Simplicity in Hectic Times

Since the academic year started, I’ve felt like I’m learning to juggle while the balls are already in the air. Fall Quarter is hectic in ordinary times, but this school year is anything but average. We face a global pandemic, systemic racism and racist violence, a declining economy, massive unemployment numbers, and political upheaval and uncertainty. The pandemic has made burdens that people already carried much heavier, and it has added new burdens to our loads.

In those moments when it feels like there are too many balls to juggle, I turn toward the Vincentian virtue of simplicity. In the Vincentian tradition, the value of simplicity is twofold. On the one hand, it refers to clear and honest speech. When we speak simply, we are our most authentic selves. In The Way of Vincent de Paul, Robert Maloney, C.M., writes “The heart must not think one thing while the mouth says another.”1 In our context today, simplicity might invite us to name honestly when we have reached our limits and need support. Likewise, it might mean speaking truth to power in the face of injustice and political turmoil.

Simplicity also invites us to clear away the clutter in our lives to make room for the things that truly matter. In a time when we face an immense amount of mental clutter and overstimulation, simplicity can remind us to pause and refocus our attention where it needs to be. It reminds us to make room in our lives for stillness and rest.

As you start the week, notice the ways you feel called toward simplicity.

  • Where do you feel you need to speak your truth?
  • Where do you feel stretched too thin? If you’re juggling too many balls, is it possible to remove one from the rotation and/or ask for support?
  • Where is the clutter in your life? How can you actively clear it away to find room for stillness?
  • What is one way you can rest today?

1) Robert P. Maloney, C.M., The Way of Vincent de Paul: A Contemporary Spirituality in the Service of the Poor (New York: New City Press, 1992), 38. See:

 Reflection by:    Emily LaHood-Olsen, Ministry Coordinator for Service Immersions, Division of Mission and Ministry

Simplicity is the Virtue I Love the Most

 “Simplicity is the virtue I love the most and to which, I think, I pay the most attention in my actions.”
— Vincent de Paul (CCD, 1:265)

Recent social movements have made transparency a growing expectation for companies and organizations in society. Along with this, authenticity has become a cherished value for many people in a world under barrage by social media and advertisements that make it difficult for us to determine what is real or true.

Vincent de Paul’s understanding of simplicity – the virtue he cherished most – emphasized this type of transparency and authenticity. As Vincent understood it, being simple means being honest, as well demonstrating what we believe in concrete ways through our actions. Vincent would have been comfortable saying that it is not what we say but rather what we do that communicates what we truly value. The wisdom found in Vincent’s notion of simplicity asks us to ensure that our professed values are evident in our daily decisions, behaviors, and relationships.

A focus on the virtue of simplicity, therefore, would beg a number of questions both personally and collectively: What are the core values that are most important to you? Would others see these values shine through in your daily actions? Based on our shared Vincentian mission, what values are most important to us at DePaul? Do our daily actions and decisions match these ideals or, conversely, where do we fall short? How can we better practice what we preach to live the values we espouse?

Reflection by:

Mark Laboe, Associate Vice President, Mission and Ministry

Day with Vincent: A Day of Service and Reflection for Faculty and Staff

Friday, March 6th, 2020. 9:00 am – 4:00 pm

Are you interested in joining your colleagues to put mission into action during a day of service and reflection? Join us for this special mission engagement and learning opportunity for DePaul’s faculty and staff. We will focus on gaining a deeper understanding of DePaul’s Vincentian mission by integrating a commitment to service with our personal sense of purpose. This Day with Vincent retreat doubles as Part II of the Explore Your Purpose Workshop series for staff and faculty. For more information, please contact Tom Judge at

The Long and Winding Road


“Let us go in simplicity where merciful Providence leads us, content to see the stone on which we should step without wanting to discover all at once and completely the windings of the road.”

Frédéric Ozanam (Dirvin, Letters, p. 93)

Portrait de FrŽdŽric OZANAM, par L. Janmot, mars 1852

In a letter to a friend, Frédéric Ozanam, founder of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, identified within himself something that many of us also experience: we restlessly focus upon the future, only to miss out on the peace and purpose to be found in the present. For Ozanam, faith meant an embrace of the present moment and a willingness to be led by God one-step at a time even at the risk of not knowing where the journey will take you.

