“You say you experience great difficulty in the Mission. Alas! Monsieur, there is no lot in life where there is nothing to be endured.” – Vincent de Paul (931, To Claude Dufour, 31 March 1647, CCD, 3:173.)
As we continue to move through the challenging ramifications and unpredictable events associated with the COVID-19 virus, how might we find some perspective in the lived example of Vincent de Paul? Vincent’s era was replete with tragedy and critical challenges, including violent conflict, hunger, sickness, and natural disasters. How might his example in the way he faced such crises offer us perspective in moving through the challenges ahead with grace and wisdom?
Vincent encouraged his colleagues to practice “unwavering courage” and to be “stouthearted in the face of difficulties.” (CCD, 11:216.) He was realistic and pragmatic, and not prone to trusting idealistic fantasies or pipedreams. He recognized that troubles were a part of life and not something we can expect to avoid, for “they are to be encountered everywhere.” (CCD, 8:113.)
For Vincent, such times invited creativity and adaptability as a response. He was tremendously resourceful and believed challenges like these “give rise to the practice of two beautiful virtues: perseverance, which leads us to attain the goal, and constancy, which helps us to overcome difficulties.” (CCD, 4:36-37.) He was known for his “prayerful and calm attentiveness” in facing terrible suffering, particularly among the poor and marginalized. (Deville, “French School of Spirituality,” Vincentian Heritage 11:1 , 40.) He felt that such circumstances can allow us to grow in compassion for one another. Ultimately, and so important for us to recognize today, Vincent remained confident in the future, trusting that “the storm will abate, and the calm will be greater and more pleasing than ever.” (CCD, 5:454.)
Inspired by Vincent de Paul’s example, let us find creative and meaningful ways to apply this Vincentian spirit to the particular challenges before us during this crisis.
How might Vincent’s way of navigating difficulty inspire your own creative action and response to today’s challenges? How can you be a source of encouragement and support for those around you?
Reflection by: Mark Laboe, Associate Vice President, Mission and Ministry