“Pray as you can, not as you can’t,” said my professor as we students felt torn between different methods, none of which seemed to fit.
“I’ll pray for you and your girls,” I told my friend last week after she was hospitalized with four aneurisms.
“Thoughts and prayers are not enough!” say countless people after preventable tragedies happen and those tweeted words just seem so hollow.
Is prayer not enough? Is there a right way to do it?
I don’t think there is a best way to pray, but in an article on the subject Fr. Robert Maloney, C.M., writes in a clear and practical way about Vincent de Paul’s wisdom on prayer.1 It is very much worth a read, and two things particularly struck me when recently reviewing it.
The first is Maloney’s reminder that “Few things were as important as prayer in St. Vincent’s mind.” Vincent’s Common Rule called for an hour of mental prayer each day, and he spent considerable time giving practical guidance to his contemporaries about praying, much of which is still very timely.
The second point speaks both to those who call themselves Vincentian but don’t have a prayer practice or theistic framework, and to those who pray to connect to God. Four centuries ago, Vincent asserted that (in my interpretation) thoughts and prayers are essential, but indeed are not enough. Maloney relates, “He [Vincent] warns over and over again about regarding prayer as a speculative study. He cautions about its becoming an occasion for vanity or for ‘beautiful thoughts’ that lead nowhere.”
In an article on Vincent and prayer, Vinicius Teixeira Ribeiro, C.M., relates how Vincent cautioned his confreres: “it doesn’t suffice to have good affections, we must go further and be motivated to take resolutions to work seriously in the future.…”2 Ribeiro writes how prayer must be grounded in reality to create “prayerful, thinking and active people.” For Vincent, action was modeled on Jesus as known through the scriptures—serving the poor, leading with humility, working for God’s justice, and acting within a community of others.
I believe that in many ways, as Søren Kierkegaard said, “The function of prayer is not to influence God, but rather to change the nature of the one who prays.” Yes, I pray for others. I pray for my friend in the hospital and for those suffering from Covid in India. I do think prayer matters and that prayers are “effective” in some real way, though I don’t know exactly how. But these days, I’ve been reflecting on prayer as a channel to change me: to strengthen me to do the things I need to do for justice, pay attention to the world as it really is, and to pause for inner wisdom to ensure that the actions I take are the right ones to the best of my understanding.
“Pray as you can, not as you can’t.” For those who feel called to do so—pray!
And, as we approach the National Day of Prayer on May 6th, know that millions of others across many religious and spiritual traditions are praying with you, and dare I hope, preparing themselves through prayer and thoughtful reflection to also take the right action.
1 Robert P. Maloney, C.M., “Mental Prayer: Yesterday and Today – Some Reflections on the Vincentian Tradition,” Vincentiana 39:2 (1995), available online at: Mental Prayer: Yesterday and Today.
When John Lewis was diagnosed with fourth stage pancreatic cancer back in December, I was shaken. My unsettled spirit at this news was, in part, caused from a flood of memories around the same news my family had received about my father years earlier. Another cause of my unrest came in recognizing that another good man was entering into the battle of his life knowing full well that this battle could not be won. And, I was distraught because our country needed John Lewis, the “conscience of Congress.” News of Representative Lewis’ illness deeply affected me just as the news of his death now haunts me.
And so, I find myself pondering a great man whose life and legacy are gifts to our world that simply cannot be forgotten. John Lewis is known as a hero, a Civil Rights champion, an activist, a man of God, a recipient of the Medal of Freedom. These titles (and so many others) and the tireless work that inspires such titles help paint the picture of a talented and dedicated man who spent six decades in service to humanity. But, there is another title that Mr. Lewis most likely never knew but one that most certainly suits him well. John Lewis was a Vincentian.
