The Power of the Good

“The cause of love is esteem for the good in the thing loved.”[1]

Do you ever wonder if you are a glass-half-full or glass-half-empty kind of person? Before you answer this question, pause for a moment and ask yourself how others might describe you these past two years as you have weathered the impact of the global pandemic and myriad other life stressors. What would they say? This may be a more revealing exercise than merely our own self-appraisal.

If you are anything like me, at times in these past couple of years, my ability to find hope in the world has certainly been tested. It’s hard to remain hopeful in tomorrow when yet another news report bellows that a new strain of the virus is traversing borders faster than a tweet can pop into your feed. Or when we learn that global warming’s intensity is surpassing rates never before imagined as our planet is ravaged by all kinds of atmospheric pollutants. Or when senseless violence continues to lay bare unjust and broken societal systems that we ourselves have created and continue to maintain. In the face of such alarming realities, our belief in the goodness of humanity and our capacity for hope can be severely diminished. At moments such as these, what enables you to stay in touch with the best in life and continue to trust that goodness will win out, despite the foreboding shadows? What gives you the hope and compassion to believe that “right relationship” can be restored and is eternally possible?

I believe that Louise de Marillac and Vincent de Paul must have struggled with similar questions. After all, they spent most of their lives enduring tumultuous wars and endless battles. They also witnessed dire poverty and harsh human suffering. What kept them hopeful and allowed them not to give up on humanity?

For Louise and Vincent, it was their enduring faith in a loving God that enabled them to never lose sight of the good. Undeniably, their belief in such goodness was made real through their interactions with the community around them and reinforced by the power of the ministry in which they engaged, primarily with those on the margins of society. Indeed, no matter if they were ministering to the haughtiest of aristocrats or the lowliest of paupers, Louise and Vincent chose to believe in the power of goodness to prevail and the potential of hearts to be moved. Their lived reality was thus a living testament to the capacity of the human person to choose to respond with love.

  • As you contemplate how full or empty your glass is today, who or what has given you the ability to replenish your supplies when life gets hard, and the clouds seem particularly ominous?
  • In our particular context at DePaul, what gives you the sustenance to keep believing in the best of the mission when decisions may seem out of step with your aspirations?
  • Where do you find the ability to go on believing when the terrain gets tough and you lose sight of the way out of the woods?
  • What enables you to choose to love and find hope in the good of our world today?

Reflection by: Siobhan O’Donoghue, Director of Faculty/Staff Engagement, Division of Mission and Ministry

[1] A.29, “(On Charity),” Spiritual Writings of Louise de Marillac, 710. Available at: https://‌‌via.‌library.‌depaul.edu/‌ldm/.

 

Busy Person’s Retreat Day 1: Take Time and Make Space

To view or download a PDF copy, click here.

So, you signed up for a Busy Person’s Retreat this week. Something drew you to do so. What was it?

What did you assess was needed or desired in your life to sign up to receive these daily reflections for a week?

Congratulations on taking this step… whether toward self-care, toward reflection and mindfulness, toward deeper meaning and purpose, or toward whatever good and authentic yearning inspired you to do so.

As we begin this week of reflection, let me ask you one more question:  When you consider yourself a “busy person”…why is that so, and what does that describe or mean to you?

When I catch myself thinking or talking about how horribly busy I am, I find it helpful and informative to catch myself, to pause and to do a moment of self-assessment. Why am I feeling so busy? And, what does “busy” describe or mean to me in this moment? How much of this “busy-ness” is, at some level, by habit or choice and how much of it is necessity or imposed upon me?

By taking just a moment to pause and reflect in this way over the years, I have come to see that in our U.S. American culture at large, we tend to put a high value on being busy – or, at least, being seen as one who is busy. Being busy, or feeling rushed while moving from one thing to the next, or having so much to do that we can’t possibly slow down, are at times projected or proclaimed as evidence of our productivity in front of others, or as unspoken justifications of our own importance.

