Calling Your “Best Self”

While only a simple turn of a calendar page from one month to the next, the beginning of a new year offers a conspicuous invitation to begin again with renewed vigor on the path to become the people we aspire to be. It is a convenient opportunity to re-commit to growth, healing, goodness, hope, and possibility.

I have often found inspiration in a line that’s apparently common in Zen Buddhist circles, which simply states, “This is it!” This moment. This situation. Now. Here. All of it. Because I am so prone to “fast-forwarding” in my imagination to an ideal future, this line reminds me to stay present to the reality before me. As a person of faith, I view the present as exactly where God has placed me to do the work entrusted to me. The present is a place to grow into the person I am called to become.

One of the frequent reminders we can take from the words and example of Saint Vincent de Paul echoes this insight. For Vincent, the calling and presence of God, that is, the movement of what he often named “Providence,” emerges in the circumstances of daily life. Vincent looked for this. He tried to pay attention to life events, to relationships, and to the challenges and opportunities before him because he understood that this was exactly where God was leading him. Vincent was also a lover of putting his ideals and values into practice in concrete ways—what he understood to be the practice of virtue.

We might say then that the “most Vincentian thing” for us to do as we begin this new year is to bring forth our “best selves” as we face the realities that surround us. To create spaces for the goodness in us and in others to come to the light of day, to be nourished and cultivated, shared, and put into practice in concrete ways. To begin again to work with energy and zeal toward the vision of life and community that reflects what we most value, and to leave behind all that works against it.

Let’s do this together for the benefit of all and for the flourishing of our DePaul community. And let me/us know in Mission and Ministry how we can work with you to do so!

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

Step a Little Lighter

by Tom Judge

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At the end of December, as I contemplated the calendar and the flip from 2014 to 2015, I imagined myself, of all things, an Acapulco cliff diver, balancing at the edge, preparing to take the plunge. Once the calendar turned, I jumped (and I had to jump) there was no way to hit the pause button, no way to turn back. The laws of gravity took over and my task since then has been simply to make the most of the journey.

Contemplating the New Year left me bit anxious, a little excited, somewhat resigned. I can’t stop time from passing, I know. But, I can have some influence over the way it passes.

I think of myself as a unique and dazzling being – special just for being me. But, just as importantly, a part of the greater whole. A community expanding outward to encompass many individuals and communities – all just as valuable and essential as myself.

I thought now – the middle of February – would be a good time to check in on the New Year with people. What did you commit to at the start of 2015? Are you still committed? What stars have you been steering by…touchstones to ground and center you during the coming year of change and challenge? In case you’ve struggled to find these touchstones, I offer three possibilities here:

Hope – in the future, in what lies ahead. Hope that we will all learn a little this year and that we will not simply make the same old mistakes time after time. (NEW mistakes are ok!)   Hope that is born of faith in something Transcendent. A hope that the same Transcendence that placed a star over a manger and moved three wise men to follow it will be present in our lives, too. Guiding and caring for us as we make our own journeys towards unknown epiphanies.

Compassion – for both others AND ourselves. That we may be gentle and understanding when disappointments arise. For, the reality is that while hope must never be extinguished, we know our aspirations and efforts do not always unfold as we envision. So, however straight or crooked, bumpy or smooth our path is this year, let us try and remember to have compassion. To find the good in life, learn from and accept it and then move on.

Care – if we hold this value dear in 2015, it will manifest in our actions. The stranger, the person on the margins, the homeless, oppressed and disadvantaged. They are never too far from our thoughts; we move in and out of their world and they ours. We grow in understanding and acceptance of the reality that “I am my sister’s keeper. I am my brother’s keeper.” Not only will I serve them, I will purse justice. I will do so in communion with others. This purpose will be visible in my behavior throughout the year.

As January has moved into February and I have adjusted to the new number on the calendar, I have envisioned myself an ancient sojourner. Cloak to protect me from the wind, sturdy shoes and a walking stick for company. But, I am not alone. Being in relationships of love, guided by hope, compassion and care, my heart is brighter, my steps a little lighter as I continue to move forward through 2015.

Tom Judge is a Chaplain at the DePaul Loop Campus.  Feel free to share a comment below about how you’re stepping a little lighter in 2015.