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/

 

 

Two sides of one Vincentian Mission coin: Personalism and Professionalism

 

To any member of the Vincentian Family, the question “What must be done?” is a familiar one.  Vincent cautioned us by advising that whatever it is, it must be done well.  Yet, this begs the question: What does doing it well mean?

Here, Ed Udovic, C.M., explores the mutually indispensable aspects of Vincentian Personalism and Vincentian Professionalism that continue to guide us in our mission to increase the measure of charity and justice in our world “well.”

Christmas Compassion

 

Compassion is a year-round virtue, but many of us suffer “compassion fatigue” when faced with the endless stream of stories of the lonely, the sick, the destitute, the abandoned, and the displaced in our world today.  What are we to do?  Jack Melito, C.M., discusses Vincent de Paul’s instruction about living a life of compassion:

First of all, we must remind ourselves that our first experience of compassion was the compassion we were sown by God.  As a result, we must make every effort to be compassionate to ourselves and to others.  We must pray for a spirit of Compassion and Mercy.  A life of compassionate action will result in a heart open to carrying the sufferings of the poor.  Though there may be times when regret creeps in, you must remember that, though you may judge yourself as having neglected opportunities to be merciful and compassionate, you did your best.  Therefore, always pray for a spirit of compassion and mercy.

“Christmas Compassion” is a chapter from the book, Windows on His Vision, (pp. 112-113) available at: https://via.library.depaul.edu/windows/3/

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