The Sacred Dignity of all Persons

More than four hundred years ago in the small French town of Folleville, France, Saint Vincent de Paul had a transformative experience that he would later describe as the start of the Vincentian mission, which we continue to this day.[1] While serving as a tutor and spiritual director for the wealthy de Gondi family Vincent was called to the bedside of a dying peasant. The opportunity to facilitate the sacrament of confession and the profound positive effect it had on the man revealed much to Vincent about the conditions and human needs that were widespread in his time. When Madame de Gondi famously asked, “What must be done?” the mission had begun.

The Vincentian mission to honor the sacred dignity of every human being has taken many different shapes in many different environments over the last four hundred years. It is a living legacy that seeks to serve the same goals and purposes in ever-changing circumstances. DePaul University seeks primarily to advance the dignity of every person through higher education, but in doing so, we serve the whole person and the larger community. We find and serve not only the material needs of people but their spiritual needs as well. It is because of, not despite, our commitment to our Vincentian Catholic mission that we honor the spiritual needs of all in our community, inclusive of people of all faiths and none.

Much of our Christian community has just come to the end of the Lenten period with the celebration of Easter.[2] Our Jewish community has begun the observance of Passover. Our Muslim community is in the middle of the fasting month of Ramadan. Others observing sacred holidays during this season this year include the Sikh, Jain, and Baha’i communities. We remind ourselves of Dr. Esteban’s call in the fall tocreate an accepting and nurturing environment in which people of every faith are supported and nurtured.”[3] Just as our university closes for Good Friday to facilitate Christians’ observance, we encourage all members of the community to be flexible and accommodating so that people can engage in religious observances and spiritual growth. Doing so enriches and inspires the entire community, as our own Father Memo Campuzano beautifully shared last week.[4] The spirit of accommodation and the honoring of human dignity invites conversation among people about their needs, recognizing that not everyone is the same and all are equally precious. The staff of the Office of Religious Diversity and Pastoral Care is here to serve as a resource whenever we can be helpful in such dialogue.[5]

We invite all of our community to find, as Vincent did, life and beauty in honoring and facilitating the sacred traditions and spiritual needs of each other. Many of us are weighed down by the hardships or just the daily grind of life. We seek these special observances to provide joy and meaning to our lives, as individuals and as communities. Being able to facilitate these moments for others provides a special blessing of its own. The Prophet Muhammad[6] offered this beautiful prayer for those who would provide food for him when it came time to break the fast, “May those who are fasting break their fast with you, may the righteous eat your food, and may the angels pray for you!”[7]


Reflection by:    Abdul-Malik Ryan, Assistant Director, Religious Diversity and Pastoral Care

[1] Andrew Rea, “The 400th Anniversary of St. Vincent de Paul’s Sermon at Folleville,” DePaul University, January 25, 2017, https://news.library.depaul.press/full-text/2017/01/25/4809/.

[2] Orthodox Christians will observe Easter on April 24.

[3] A. Gabriel Esteban, “Religious Observances: Facilitating a Culture of Respect, Understanding and Civility,” DePaul University Newsline, August 31, 2021, https://resources.depaul.edu/newsline/sections/campus-and-community/‌Pages/‌Religious-observances-2021.aspx.

[4] Memo Campuzano, C.M., “Spiritual Times: Times When We Hope Together,” The Way of Wisdom (blog), DePaul University, April 8, 2022, https://blogs.depaul.edu/dmm/2022/04/08/spiritual-times-times-when-we-hope-together/.

[5] Contact information and a calendar of holidays and religiously significant events can be found here: https://offices.depaul.edu/mission-ministry/religious-spiritual-life/religious/Documents/2021-2022_‌Religious_‌Holidays_Calendar.pdf.

[6] Peace and blessings be upon him and all of the prophets and sacred teachers and guides.

[7] Hadith reported by Abu Dawud.

Moving Beyond Temptation

Christians throughout the world are entering the first full week of the season of Lent, which stretches this year from last week’s Ash Wednesday through to Easter Sunday (April 17th). These approximately forty days (about six weeks) invite Christians to a time of profound reflection and honest life assessment, as well as to return to a deep trust in and fundamental dependence on God’s provision and care, especially where they may have gone astray. The readings in the first week of Lent draw from the scriptural stories of Jesus’s forty days of temptation in the desert, as well as to the Hebrew people’s forty years of wandering in the desert before reaching the promised land. The number forty in Hebrew and Christian scriptures is shorthand for “a very, very long time.”

The season of Lent corresponds this year to an apparent relief from our very long journey through the COVID pandemic, as infection numbers and deaths continue to drop and hope rises for a return to seeing each other’s faces and smiles more regularly. Like the scriptural stories, after this very long and challenging period of time, we hunger to feel wholeness again individually and collectively. Yet just when we begin to feel some hope about that, we must confront the daily realities of war and death in Ukraine. The brutal violence and abuse of power manifest there is deeply troubling.

The challenges that life brings us can feel relentless. Sometimes, the world’s harsh realities can overwhelm us and tempt us to forget the truth of who we are and what we stand for. Into the midst of these challenges, the season of Lent enters, inviting all to remember what is most essential and who we are called to be.

In times when we are troubled or driven by our deepest longings—for love, for peace, for attention, for recognition, for pleasure, for self-expression—we can also be most vulnerable to the tendency to satiate our hungers with a quick and easy fix. Our desperate desire to be rid of our hunger pangs for moments of rest and peace can lead us to seek satisfaction in short-term or even harmful solutions. This tendency can occur with physical hunger, but it is also true with emotional, psychological, and social hungers. Over time, we can easily fall into habits that orient our minds and actions toward easy solutions, rather than toward that which is good.