The work of Vincentian leaders is always grounded in something far beyond themselves. For Vincent, his work was a matter of answering a call from Divine Providence. As St. Vincent entered into that call and followed, he was able to find the strength and confidence to tackle the daunting ministry before him. This same confidence and strength that John Lewis found in his work came from his deep and abiding faith. In a 2004 interview about his work in the Civil Rights Movement, Mr. Lewis spoke boldly of the importance faith played as the Movement unfolded: The [Civil Rights] movement was built on deep-seated religious convictions, and the movement grew out of a sense of faith — faith in God and faith in one’s fellow human beings… Without our faith, without the spirit and spiritual bearings and underpinning, we would not have been so successful. Without prayer, without faith in the Almighty, the civil rights movement would have been like a bird without wings.” It was a deep seated faith that carried John Lewis through dozens and dozens of physical beatings and even more political struggles. It was an unfaltering faith in God’s goodness that surely gave Mr. Lewis the courage and will to continue speaking out and working for justice up until his dying days.
“God allows us to give rise to the practice of two beautiful virtues: perseverance, which leads us to attain the goal, and constancy, which helps us to overcome difficulties.” —St. Vincent de Paul
Like John Lewis, St. Louise de Marillac encountered and overcame many challenges while always practicing and encouraging great kindness and goodness: “Our vocation of servants of the poor calls us to practice the gentleness, humility and forbearance that we owe to others. We must respect and honor everyone.” Louise de Marillac and John Lewis humbly reached out to people of all walks of life, listening to their stories and opinions, and acting in ways that honored them. In Mr. Lewis’ case, he even asked blessings upon those who brutally beat him. His commitment to honoring the dignity of others can be seen in a statement he made following President Obama’s decision to endorse same-sex marriage: “Once people begin to see the similarities between themselves and others, instead of focusing on differences, they come to recognize that equality is essentially a matter of human rights and human dignity.” Representative Lewis began his work as a young man fighting for rights of the Black community but his lifetime work was dedicated to fighting for the rights of all people. He did so in all humility and kindness, loving his neighbors, and never giving up in his fight for justice.
“The question which is agitating the world today is a social one. It is a struggle between those who have nothing and those who have too much. It is a violent clash of opulence and poverty which is shaking the ground under our feet. Our duty…is to throw ourselves between these two camps in order to accomplish by love, what justice alone cannot do.”— Frederic Ozanam
DePaul University describes its distinguishing marks as, “Motivated by the example of Saint Vincent, who instilled a love of God by leading his contemporaries in serving urgent human needs, … characterized by ennobling the God-given dignity of each person…. manifested by… a sensitivity to and care for the needs of each other and of those served, with a special concern for the deprived members of society.” These distinguised marks of our DePaul community could easily be a summation of the life and legacy of John Lewis. He was a man of God who dedicated his life to serving urgent human needs, ennobling the dignity of all, and with a deep concern for the marginalized and deprived members of our society. John Lewis truly was a man who exemplified the hallmarks of our Vincentian community. Claiming John Lewis as a Vincentian in spirit, word, and deed seems very fitting, indeed.
As with all our Vincentian models in life, we are left with a gift and a call from Representative Lewis who was never satisfied with simply accepting the status quo. His life and now his legacy become a call to each of us to continue the hard work in which he engaged and encouraged in us. As Vincentians we do not sit on our laurels but we continue to push forward, always recognizing that there is much to be done in our woeful world. The spirits of St. Vincent, St. Louise, Elizabeth Seaton, Frederic Ozanam, and John Lewis inspire us today to continue the important work of seeking justice and pouring love into the world. We honor John Lewis and all our Vincentian ancestors when we follow the example and heed the words of Representative Lewis:
“So you have a moral obligation, a mission and a mandate, to speak up, speak out and get in good trouble… You can do it. You must do it. Not just for yourselves but for generations yet unborn.”—John Lewis
As we honor a great man who fought many battles through life, we know what must be done: let’s go make some good trouble!
Rev. Dr. Diane R. S. Dardón, ELCA Religious Diversity & Pastoral Care, Director
“Providence must call us and we must follow it, if we are to go forward confidently.”Vincent de Paul (Volume: 3 | Page#: 538) To Rene Almeras, Superior, In Rome, 4 February, 1650.