While this tendency certainly has been and remains part of my own erroneous way of thinking, a habit present to me from my early years, I can say fairly confidently that it is also clearly a tendency that we absorb from the broader cultural milieu in which we live. In other words, when I stop to pause and reflect for just a moment about why I am feeling so busy and what the word is describing or means to me in any given moment, I realize that I am at times simply wrapped up in a cultural norm that is assessing my worth in a way that is, quite frankly, just not healthy, meaningful, fair, nor accurate. Assessing our worth based on how busy we are is absurd – yet it is so commonplace.

In speaking of the Jewish/Christian practice of Sabbath as a day of rest each week, author Walter Brueggemann points out the way in which such rest can actually be seen and practiced as a fruitful form of resistance to the dominant culture: “Sabbath is a practical divestment so that neighborly engagement, rather than production and consumption, defines our lives.” [i](18)

At times, being or feeling busy may indeed allow us to see that we have put unrealistic expectations on ourselves, or that impossible expectations have indeed been put on us by others – whether in a job or in our home life – and we are  entangled in them. This insight has the potential to be liberating, if we are able to accept and name it for what it is, to ask for the help of others to alleviate some of the pressure, or to make other changes within our control to bring us back into a more healthy and realistic balance.

Very often, we may find that the fullness of our life and who we are may in fact be harmed or lessened to some degree by our being overly or constantly “busy.” Our “busy-ness” does not allow the time and space for new growth, for the flowering of seeds planted, for the fire within us to breath in the fresh air needed to fuel our authentic creativity and passion. It also doesn’t allow us room to reflect, an essential behavior or practice necessary to look objectively at our life experiences and to learn from them. Being overly busy doesn’t allow time and space for rest and relaxation, for friendships to be nurtured, or for us to be fully and truly present to the people in our lives and to the realities before us. When we are busy, we are rarely “mindful” and certainly not “soul-full.”

What is hurt by your taking a few minutes now and regularly in your life to pause, to breathe deeply, and to slow down just a bit? Answer:  Probably nothing and no one at all.

What is gained by doing so?  Answer:  The fullness of who you are. And, that is a very good thing for you, for others around you and for the world. Your wholeness is not only healthy for you, but is also a gift to others. Taking a few minutes each day – maybe several times a day – simply to pause, breathe and reflect will help you to be happier, more at peace, more creative and effective… and in the end, if you and others around you need to know… it will probably help you to be more productive as well!

One little life hack that I have found helpful is to catch myself when I use the word “busy” and – if it makes sense to do so – to describe my life situation instead as “full.” My life is very full has a different ring to it, a different meaning.  I like the idea of my cup overflowing with the life that I am receiving – not something I am doing or accomplishing, but something that I am choosing to fully embrace and engage in the best way I can.

May this week’s reflections allow you the space and nourishment you need to grow into a new and more fruitful fullness!

[i] Walter Brueggemann. Sabbath as Resistance: Saying No to the Culture of Now (2014). Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press. P. 18

Turning the Coin

In his 2001 article, “People of the Scarred Coin,” Tom McKenna, C.M., explores Vincent de Paul’s understanding of human dignity. McKenna suggests that if Vincent were asked “why help this disheveled old man?” he would have replied “because you’ve seen through to the other side of the coin.”1 Vincent describes an ordinary, bent, scarred coin that lies on the ground and is ignored by those walking past it. He is drawing a parallel to the way that some walk past or ignore those on the margins in their lives. Some may see a homeless woman on the street and ignore her because of how she looks. Some may hear a man asking for change but pretend to not hear him.

When asked again, “why treat that common nobody on the ground as if he is somebody?” Vincent instructed, “I must not judge a poor peasant man or woman by their appearance or their apparent intelligence […] but turn the medal [coin], and you will see by the light of faith that the Son of God, who willed to be poor, is represented to us by these poor people.”2

Sometimes a person’s appearance or personality clashes with our view of the world. Vincent de Paul challenges us to not walk past the homeless woman on the street or ignore the man asking for change. As Vincentians, we are invited to see the dignity inherent in every single person we meet. As Vincentians, we are called to see through to the other side of the coin.

