Health as Treasure

As dawn replaces darkness in Chicago and lake effect clouds rise, patrons stand on cold pavement six feet apart to order hot coffee along quasi-empty streets with boarded-up businesses. The wind bites customers who shiver as they stand waiting under the gloomy sky. What do they recall about this time last year? What has changed?

Filled with nostalgia, memories may surface of bustling commerce and camaraderie—the simple enjoyments of life prior to COVID19. Then we lived with some predictability, although our sensitivities were numbed by expectations entrenched in the social constructs of yesteryear. We had hoped a new era would be more kind, just, equitable and inclusive, but life changed unexpectedly. An invisible enemy destroyed normalcy. Forced to separate, isolate, quarantine, and trace contacts, an unknown adversary began to shatter families, relationships, and communities, forcing us to acknowledge our vulnerability. Swiftly, security morphed into insecurity and anxiety, heightened by fear of the deadly danger. Modern society is neither the first nor will be the last to respond to such a challenge. Nevertheless, uncertainty and dread have bred inescapable apprehension.

“There is nothing that bothers me more than uncertainty,” acknowledged Vincent de Paul, who was keenly aware of the unpredictability of life changing events and their impact on individuals and families.(1) Louise de Marillac encountered victims of the plague in France, prompting her to advise the Daughters of Charity to “take good care of yourself amid the great dangers.”(2) She imposed travel restrictions in one town and reported that the Sisters there had “stopped the visiting of the sick and the schools.”(3)

As a Vincentian community gathered for the sake of the mission, we are called to care for one another and ourselves. In order to overcome quarantine fatigue, “we must go forward without becoming discouraged.”(4) We need to acknowledge our current reality of living during a global pandemic. Louise knew the value of self-care: “I have great need of a few days to think about myself and be renewed.”(5) As those patrons who sip their morning coffee and savor the aroma, recall Vincentian wisdom: “Take good care of your health.”(6) “Health is the most precious treasure of life.”(7)

Take care of yourself. Take care of one another. Take Care DePaul!

Reflection Questions

  1. How do I respond when dark clouds besiege my life?
  2. What enables me to summon the courage to go forward?
  3. What must I do for optimum self-care, or to be renewed?

1) 175, Vincent de Paul to Louise de Marillac, CCD, 1:240.

2) 411, Vincent de Paul to Louise de Marillac, 12 [December] 1639, CCD, 1:595-6.

3) Ibid.

4) 1307, Vincent de Paul to René Alméras, (3 January 1651), CCD, 138-40.

5) L.4, Louise de Marillac to Vincent de Paul, 4 September c. 1634, Spiritual Writings of Louise de Marillac, 10.

6) 411, Vincent de Paul to Louise de Marillac, 12 [December] 1639, CCD, 1:595-6.

7) A.92, (On the Duties of the Motherhouse), Spiritual Writings of Louise de Marillac, 810.

 

Reflection by Sr. Betty Ann

Look Up with Hope

Over the past weeks I’ve been privy to the laments of many who are trying to remain hopeful as they or their dear ones face the fear of COVID, as they struggle in a virtual world, or as they grapple with growing angst over our country. While we are living through very trying times, we are reminded by Elizabeth Ann Seton, a woman who knew suffering and struggles well, that sometimes all we can do is “look up with hope.”1

We hang onto a hope that tomorrow will be a new day with new challenges. But, in these trying times, our hope is often that we will be able to carry on and live to see a better day. Guiding the way, we are privileged to turn to the wisdom of our Vincentian sister who reminded us that no matter how difficult things are, “hope travels on nor quits us till we die.”2

It is in this hope that we will find the courage and energy to meet the challenges before us. It is in trusting hope that we look forward to a new and better day. Look up, and hope.


1) Regina Bechtle, S.C., Judith Metz, S.C., eds., Elizabeth Bayley Seton: Collected Writings, 3 vols. (Hyde Park: New City Press, 2000-2006), 2:611.

2) Ibid., 1:7.

