. There is joy to be found in re-discovering our freedom and creativity, in finding new ways to shine a light amidst darkness, and in being generative despite uncertainty or difficulty.

I suspect that this is what Louise de Marillac discovered, that with God’s help, the human spirit is resilient and will always rise again.


1) L. 369, To Monsieur Vincent, August 24 (Before 1650), Spiritual Writings of Louise de Marillac, 341. Online at: https://via.library.depaul.edu/ldm/11/

2) For more on the overflowing joy and generativity of Louise’s life, see: Vie Thorgren, “‘God is My God’: The Generative Integrity of Louise de Marillac,” Vincentian Heritage 12:2 (1991), 201-18. Available at: https://via.library.depaul.edu/vhj/vol12/iss2/7

 

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

 


Join us this coming Wednesday!

Gratitude Workshop

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Noon to 1 pm

The DePaul community is invited to join the College of Communication and the Division of Mission & Ministry for a lunchtime workshop devoted to gratitude practices. Research indicates that cultivating a sense of gratitude in our lives protects us from stress and depression and increases resiliency. With Thanksgiving just around the corner, this is the perfect time to come learn some new approaches to feeling and expressing gratitude. Click here to register for Gratitude Workshop.

 

The Complex but Necessary Union of Charity and Justice

 

Meghan Clark discusses the relationship between charity and justice as set forth in two of Benedict XVI’s encyclicals, Deus Caritas Est and Caritas in Veritate, and then considers what Vincentian tradition contributes toward the understanding of that relationship. Clark writes, “What emerges is a model of cultivating solidarity through justice and charity as integral to the life of Christian discipleship.” Deus Caritas Est calls for direct service to those in need because it is only through charity and loving others that we are fully aware of God’s love for us. As Clark summarizes Caritas in Veritate, “Justice in relations is a precondition for living charity. . . . Both charity and justice are required for healthy relationships with God and neighbor.” Justice and charity require work toward the common good, and charity expands justice to include the marginalized. Clark defines the institutional nature of charity in the Church and explains how Vincent de Paul, Louise de Marillac, and their communities exemplify it. Vincent and Louise recognized that effective charity required organized personal and institutional responses to systemic injustice. Vincentian tradition seeks to foster solidarity through commitment to each person’s dignity and to nurture justice within all levels of society.

“The Complex but Necessary Union of Charity and Justice: Insights from the Vincentian Tradition for Contemporary Catholic Social Teaching” is an article that appears in the Vincentian Heritage Journal, Volume 31, Issue 2, Article 1 (2012) and is available at: https://via.library.depaul.edu/vhj/vol31/iss2/1

 

Charity is a Verb

 

The Vincentian Question, “What Shall Be Done?” is framed in such a way that its answer implies action.  When offering guidance on Charity to his confreres, the Daughters, the Confraternities, and to us, Vincent is clear: “Love of God and of neighbor is authenticated in visible action.” Charity is the true characteristic of the Love of God; it cannot remain idle.  In fact, a life dedicated to Charity demands fearless, unending work involving the “sweat of our brows and the expense of our arms.

“Charity is a Verb” is a chapter from the book Windows on His Vision (pp. 127-128) available at: https://via library.depaul.edu/windows/2/

It is also available as an ebook here: https://via.library.depaul.edu/vincentian_ebooks/8/

The Journey of and to the Poor

 

An explication is presented of a carving hanging in Ravasi Hall of the DePaul Centre in Nairobi, Kenya. The panel is entitled “Saint Vincent on the road of the Poor in Africa,” and the artist’s vision is presented first. Following the road in the carving, Vincent de Paul meets and cares for the many types of poor persons in Kenya; the viewer goes on a similar journey. W. Barry Moriarty believes the carving can also represent the trajectory of Vincent’s life, ending in service to the poor. In Moriarty’s interpretation, Vincent’s life is presented within the context of an epic journey.

“The Journey of and to the Poor” is an article in the Vincentian Heritage Journal, Volume 31, Issue 1, Article 6 (2012) available at: https://via.library.depaul.edu/vhj/vol31/iss1/6

‘There Is Great Charity, But…’ Vincent de Paul and the Organization of Charity

 

Vincent de Paul was able to accomplish great works of charity because he was an extraordinary organizer and manager. His early experience at Chatillon-les-Dombes showed him the importance of organizing charity so that it could have effective, long-term results. Vincent’s methods are analyzed according to modern nonprofit organization theory, with particular emphasis on what he said and did regarding “foundation, mission and structure.” He attached special importance to meetings and staffing issues. The article also addresses how his ways of organizing can be applied to charity in the twenty-first century.