St. Vincent was no stranger to pandemics. On perhaps no other topic were his emotions so deeply stirred. Outbursts of the plague ravaged Europe frequently during his active years, taking the lives of many whom he loved. Marguerite Naseau, whose story he often told and whom he always regarded as the first Daughter of Charity, succumbed to the plague at 27, even before the Daughters were recognized juridically.(1) Lambert au Couteau—of whom Vincent once said “the loss of this man is like having me tear out one of my eyes or cut off one of my arms”(2) and whom he sent to establish the Congregation of the Mission in Poland—died serving the plague-stricken in Warsaw in 1653. Antoine Lucas, much admired not only by Vincent but also by other founders of religious communities at that time, died from the plague in Genoa in 1656.(3)
Tragedies piled up in Vincent’s life, especially in the 1650’s. He often spoke of “war, plague and famine” as the scourge of the poor. In addition, there were persecutions in Algiers, Tunis, Ireland, and the Hebrides. The Congregation of the Mission’s first martyr, Thaddeus Lye, a seminarian, gave his life in Limerick in 1652.(4) His persecutors crushed his skull and cut off his hands and feet in the presence of his mother. When in 1657, on top of hearing that three priests had died on their way to Madagascar, Vincent received news that six members of the house in Genoa had succumbed to the plague, he described himself as “overwhelmed with sorrow” and added that he “could not receive a greater blow without being completely crushed by it.”(5)
In his letters and conferences, Vincent mentioned the plague more than 300 times. He sent lengthy letters offering practical advice about helping plague victims to his friend, Alain de Solminihac, the Bishop of Cahors,(6) and to the superiors in Genoa(7) and Rome.(8) In his talks, he described the plague in France, Algiers, Tunis, Poland, and throughout Italy.
The dimensions were staggering. France alone lost almost a million people to the plague in the epidemic of 1628-31. In roughly the same period in Italy, 280,000 died. In 1654, 150,000 inhabitants of Naples succumbed. Algiers lost about 40,000 people in 1620-21, and again in 1654-57.
Genoa was among the hardest hit. Half the city died in 1657. The long list of members of the Vincentian Family who lost their lives there is touching.
As one might imagine, the Daughters of Charity and the Confraternities were on the front lines in ministering to those afflicted by the plague (not to mention their service to those whose lives were disrupted by war, famine, and political strife at the very same time). Some of what Vincent said to his priests, his brothers and his sisters, as well as to the lay women and men in the confraternities, is colored by the circumstances of the times and by the lack of the medical knowledge and resources that we have today. But much of what he said and how he reacted is quite relevant to members of the Vincentian Family as they confront COVID-19 today.
Here, let me highlight four points:
As he struggled with painful emotions, Vincent remained convinced that, no matter what the circumstances, we must never abandon the poor. They are our “our portion” in life, he stated. He was firm in telling the members of his Family that, even in extremely difficult circumstances, we must be creative in finding ways to tend to the needs of the suffering. Vincent wrote to Alain de Solminihac, “The poor country people stricken with the plague are usually left abandoned and very short of food. It will be an action worthy of your piety, Excellency, to make provision for this by sending alms to all those places. See that they are put into the hands of good pastors, who will have bread, wine, and a little meat brought in for these poor people to pick up in the places and the times indicated for them… or to some good layperson of the parish who could do this. There is usually someone in each area capable of doing this act of charity, especially if they do not have to come into direct contact with the plague-stricken.”(9)
Vincent’s evangelical interpretation of events came to the fore rapidly in such times of crisis. In December 1657, thinking of eleven members of his Family who had recently lost their lives, he wrote: “There are so many missionaries we now have in heaven. There is no room to doubt this, since they all gave their lives for charity, and there is no greater love than to give one’s life for the neighbor, as Our Lord has said and practiced. If, then, we have lost something on the one hand, we have gained something on the other, because God has been pleased to glorify our members of our Family, as we have good reason to believe, and the ashes of these apostolic men and women will be the seed of a large number of good missionaries. At least, these are the prayers I ask you to offer to God.”(10)
In advising the members of his Family about how to serve in the midst of the plague, Vincent chose a middle ground. On the one hand, he urged them to stay near the plague-stricken and not abandon them; on the other hand, he encouraged the Family to observe the cautions that civil and ecclesiastical leaders were recommending. He told Etienne Blatiron, the superior in Genoa, “The only thing I recommend most earnestly and ardently to you is to take all reasonable precautions to preserve your health.”(11) Blatiron took numerous risks and died from the plague in 1657. Vincent wrote to Jean Martin, the superior in Turin, “I am concerned that you took only a short rest and went back to work so soon. In the name of Our Lord, please moderate what you do and get all the help you can.”(12) Martin lived on and served energetically until 1694.