When thinking about your experiences with those on the margins, how have you seen through to the other side of the coin? What are some of the obstacles that prevent you from “turning the coin?”


1) Thomas McKenna, C.M., S.T.D., “People of the Scarred Coin,” Vincentian Heritage 22:2 (2001), 205. See: https://via.library.depaul.edu/vhj/vol22/iss2/5/

2) Conference 19, The Spirit of Faith, CCD, 11:26.

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

 

This past Saturday, October 10, was World Homeless Day. This week, the Institute of Global Homelessness (IGH) will be sharing more about their efforts to end street homelessness throughout the world.

Save the Date: October 21st, 8 a.m. CST. Join IGH and United Nations Habitat for an event featuring international youth activists and a rousing discussion on “Leave No One Behind: Ending Youth Global Homelessness in the Decade of Action.” Follow IGH on Facebook and/or Twitter for event updates and registration links.

Reflection, Day Two: The Many Hats of Louise

By
Minister Jené Colvin
Religious Diversity & Pastoral Care Team
Division of Mission & Ministry

 

We have a confession. In planning for this week to honor St. Louise de Marillac today’s theme was “The Many Hats of Louise.” We wanted to focus on the wisdom we could glean from Louise in having to manage all the different roles in her life. She was a mother, a wife, a widow, a teacher, an organizer, a founder, a visionary, an innovator…you get my point. We love St. Louise. The list of adjectives and nouns that rejoice in her legacy are endless. Sometimes, though, when all the words used to describe Louise are listed together, it can be easy to forget she was not all those things all at once. Some of those descriptors do not overlap at all in her life’s story. Even those of us whose job it is to know Louise well enough to share her legacy with the rest of the DePaul community must remember that her descriptors reflect a journey rather than an ingredient list. Not all of those “hats” fit her indefinitely. Not all of them were worn at the same time.

When presented with all the things Louise was and still is to us today, we may think about all the things we are asked to be, the hats we are asked to wear. Student, worker, babysitter, teacher, parent, partner, child to parents who may or may not understand us, faithful member of a community we’ve always been a part of, leader, activist, artist, and so on. When we have so much to do, accomplish, and live up to, we may question how to care for ourselves while juggling our lives. How do I stay healthy and still show up? What wisdom do I rely upon to manage it all?

How did Louise balance it all? How do I balance it all? What if the answer is actually…don’t? Don’t balance it ALL. Hear me out.

Before “shelter-in-place” became an urgent, life-saving call, our lives and identities were arranged across different groups of people, offices, classrooms, organizations, and times of day. Most of us have had to jam all these pieces of our lives into a single living space. Instead of being in an office, parents are home laughing (and sometimes scoffing) at the idea of an uninterrupted hour. Some of us are far from friends who tenderly love our secrets. Some of us must do schoolwork and teach siblings. Some of us are just exhausted by how distressing this all is. Some of us are grieving behind computer screens instead of gathering with family. Some of us were already struggling. Instead of anything being new, it’s just more intense. Rather than being able to prepare, neatly pack, and sort out our lives so that we could social distance effectively, we had to stuff it all in one box, in a hurry. That’s hard.

Not all your hats will fit right now. That’s ok. Maybe you can still switch between hats but can’t wear them as long or as often as before. There’s nothing wrong with you. It’s not a lack of effort or will. It’s not a lack of dedication or drive. It is true that Louise was many things. She was all those things at different points in her life, to different degrees of completion, success, and peace. She failed sometimes. She was frustrated. She struggled, hard. Yesterday we focused on Louise’s lumière moment. Life changing revelatory moments don’t usually happen when everything is “fine.”

So, if you really want to glean something from the many hats Louise wore, ask yourself this:

  • How can I gently and with deep compassion love the parts of myself that are shaken and tender right now?
  • Which hats can I set aside for a while and which ones can I wear, without shame, until others or new ones fit?
  • What do I need to create the breathing room to ask myself, without shame, “Which hat for right now?”
  • How can I give myself space for the hat that does not produce the most, but helps return me to center?

