“Every day of life more and more increases my gratitude to Him for having made me what I am.”
– Elizabeth Ann Seton
What do cringe, gratitude, and Vincentian service have to do with one another? And how can we apply it to our own vibrant community here at DePaul? Let’s find out.
First, let’s dive into this first quote from Elizabeth Ann Seton, founder of the American Sisters of Charity, modeled after the Daughters of Charity: “Every day of life more and more increases my gratitude to Him for having made me what I am.” We can read this statement in any number of ways: gratitude for simply being alive, appreciation for her privilege and station, thankfulness for gifting her with certain talents and capabilities, or even endowing her with a particular personality and passion. Perhaps the most Vincentian thing to do would be to take an “all of the above” approach: an appreciation of the whole person, of all that she is, and can be. This might sound a little conceited (thanks for making me so incredible!), but I think it points more towards an inspiring model of self-acceptance. Seton, who is pointedly aware of her own shortcomings, still accepts herself as she is—oddities, weaknesses, talents, and all—and is grateful to be herself.
Which brings us to the concept of cringe and unapologetic self-acceptance. As bit of backstory, the social media landscape has been … going through a bit of transformational collapse. We need not go into every sordid detail, but the memes have been hilarious even as the demise of Twitter has been bittersweet (with a heavy dose of Schadenfreude). Many are looking for a new social media home with no real viable candidates. It’s into this gulf that Tumblr, which never really went away, has emerged its cringy head.
The blog site, home to niche fandoms and a quirky sensibility, has found a resurgence. If Twitter is (was?) the land of hot political takes by ‘professional’ journalists and pseudo-intellectuals, Tumblr is currently where users are, en masse, deciding to make up a fake 1970’s Martin Scorsese movie that they have all pretended to see (which again, doesn’t exist), and then arguing about it. They’ve even created a fake trailer. It’s a weird place. But at its best it’s a place where people are unapologetically themselves and embody a kind of self-acceptance modeled in that Seton quote. There’s power in that: a community that not only recognizes but celebrates each other’s delightful individuality and quirks. It’s also very Vincentian: a recognition and celebration of each person’s sacred dignity.
But why bring up Tumblr, cringe, and unapologetic weirdness in a post about gratitude? How does this have any bearing on our own DePaul community and mission? There are many different things that might make us cringe, but usually they say more about ourselves (and our lack of self-acceptance) than the object of our embarrassment. By accepting ourselves—most especially the cringiest aspects of ourselves—and being grateful for the way we are and can be as whole people, we can accept others and flourish as a community. Vincent de Paul was no stranger to this: his lifelong partner in service, Louise de Marillac, found him utterly repugnant upon first meeting him! But they were able to work their way through these differences and we are still living out their mission today, four hundred years later.
This brings us to a final quote from Louise de Marillac herself: “I hope that your gratitude will place you in the disposition necessary to receive the graces you need to serve your sick poor in a spirit of gentleness and great compassion.” Ultimately, our gratitude and self-acceptance should be directed outwards, in compassion, and in pursuit of the mission. Let’s celebrate our community’s own idiosyncrasies and be grateful for the wonderful diversity of personalities and passions.
Reflection by: Alex Perry, Division of Mission & Ministry
 7.98, Draft to Mrs. William Raborg, [June 1817], Elizabeth Bayley Seton: Collected Writings, 2:488, at: https://via.library.depaul.edu/vincentian_ebooks/11/.