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.


Trust in Uncertain Times

In many ways, we are living in uncertain times. As a country, some people are anxious and uncertain about when the results of this year’s presidential and congressional races will be known. As a university, many of us are entering our eighth month of working from home as a result of the pandemic with no idea how much longer this may last. As individuals, some of us may also be facing other personal challenges with uncertain outcomes.

What can we do when we are faced with all this uncertainty?

Consider Louise de Marillac, who turned to her faith. Reflecting during a retreat, she wrote, “I must accept this uncertainty as well as my inability clearly to perceive at this time the path which God wishes me to follow in His service.”1 When faced with challenges, Louise realized that she could not always see where and when those challenges would end, and how she could overcome them. As a Catholic-Christian in seventeenth-century France, she put her faith and trust in God, who she believed to have planned a path for her life. She accepted that she could only do so much, and she believed God would take care of the rest.

What lessons can you take away from Louise’s approach to uncertain times? How might you translate her wisdom to your own life and belief system? When thinking about the uncertainty of life right now, who can you trust or believe in that will help you on your journey, wherever it may lead?

1) A.5, (Retreat), c.1632, Spiritual Writings of Louise de Marillac, 717. See: https://‌via.‌library.‌depaul.‌‌edu/ldm/

Image credit: Bro. Timothy Opferman, C.M., artist; based on a work by Sharon Horace, D.C.; Photo courtesy of Bro. Broer Huitema, C.M.M.; Original in SVdP Center.


Reflection by: Michael Van Dorpe, Program Manager for Faculty and Staff Engagement, Division of Mission and Ministry

Work with What You Have

“God does not ask you to go beyond the means he has given you.”  Vincent de Paul (CCD, 7:523)

One of Vincent de Paul’s frequently mentioned beliefs is that Providence can be relied upon to guide us and to come to our aid. Despite troubles that afflict us or feel overwhelming, Vincent clearly believed that patience and trust would eventually lead us to a deeper recognition of God’s presence and care, perhaps in ways we did not at first recognize or expect. This confidence certainly extends to all matters pertaining to fulfilling the mission entrusted to us.

During times when we question whether we have the means or the ability to overcome the obstacles in our path, Vincent’s words can encourage and challenge us. They instruct us to trust that we already have what it takes to fulfill our personal or collective mission, or that what is needed will be provided to us in due time. He learned through his own many life experiences that “wisdom consists in following providence step by step” (CCD, 2:521) and that “love was inventive to infinity” (CCD, 11:131).

What situations are you now facing that might cause you to question if you have the means to accomplish a task or overcome a challenge that may seem insurmountable? Might there be tools, resources, people, or possibilities that have gone unrecognized or unpursued? In the midst of such questions, might there be another path emerging? What is the next step?

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

A Reflection on Providence in the Easter Season

“Follow the order of Providence. Oh! How good it is to let ourselves be guided by it!” (CCD 1:283-84)

Vincent de Paul often implored his followers to trust in Providence. He fundamentally believed in a God who would provide what was needed for them to fulfill their mission, who would guide their process in carrying it out, and who would bring people into their lives to help them do so. During the season of Easter, Christians throughout the world are now remembering and celebrating the triumph of life, love, and hope over death and despair. This sacred time serves to center trust in their lives on the sustaining presence of this same Providence. One way to understand the substance of our faith is to ask ourselves, “Ultimately, what do we put our trust in?” For Vincent, it was Providence. What is it for you?

Full citation: Letter 198d, To Saint Louise, 1635, CCD, 1:283-84.

Vincent the Alchemist


As an “alchemist,” Vincent de Paul manipulated common elements to transform them into precious realities.  Fr. Jack Melito, C.M. points out how Vincent’s “Tunisian captivity” can serve as a metaphor for his life’s work of changing evil into good, challenge into blessing, the non-intelligible into an understandable Gospel message, the uneducated into the empowered, and the simple poor into our Lords and Masters.

“Vincent the Alchemist” is a chapter from the book Windows on His Vision (pp.  37-42) available at: https://via.library.depaul.edu/windows/5/

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