Two of my favorite hats are “lover of tea” and “mother to many houseplants.” I adore being a minister. It’s been one of the greatest joys of my life. Yet, there are days I feel like I have to prune and replant for three hours all while drinking grapefruit oolong tea. I can do that, and then spend an additional hour kicking myself for not wearing the “minister” hat longer…or I can accept those three hours as a hat I desperately needed to wear.

The other hats will still be there. The ones that won’t, well, maybe as Louise found, it was time for a new one anyway.

Resolutions for the New Year

Vincent de Paul suggested that we focus our resolutions on those that help us acquire the spirit of the mission entrusted to us.

Let’s take renewed resolutions to acquire this spirit, which is our spirit; for the spirit of the Mission is a spirit of simplicity, humility, gentleness, mortification, and zeal. Do we have it or don’t we?” (CCD, 12:251.)

Mortification doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, and today, humility and gentleness may not be the virtues to which we aspire above all others. However, Vincent’s wisdom may serve us well as we face the New Year, and perhaps as we commit to renewed resolutions for the time ahead. Vincent suggested that our lived values should be those that ultimately enable us to serve a bigger mission or purpose, our calling, or that which we are seeking to fulfill. He believed that his commitment to serve those who were in need required an imitation of the virtues he recognized in Jesus. A contemporary translation of Vincent’s characteristic virtues suggests that we must strive to be honest, approachable, self-disciplined, realistic, and hard working.

As you pause to consider your own personal sense of mission and the mission entrusted to us here at DePaul, what do you believe are the primary values essential for us to make real in our daily decisions and actions during the year to come?

We will be focusing Mission Monday reflections on these Vincentian virtues in the coming weeks as we begin the New Year. For more on a contemporary interpretation of the virtues, see “Our Good Will and Honest Efforts,” by Edward R. Udovic, C.M.:

Article: https://via.library.depaul.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1321&context=vhj

Podcast: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_YG1viPqRnw

 

Reflection by:

Mark Laboe, Associate Vice President, Mission and Ministry

Meekness, the Charming Virtue

 

Is the virtue Meekness important to us today? Hear Rev. Jack Melito, C.M. set out Vincent’s reasons for developing this virtue, ways to grow in it, and its value today to one’s spiritual journey. “Meekness the Charming Virtue” is a chapter from the book Windows on His Vision (p 125) available at https://via.library.depaul.edu/windows/2/

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

 

 

The Virtue of Perspective

 

A Mentor for our everyday lives, Vincent’s common sense perspective informed by his faith is explored by Jack Melito in this reading.  What makes for a good life? Quality…moderation…patient watching… prudent action…dealing with frustrations…a way of viewing outcomes. Vincent’s perspective on life provides answers.  “The Virtue of Perspective” is a chapter from the book Windows on His Vision (141) available at https://via.library.depaul.edu/windows/2/

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

First the Heart, Then the Work

 

Ever been asked: “Who are you?”  What was your response?  In answer to that question, hear how Vincent de Paul, the mystic of Charity, challenges us to consider the motives of one’s heart as defining one’s self, no matter one’s title, job description, salary level, or type of work.  After listening, ask yourself the question: “Who am I?”

“First the Heart, Then the Work” is a chapter from the book Windows on His Vision (pp. 158-159) available at https://via.library.depaul.edu/windows/2/

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

 

 

Glory to God

 

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?

“Glory to God” is a chapter from the book Windows on His Vision (pp. 129-130) available at https://via.library.depaul.edu/windows/2/

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

That Beautiful Virtue

 

Vincent de Paul’s awareness of his own sinfulness taught him the beauty of Mercy.  How, then, is Mercy beautiful?

  • It is an attribute of God
  • It binds communities to God and humans to one another
  • It is the seedbed of compassion

Practicing mercy and compassion at every moment is a perfect way to repay one’s debt of gratitude for the mercy and compassion one has received in life.

“That Beautiful Virtue” is a chapter from the book Windows on His Vision (pp. 139-140) available at: https://via.library.depaul.edu/windows/2/

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