He expanded the definition of a martyr to include all who valiantly gave their lives for the poor, and he never ceased singing their praises. Speaking of the Daughters of Charity, he said, “A holy Father once said that anyone who gives himself or herself to God to serve their neighbor and willingly endures all the difficulties that they may encounter in this is a martyr. Did the martyrs suffer more than these Sisters… who give themselves to God (and) are sometimes with sick persons full of infection and sores and often noxious body fluids; sometimes with poor children for whom everything must be done; or with poor convicts loaded down with chains and afflictions… They’re far more worthy of praise than anything I could say to you. I’ve never seen anything like it. If we saw the spot where a martyr had been, we’d approach it only with respect and kiss it with great reverence. Look upon them as martyrs of Jesus Christ, since they serve their neighbor for love of Him.”(13)
Today, we face what, for most of us, is an unprecedented crisis, as we confront COVID-19. How might we deal with it in St. Vincent’s spirit? May I suggest three things:
Volunteer service. The poor suffer most in crises like this. Often, they find themselves jobless. They need lodging, food, and other essential services. Our Family has a long history, from St. Vincent’s time to the present, in providing such necessities. One can only admire the doctors, nurses, emergency medical technicians, home visitors and others who continue to serve those currently suffering.
Donations. The stock market and other economic indices have plunged dramatically in this period. Some take that as a signal to be wary about giving. But the needs of the poor are all the greater in times like this. Can we as a Family continue to be generous to the neediest?
Prayer. Pope Francis and many other religious leaders are summoning us to pray for victims and for an end to the pandemic. Some beautiful prayers have been composed. Besides these, may I offer this suggestion from St. Vincent: “God himself tells us, ‘A short, fervent prayer pierces the clouds.’ (Sir 35:17) Those darts of love are very pleasing to God and, consequently, are highly recommended by the holy Fathers, who realized their importance. That’s what I urge you, my sisters and brothers.”(14)
Notations added and this text produced by the DePaul University Vincentian Studies Institute. March 31, 2020
Naseau’s death is mentioned in a notation to Letter 176, To Saint Louise, [Between 1634 and 1636], in Pierre Coste, C.M., Vincent de Paul: Correspondence, Conferences, Documents, and translated by Jacqueline Kilar, D.C., Marie Poole, D.C., et. al., 14 vols. (New York: New City Press, 1985–2014), 1:241, n. 2. Hereinafter cited as CCD. Online at: https://via.library.depaul.edu/vincentian_ebooks/25/
What motivates your work of service? Vincent de Paul’s guidance is clear: our work must be motivated by love of God and it is to cause others to love God also.
So, how do you respond when the result of all your efforts is a grand success? Conversely, what if your project fails miserably? Is either outcome important? Vincent’s attitude is that neither matters. What is important is the motive behind one’s work. Is your action spurred on by selfless love of people, or by a selfish, self-congratulatory motive?
Louise de Marillac was a wife, mother, widow, teacher, nurse, director of the Confraternities and Ladies of Charity, and cofounder with Vincent de Paul of the Daughters of Charity. Patron of Social Workers, Louise knew personal suffering, and she also knew the suffering of God’s poor people. She was an organizer, a radical thinker who lived life intensely and whose quest was to do the will of God with a deep faith in divine providence.