“There is Great Charity, But…Vincent de Paul and the Organization of Charity” is an article by Thomas G. Fuechtmann, Ph.D., appearing in the Vincentian Heritage Journal, Volume 26, Issue 1, Article 5 available at: https://via.library.depaul.edu/vhj/vol26/iss1/5

 

Our good will and honest efforts. Vincentian Perspectives on Poverty Reduction Efforts

 

Vincent de Paul believed it was God’s will to serve poor persons as Christ would serve them. Edward Udovic translates the traditional five Vincentian virtues that are necessary to perform this service into modern terms. He discusses the discernment that must be done when considering actions to reduce poverty. Following Vincent’s example, poverty reduction efforts must provide triage services to alleviate the poor’s most urgent problems. Such efforts must be planned carefully so they can respond to continuous need. They should also be conducted with an understanding of the new forms and causes of poverty to bring about long-term, effective change. These efforts are not aimed at creating a utopia. They are instead “grace-assisted . . . reasonable attempts to live in the kingdom of God that exists here and now within the ultimate mystery of the ‘already but not yet.’”

“‘Our good will and honest efforts.’ Vincentian Perspectives on Poverty Reduction Efforts” is an article that appeared in the Vincentian Heritage Journal, Volume 28, Issue 2, Article 5 (2010) and is available at: https://via.library.depaul.edu/vhj/vol28/iss2/5/

 

VHRN Book of the Week

Church, Society, and Religious Change in France, 1580-1730 by Joseph Bergin
Yale University Press, 2009, 506 p
ISBN: 9780300150988

Winner of the 2010 Me du concours des antiquites de France given by the Academie des Inscriptions et Belles’Lettres in Paris

This readable and engaging book by an acclaimed historian is the only wide-ranging synthesis devoted to the French experience of religious change during the period after the wars of religion up to the early Enlightenment. Joseph Bergin provides a clear, up-to-date, and thorough account of the religious history of France in the context of social, institutional, and cultural developments during the so-called long seventeenth century.

Bergin argues that the French version of the Catholic Reformation showed a dynamism unrivaled elsewhere in Europe. The traumatic experiences of the wars of religion, the continuing search within France for heresy, and the challenge of Augustinian thought successively energized its attempts at religious change. Bergin highlights the continuing interaction of church and society and shows that while the French experience was clearly allied to its European context, its path was a distinctive one.

Joseph Bergin is professor of history at the University of Manchester, and a Fellow of the British Academy. His previous books include Cardinal Richelieu, The Making of the French Episcopate and Crown, Church and Episcopate under Louis XIV, all published by Yale.

Reviews:

An authoritative account of the French church in the ‘long seventeenth century’ that is both general and nuanced. We certainly need a book on this subject and Joseph Bergin is unquestionably the historian to write it.” – Nigel Aston, Leicester University

“Benefiting from a lifetime’s study, Joseph Bergin brilliantly succeeds in showing us how the French Catholic church was the product of a society that it, in turn, did so much to shape. The result is a remarkable recreation of a diverse religious society to which generations of individuals, clerics and laymen, found themselves committed by shared duty and devotion.” – Mark Greengrass, University of Sheffield

“Joseph Bergin’s outstanding synoptic study combines breadth of coverage and depth of understanding to brilliant effect. He brings out the astonishing scale of the Catholic reform movement in France, while offering an incisive analysis of its inner workings and ambiguities. This now becomes the indispensable book for everyone interested in seventeenth-century French Catholicism, and will also be invaluable to all serious students of early modern French and European history.” – Robin Briggs

“The word definitive is perhaps too often used in reviews, but Joseph Bergin’s new book on the French church in the long seventeenth century certainly qualifies. . . . Throughout the book, Bergin is careful in his judgments, meticulous in his use of a wide variety of evidence, and encyclopedic in his knowledge of the subject. . . . It is unlikely that we shall soon see a better work in any language on the French church in the seventeenth century.”-W. Gregory Monahan, American Historical Review

“Essential reading for anyone who wants to understand seventeenth-century France . . . a masterpiece.”–Michael Hayden, Canadian Journal of History

“Joe Bergin has built his reputation as the world’s leading authority on the early modern French church … He knows the church of the grand siècle from the inside, and in analyzing its structure and workings he has attained the stature … of a great historian. …This should now be the first port of call for anybody wishing to understand why and how this persistently perplexing phenomenon emerged as and when it did.” – William Doyle, French History

“[Bergin’s] new work Church, Society and Religious Change in France, 1580-1730 is a monumental study that only a scholar with his past achievements could contemplate undertaking … A focused and readable survey. There is no question that this book is an important and welcome addition to the field … This book is more than just a survey, it also provides a guide to where further research will transform our understanding of the French Church.” – Eric Nelson, Reviews in History

“The accessibility of a work of such scope makes it worth the the cover price alone. Moreover, in its crucial contributions to historical methodologies which force us to rethink a French “Catholic Reformation” which had fizzled out by 1660, makes this book an essential text for students and academics alike.” – Jenny Hillman, Journal of Early Modern History

“[A] remarkable work.”–Jacques M. Gres-Gayer, Catholic Historical Review