Usually, when sitting down to compose a Mission Monday reflection, I try to find something … topical … to write on. A matter that is, I trust, of relevance or interest to at least a portion of the DePaul community. Once I have selected a topic, I search for a Vincentian quote to apply, a nugget of wisdom from our institutional legacy that I think sheds light on the chosen subject, provides hope or even connects the challenges of today with the ones faced by our Vincentian forebears. The result, ideally, is a piece that engages readers in a meaningful way with our Vincentian heritage as well as with their own lived experience and insight. At least, that is what I hope happens!
Given the freshness of the year 2023, today’s chosen topic is … new year’s resolutions. I admit that I am hesitant to make new year’s resolutions this year, despite doing so most of my life, considering all we have been through personally and as a community over these recent months and years. Why would I voluntarily invite more tests of my character when those already present seem to be ample enough?! However, old habits die hard, and I am not willing to forgo tradition before asking what Vincent de Paul might have to say about the matter. What wisdom might this man of action, who lived through great upheavals all the while exhibiting faith and common sense, have to say about new year’s resolutions? After digging around, not surprisingly, I found a little something.
At a conference he was giving in November of 1656 for members of the Congregation of the Mission (whom we know as the Vincentian priests), Vincent was discussing their growing in virtue by living out the Rules of their Company. His message to them was pragmatic, encouraging, and reasonable. Vincent did not set unrealistic expectations. He did not expect success all at once. He had this to say: “[I]f today, for example, someone practices one degree of an act of virtue, tomorrow he [sic] will practice it to the second, then the third degree of perfection, and that’s how we grow little by little.”
Little by little. Change, growth, success do not happen suddenly. Progress, not perfection, is the goal. Patience and dedication toward our goals is the key. With the support of community, reasonable efforts on our part, and faith in something larger than ourselves, Vincent believed we would experience this progress. Little by little.
I like that. It makes modest new year’s resolutions like watching what I eat, sending a note to a friend, saying yes to a community service opportunity, or completing compliance training in a timelier manner seem … doable. Making progress “little by little” gives me hope. To be sure, it does not absolve me, or our community, of taking on the larger, systemic problems that we know need urgent attention. Those larger needs should always have some of our attention and energy. But accomplishing small tasks inevitably equips us to better take on the bigger issues. Being mindful of Vincent’s practical wisdom, committing to even simple new year’s resolutions gives me confidence that personally, and communally, we can make progress and that the year 2023 can be a year of growth and peace for each of us, for DePaul and for our beautiful, challenged world.
Invitation for Reflection:
As the year 2023 begins, take a moment to close your eyes, breathe deep, and lift up a hope for greater love, justice, and flourishing throughout the world in the coming year.
Is there a new year’s resolution that you would like to make, perhaps one that is modest and makes you feel hopeful?
Is there someone in your network, perhaps a co-worker at DePaul or a family member, with whom you could share your new year’s resolution and who could support you along the way? Perhaps you could do the same for them too.
Reflection by: Tom Judge, Assistant Director and Chaplain, Faculty and Staff Engagement, Division of Mission and Ministry
 Conference 162, “Repetition of Prayer,” November 19, 1656, CCD, 11:346. Available online at https://via.library.depaul.edu/vincentian_ebooks/37/.