Praying with Louise de Marillac is a book in the Companions for the Journey series of meditation guides on Christian spirituality. Authored by Audrey Gibson, DC, and Kieran Kneaves, DC, it was published by Saint Mary’s Press, Christian Brothers Publications, Winona, Minnesota, in 1995. ISBN O-88489-329-4 Copies may be obtained directly from the publisher or on-line at www.amazon.com
As the tragedy of the Boston Marathon bombings circulated around the news outlets, the DePaul University community stood shocked and worried. All of the faculty, staff, and students called their loved ones, and checked up on each other’s family and friends. Coincidentally, the Interfaith Scholars had been planning for their Spring Quarterly Interreligious Celebration with the theme revolving around, Life, Death, and Social Justice. The evening usually holds four significant segments. The first, is an opening prayer, which was held by DePaul Community Service Association, University Minister Rubén Álvarez, who asked the audience to center their minds, bodies, and spirits in order to be present. The second, is the opening introduction of the theme usually done by a short talk. The DePaul community was honored to have Sr. Helen Prejean talk about her interfaith experiences and the ways in which they effected the way she perceives life, death, and social justice. The third segment of the evening was composed of short-story performances and prayers by three DePaul students, Dana Jabri (Muslim), Tom Miller (Agnostic), and Josh Sushan (Jew), each of whom reflected on occurrences of life and death in their lives. Below is Tom Miller’s reflection and story he shared with the audience.
“I want to share a story which I think touches each of these themes: Life, Death and Social Justice. And then try to explain how I addressed them as someone who identifies as an Agnostic. For the past two summers I have been volunteering at a summer camp called Camp Courage. This camp is only a week long. This is a grief camp for people who are connected to a recent death. There are about 40 or so kids who go there each year, all between the ages of 6 and 13. Each and every one of these kids lost someone close to them, parents, friends, aunts, uncles, even siblings.
I remember very clearly the story of Alex. Alex was about 9 years old when I was introduced to him. I soon learned he had a twin brother. Alex liked to swim and was on a swim team. One day their mom drove them to a swim meet. But as they were on their way to the swim meet, a garbage truck sped through a red light and crashed into the car Alex’s mom was driving. Alex’s twin brother was instantly killed and the crash only mildly wounded Alex and his mother.
When I was talking to Alex he would ask questions like, “Why did I have to live and he die?” He felt guilty for living, he felt like he was wrong to be alive, to be given life when his brother had his life stripped away because they were going to Alex’s swim meet.
So as an Agnostic how was I supposed to approach this situation? Was I supposed to talk about the meaning of life? About Karma, an afterlife, Heaven, Hell, God? I didn’t know what faith his parents were raising him with. Should I talk about morality, or all the philosophical ideas I have been learning about for the past few years? Where was Social Justice? What would Social Justice say I should do? What about that garbage truck driver? Should he be thrown in jail for the rest of his life? What if it was an accident?
What was I supposed to tell to a 9 year old about life and death? Especially when I had no idea what I thought of it, or am still trying to figure out what to think of it. I did not want to tell this little boy that he will see his brother in heaven. I didn’t know that, I wasn’t sure of that. I’m still not sure of that. I didn’t want to lie. I wanted to tell him something, to comfort him, to give him something to believe in, something to give his life meaning. But should I be the one to give meaning to someone else’s life? I didn’t want to sugar coat anything, but I also knew that I couldn’t give him a long philosophical lecture based on everything I had been learning at DePaul.
What I ended up doing was listening to his story. I looked him in the eye and I smiled. I shared with him a moment of my life simply listening. The only thing I knew at that point in time was that I cared for this boy. While I have never lived his life or went through what he went through I understood that there was an intense struggle he was going through. At that moment I knew that he was not alone, and that I was also not alone. As an Agnostic I realized that I don’t know how to answer these questions, but I think we should be okay with talking about them.
Now, when I go to camp courage this upcoming summer, I’m going with the goal of trying to make kids smile. I think sometimes we forget how to smile or how to have fun and we all need to be reminded every now and then.