Jesus’s forty days in the desert serves as a scriptural entry point into the Lenten season. Presented with the opportunities for comfort, power, and an easy fix to his troubles, Jesus withstands temptation because he is rooted in his fundamental identity as the beloved child of God who is filled with the Holy Spirit and called to be the Prince of Peace and the embodiment of love. Regardless of one’s religious, spiritual, or philosophical background, this Christian narrative and the season of Lent offers an invitation to all of us to reflect on our own life temptations and fundamental sense of identity.

Over these next forty days, how might you make the time and space to reconnect to the deep roots of who you are and what you seek to stand for in your life? As you do so, how might you identify and move away from any habits of mind and living that have taken you off course?

Vincent de Paul’s advice to his followers included the encouragement to be faithful to the practice of daily mental prayer, spiritual reading, or quiet solitude.[1] Vincent understood that without such time and space, we are more prone to seeking easy solutions to the challenges that face us rather than following the lead of Providence.

If making such time and space regularly seems impossible right now, perhaps begin with just thirty seconds of deep, restorative breathing, maybe even multiple times a day, and build from there. In doing so, we can grow more attuned to our emotions and anxious thoughts or reactions that can become patterns or unhealthy habits in our lives. And we learn the patience to sit momentarily still before our anxieties and impulsive desires, thereby becoming more intentional and authentic in our response.

As you remember most deeply who you are, what do you feel called to stand for in your life? What values do you seek to embody as you face life’s challenges and temptations?

What are the times, places or situations when you are most prone to pursue mental or life habits that draw you away from what you know to be best for you and for others?

What would help you in this season to be rooted again in what is most authentic to who you are?


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

[1] See for example: Conference 25, “Love of God,” n.d., CCD, 11:33; and Conference 67, “Meditation,” n.d., CCD, 11:76.

 

 

 

Thanks to God We are Alive!

As we joyfully embrace the many seasonal, religious, and spiritual celebrations of this beautiful time I would like to share with you a Christian/Vincentian perspective of Easter. This day of life, hope, and connection beyond our own understanding raises a simple question: where is God in everything that is happening?

Thanks to God we are alive! This is the Easter voice that I hear in my heart today. It is a voice I have heard many times in my life from people close to death because of natural disasters, poverty, hardship, violence, etc. And, over the past year I have heard survivors of the pandemic saying again and again… thanks to God we are alive!

I recently heard it said that “more than in other times, our age is characterized by its concern for the future and by wanting to glimpse the human person of tomorrow. Most agree about this: our way of being human needs to be transformed. The real human person is still a project… it is latent in the dynamic of evolution [and transformation]. This search for a new human person has been a recurrent theme in each historic cultural moment.”(1) Today more than ever we are aware that our way of being human is not sustainable. The urgent call for a new person is an Easter call… a call that echoes as a living memory of the resurrection. This is the call from God at the heart of the paschal mystery.

This morning, having endured the pandemic, we begin to see an end to this long day of the passion. The resurrection of Jesus is revealed to us in the real signs of what is happening in our lives, our country, and our world. All can perceive these new signs of life with which God is gracing us. For St. Vincent de Paul one of the primary challenges of Christian faith was to perceive and to live God’s life in our own lives. He expected the members of his spiritual family to conform with essential values that reflected a sustainable human experience. Vincent found these values exemplified in the life of Jesus Christ the evangelizer [humanizer] of the poor, who invites us to awaken dawns of resurrection amid dark nights of history.

“I beg Our Lord, Monsieur, that we may be able to die to ourselves in order to rise with Him, that He may be the joy of your heart, the end and soul of your actions, and your glory in heaven.”(2)

In Christian faith, from a Vincentian perspective, the value of all religious practices depends on their connection with real life. When we celebrate the resurrection, we are invited to experience life in all its forms, and to commit to protecting it. We are asked to defend human life, and all forms of life, now at risk due to our individualistic and consumeristic lifestyle. We recognize God’s life in us, and this life is what we celebrate. This life is what challenges us to change and to give of our own lives.

During these times, the celebration of the resurrection cannot be disconnected from all the essential issues that are challenging our very existence: social and environmental justice, human and communal rights, freedom, racism, and equity in all its forms. All these issues call us to reshape our Vincentian Mission and spirituality. For Christians, then, the celebration of the resurrection is simply a call to advance, giving concrete signs, the agenda of a new humanity and a new world!

“I ask O[ur] L[ord] to be the life of our life and the only aspiration of our hearts.”(3)


1) Cf. Leonardo Boff, La Resurrección de Cristo Nuestra Resurrección en la Muerte, 5th ed. (Editorial Sal Terrae, 2005), p. 9.

2) Letter 1202, To a Priest of the Mission, In Saintes, 27 March 1650, CCD, 3:616.

3) Letter 2433, To Charles Ozenne, Superior, In Poland, 26 October 1657, CCD, 6:576.

 

Reflection by:

Guillermo Campuzano, C.M.
Vice President of Mission and Ministry


Sustaining the Mission

Need a different kind of shot in the arm? Join us for Sustaining the Mission and get a mission booster! Sustaining the Mission is a mission engagement program designed for staff and faculty who have been at DePaul for at least a year.

This 90-minute workshop on Thursday, April 15th from 9:30-11:00 am, will invite you to consider how to practically apply DePaul’s mission to your everyday work and life. Together, we will examine how the mission can provide a deeper sense of meaning to your daily activities. As a member of the DePaul community, our goal is to help you reflect on concrete ways you can contribute to the advancement and sustainability of DePaul’s Vincentian mission within your team, department, area, division, etc. We will also help you to develop a mission integration plan. Please note that this program also meets one of the requirements for those interested in becoming a Mission Ambassador. Register Here.