 

Reflection by:  Rev. Dr. Diane Dardón, Director, Religious Diversity and Pastoral Care, Division of Mission and Ministry

Simplicity in Hectic Times

Since the academic year started, I’ve felt like I’m learning to juggle while the balls are already in the air. Fall Quarter is hectic in ordinary times, but this school year is anything but average. We face a global pandemic, systemic racism and racist violence, a declining economy, massive unemployment numbers, and political upheaval and uncertainty. The pandemic has made burdens that people already carried much heavier, and it has added new burdens to our loads.

In those moments when it feels like there are too many balls to juggle, I turn toward the Vincentian virtue of simplicity. In the Vincentian tradition, the value of simplicity is twofold. On the one hand, it refers to clear and honest speech. When we speak simply, we are our most authentic selves. In The Way of Vincent de Paul, Robert Maloney, C.M., writes “The heart must not think one thing while the mouth says another.”1 In our context today, simplicity might invite us to name honestly when we have reached our limits and need support. Likewise, it might mean speaking truth to power in the face of injustice and political turmoil.

Simplicity also invites us to clear away the clutter in our lives to make room for the things that truly matter. In a time when we face an immense amount of mental clutter and overstimulation, simplicity can remind us to pause and refocus our attention where it needs to be. It reminds us to make room in our lives for stillness and rest.

As you start the week, notice the ways you feel called toward simplicity.

  • Where do you feel you need to speak your truth?
  • Where do you feel stretched too thin? If you’re juggling too many balls, is it possible to remove one from the rotation and/or ask for support?
  • Where is the clutter in your life? How can you actively clear it away to find room for stillness?
  • What is one way you can rest today?

1) Robert P. Maloney, C.M., The Way of Vincent de Paul: A Contemporary Spirituality in the Service of the Poor (New York: New City Press, 1992), 38. See: https://via.library.depaul.edu/maloney/13/

 Reflection by:    Emily LaHood-Olsen, Ministry Coordinator for Service Immersions, Division of Mission and Ministry

Take Care of Yourself!

I have never felt the pressing need for self-care more than I do right now. Occasionally, I find myself ruminating on the state of the world. Over six months of the Covid-19 pandemic with no immediate end in sight. Urgent social justice and human rights issues in our community and country which call us to face hard truths and work for change. A bitter national election entering its final stages. All in addition to the “usual” professional and personal demands that, on their own, seem just enough for the average plate to hold. All told, this is a lot.  Why is it, then, that in the face of such challenges we often forget to treat ourselves with added care and compassion?

I am not sure, but perhaps if the instructions to do so came directly from Vincent de Paul or Louise de Marillac, we might be more mindful of the practice of self-care. To be sure, this was an instruction Vincent and Louise gave many times over, as seen in their voluminous correspondence. We witness Vincent urging a priest in his community, “Please do all in your power to stay well, Monsieur, and to take better care of yourself than you have done.”1 And, writing to a Daughter of Charity, Louise was even more succinct, “Take care of yourself, for the love of God…” she implored her.2

To borrow a contemporary phrase, Vincent and Louise were “creating space” for their community members to recognize their limitations and attend to their needs. Undoubtedly, they were motivated by genuine concern for them, but Vincent and Louise also knew that unless a person takes care of themselves, they will be in no position to take care of others. And, caring for others—especially the sick, the orphaned, the marginalized and poor—has been the mission of Vincentian communities since their beginnings.

For some of us, taking time for self-care may never be easy. But, it is so important! Maybe realizing the connection between our own self-care and how it affects our ability to care for others will help. Or maybe simply remembering that our patrons, Vincent and Louise, believed in self-care will be enough to make us believe in its importance, too.

Sit for a few moments in peace and quiet and ask yourself how, if at all, you may be feeling depleted? What can you do to replenish yourself? Acts of self-care may be big, or they may be small. How might you be called, in big ways or small, to care for yourself these days?

 


1 2905, To Louis Rivet, Superior, In Saintes, 13 July 1659, CCD, 8:31.

2 L.58B, To Sister Élisabeth Martin, 7 August (1641), Spiritual Writings, 56.

Reflection by: Tom Judge, Chaplain, Mission and Ministry

 

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