Are you willing to let go of certainty and take life one step at a time?  If you pause and reflect, what needs tending to in your life, both in and outside of DePaul, right now?

Inspired by the lives of Vincent de Paul and Louise de Marillac, and influenced by Rosalie Rendu, D.C., Frédéric Ozanam co-founded the Society of St. Vincent de Paul in 1833 to tend to the spiritual and material needs of the poor in Paris. Today, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul numbers nearly one million members worldwide.

Joseph I. Dirvin, C.M., trans and ed., Frédéric Ozanam: A Life in Letters (St. Louis: Society of St. Vincent de Paul, 1986).

Frédéric Ozanam:

Society of St. Vincent de Paul USA:

Rosalie Rendu:

That Countercultural Virtue


In this meditation, Fr. Jack Melito, C.M., focuses on the virtue of Simplicity as understood and lived by Vincent de Paul.  Experiencing the God of the Universe while living a life of Simplicity reveals to the practitioner the efficacious nature of that virtue.  In whatever age, a life ordered by the virtue of Simplicity is a life readily identified as countercultural.

“Simplicity: A Countercultural Value” is a chapter from the book Windows on His Vision (pp. 146-147) available at:

It is also available as an ebook here:

Give Me the Simple Life


“Give Me the Simple Life” is a chapter in the book Saint Vincent de Paul: His Mind and His Manner (pp. 84-86) by Jack Melito, C.M., published in 2010 by the Vincentian Studies Institute at DePaul University in Chicago, IL.  Here Fr. Melito illustrates how Vincent de Paul urges us to live simply.  What does this mean?  How is it done? For Vincent the answers did not involve quantitative measures but qualitative ones which point to living as Jesus lived.  Even the great poet, Henry David Thoreau, though not ‘religious,’ stressed the importance of living simply.  Both the religious guide and the humanistic guru, then, counsel living simply and realizing, ultimately, its liberating openness to the inherent beauty of life itself.  Simple, deliberate living is a personal style.  There is no one-size-fits-all.  For Vincent, it was “the livery of Christ conceived in the Spirit of the poor.”

Happy Birthday, Vincent!

On April 24th, the DePaul community will celebrate the birthday of St. Vincent de Paul, for whom DePaul is named.  Vincent founded the Congregation of the Mission (the Vincentians) and, with St. Louise de Marillac, the Daughters of Charity. 

Above all,
I appreciate
what I have come to know of
as your “simplicity,”
that virtue which
you said you desired most.
I translate this quality
for myself
as integrity,
or consistency in character.
And, what makes me love
this quality
about you
is when I can imagine you
in your day
relating with,
and appreciating
all people just the same,
whether they were
the richest of the nobles,
the poor galley slaves,
or the most needy people
on the streets of Paris.

I respect the fact that
you did not seem
to try too hard
for the well-to-do
or for those who would bring you benefit,
nor too little
for the poor and the outcast.
To all
you spoke your truth
and brought your best intentions and care.
You were yourself, and
they were to you
all God’s children,
gifts unto themselves,
potential bearers of Providence.
And so, it became your mission,
to see the other side of the scarred coin,
and to become
a humble servant to all
who needed your care.
You did what you could do
and invited others
by name
to do the same.
You did not waste time
nor energy
on that which was illusory.
You took steady, forward steps
with what was given or revealed to you
and towards what was possible.

that virtue you admired most,
is the one I love most in you,
and the one I most desire in myself,
for I believe
(as I imagine you did as well)
that as we become more fully
who we truly are –
authentically, humbly –
the more often and more clearly
we reflect
and the more
we allow
the care that
our God
desires to bestow
on all people
to be born
in us.

Mark Laboe serves as DePaul’s Associate Vice President for University Ministry.  He wrote this poem in 2014 in honor of Vincent’s birthday and shares it again this week to commemorate Vincent’s upcoming birthday.


Interested in celebrating Vincent’s birthday with the DePaul community?  Join the Office of Mission and Values on Friday, April 24th at 2:30pm as they hold a celebration for St. Vincent’s birthday in Catholic Campus Ministry (Suite 104 of the Lincoln Park Student Center).