One of my favorite intellectuals to quote is Einstein. With all his knowledge and wisdom, he wrote this, ‘The life of the individual has meaning only insofar as it aids in making the life of every living thing nobler and more beautiful…'”
– Thomas Miller
Knowing that the Anti-Death Row activist and spiritual guider Sister Helen Prejean was going to present the opening remarks introducing the theme of the evening, as a group, the Scholars began to think of ways in which we could get the campus students’s ideas, thoughts, and topics they wanted to discuss after the introduction was given, as the interreligious dialogue activity for the evening. The idea was to get the students to form discussions that came from their own quandaries. So we collected questions, topics, and ideas from the 200+ students that were present. For the last segment of the evening, we invited the students and audience to participate in meaningful discussions about the ways in which life, death, and social justice effect the ways in which we percieve our faith traditions, and as students of the DePaul community.
Some of the questions suggested:
What about your religious tradition do you find life-giving?
Do you feel the responsibility to engage in social justice work? How does your personal faith tradition or belief system inform your answer?
What do you hope to do in your life before you die?
Sr. Helen Prejean talked about the tragedy of the Boston Marathon, how do we as a DePaul community provide support to the Boston community?
As the event came to an end, the faculty, staff, and students had for the last time this school year, reflected as a community on their individual faith values to the roles that life, death, and social justice play within one’s life.
Near-Death experiences otherwise known as NDE’s are controversial. Thousands of people have had them, but many in the scientific community have argued that they are impossible. Dr. Eben Alexander was one of those people.
A highly trained neurosurgeon who had operated on thousands of brains in the course of his career, Alexander knew that what people of faith call the “soul” is really a product of brain chemistry. NDE’s, he would have been the first to explain, might feel real to the people having them, but in truth they are simply fantasies produced by brains under extreme stress.
Then came the day when Dr. Alexander’s own brain was attacked by an extremely rare illness. The part of the brain that controls thought and emotion (and in essence makes us human) shut down completely. For seven day Dr. Alexander lay in a hospital bed in a deep coma. Then, as his doctors weighed the possibility of stopping treatment, Alexander’s eyes pooped open. Her had come back.
Alexander’s recovery is by all accounts a medical miracle. But the real miracle of his story lies elsewhere. While his body lay in comma, Alexander journeyed beyond this world and encountered an angelic being who guided him into the deepest realms of super-physical existence. There he met, and spoke with, the Divine source of the universe itself.
The story at first sounded like a wild and wonderful imaginings of a skilled fantasy writer. But it is not fantasy Dr. Alexander says. Before he underwent his journey, he could not reconcile his knowledge of neuroscience with any belief in heaven, God, or the soul. That difficulty with belief created an empty space that no professional triumph could erase.
Reading this book has continued to remind me of how great God really is. It doesn’t matter who you are or what traditions/belief you come from, God uses anyone at any moment in their lives to carry out his work.
I think I’m getting the hang of Quarterly Inter-Religious Celebrations (QIRC). This was my second QIRC on staff, and 4th or 5th QIRC overall, I believe. It was very different going from hosting to presenting on the evening’s theme, Healing A Wounded World Through Art, – I found the former to be significantly less challenging than the latter, which is stressful for obvious reasons. That said, I had a fantastic time.
One of the things that caught me off guard was how empowered I felt in my religious identity while speaking about it to others. In the past, I have been unwilling to identify with a specific tradition or faith because I had been unwilling to claim ownership over what I believed. I understand now that this is because I had been looking for the ‘perfect’ religion. Without ever realizing it (and, indeed, oftentimes hiding behind a mask of feigned ambivalence), I was hailing religions like cabs – only to leave each taxi the second that their route to my destination varied from the one I desired. ‘There’s got to be a cabbie that has thought about this route before, someone who knows exactly what it is that I should do,’ I thought to myself. Since then, I have come to understand that only I can chart this route, because only I have had my life of experiences. As a result, I’ve begun to take ownership over what I believe; love it even. And it seems as though now that I love what I believe, people are more interested in hearing me talk about it – and now that people want to hear what I have to say about Buddhism rather than what others have to say, it is easier for me to find delight in my identity. I want to hear what I have to say. I suppose that is the healing that I will take from the QIRC as a whole.
I also couldn’t possibly write a reflection without commenting on Morgan Spears’ performance. God, what a stupendous, brave, and vulnerable piece of art. And how much more challenging and perfect could it have possibly been for our night’s theme? I had personally invited her to perform, but had no idea that her poem would be so personal and self-revolutionary. I think the most powerful part of the entire evening for me was when, after Morgan performed, she came over to my booth to thank me for asking her to be a part of the evening. She looked me in the eyes with an expression that said ‘sorry if that got out of hand…I kind of lost track of myself’, and I told her that she was incredible, and then she just smiled and we both laughed and hugged. She said that she was super nervous to open herself up the way she did, but I could see in her face how grounded and lucid the experience had left her feeling. Morgan’s performance, more than perhaps anything else at the QIRC, invited the audience to engage in radical transparency, heartfelt expression, and most importantly, the kind of listening that one can only learn by calling out for God and enduring the silence before Her/His reply.
As winds blew through the Chicago skyline on Wednesday the 18th of September, a group of student leaders from the United Muslims Moving Ahead DePaul University on-campus organization decided to hold a candle-light vigil. The vigil was a call for students and faculty to stand together in unity against violence occurring all over the world. During the Unity Vigil the students gave their respects to the United States Ambassador Christopher Stevens who was serving in the US embassy in Libya. We came together on an evening to condemn the violent protests that erupted as a result of the movie “Innocence of Muslims” which meant to insult the Prophet Mohammed (Peace and Blessings Be Upon Him). We also stood together against violence happening within the Syrian Crisis, the daily shootings in Chicago’s neighborhoods, and anywhere else across the world.
As an Interfaith Scholar, there was nothing more meaningful that night than to be supported by faculty members and students representing diverse faith and spiritual backgrounds standing shoulder-to-shoulder in unity against violence. The importance and significance for us all to experience and share each other’s feelings about certain on-goings around the world is something that this world needs more of. But to then take it a step further by building a support system, and embracing one another in a time that calls us to do so, is hopefully an eternal bond that each one of us can use.
The Muslim Chaplain at DePaul Abdul-Malik Ryan, reached out to the DePaul community through an email inviting his colleagues and students to attend the vigil, “In light of the continued violence here in Chicago and around the world, and especially the violence that is being presented as a motivation of ‘religious faith,’ the students want to make a strong statement that the DePaul community, and especially people of all faiths here at DePaul stand united against violence and as witnesses for peace and justice.” Chaplain Abdul-Malik stressed the fact that Islam as a religion condemns violence and prohibits the killing of innocent people.
Another member that is dear to the DePaul community and a representative from the University Ministry Office and Assistant Chaplain of the Office of Religious Diversity, Katie Brick shared a piece from the Superior General Gregory Gay, who wrote about Vincentian non-violence. Chaplain Brick read out a few quotes in which General Gray characterized non-violence as though it should be used as a means of “creating harmony based on diversity, rather than using diversity as a justification for violence.” This phrase stood out to me personally because it embraced the theme of unity – the purpose and reason to why we were all standing together.
On September 25th, President Barack Obama spoke to the United Nations General Assembly stating, “We have taken these positions because we believe that freedom and self-determination are not unique to one culture. These are not simply American values or Western values – they are universal values.” Standing together as a strong and diverse DePaul community acknowledging the pain and creating a safe space that creates the chance for all of us to embrace one another, and to share our experiences with one another.
Our shared presence at the Unity Vigil affirmed to me and to the rest of the DePaul Community that brotherhood and sisterhood exists in a diverse form on campus. The Unity Vigil was also a way for the DePaul community to spread awareness about the violence going on in the world. And as I write this blog post I can’t help but sing the words of the song written by India Arie, “There’s hope, it doesn’t cost a thing to smile, you don’t have to pay to laugh, you better thank God for that.”