What are Your Gifts?

“What a blessing to be a member of a Community because each individual shares in the good that is done by all!”[i]

When considering the continued vibrancy and sustainability of DePaul’s mission—especially in the context of the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday— I like to think of the image of a potluck dinner in which each member of a family or community brings their special dish to the common table. Almost miraculously, a feast of widely varied food results, and there is always more than enough for everyone to leave satisfied. The legendary children’s story, “Stone Soup,” echoes a similar wisdom.

As we approach Thanksgiving, we are naturally encouraged to reflect on the place of gratitude in our lives. Especially during a difficult time, making space to feel and express gratitude is beneficial to our psyche, to our relationships, and to our overall feeling of well-being. We feel more wind at our backs in recognizing the many gifts we have received, especially those not of our own making that came to us through the generosity of others or through the surprising and unmerited blessings of our lives.

The flip side of gratitude for gifts received is to share them generously with others. The flow of receiving and giving freely is one of the great spiritual insights at the heart of many religious traditions, including the Catholic Christianity which formed Vincent de Paul, Louise de Marillac and so many of our beloved Vincentian saints of history and contemporary companions on the journey. Simply put, this insight is the ongoing invitation to receive graciously and then to share generously from what we receive.

One way to imagine the spiritual transformation of Vincent de Paul is to note that once he realized the calling to devote his energy and commitment to serve society’s poor, it became clear to him that this mission was well beyond what he was capable of doing on his own. He understood that only a community of people formed and gathered for this shared mission could accomplish such a massive undertaking. Framed in this way, the emergent mission of Vincent de Paul carries with it an important truth of the Vincentian spirit and one that he carried forth in his work and ministry for the remainder of his life. That is, the effectiveness and sustainability of this mission he envisioned was dependent on how a community could be effectively formed, motivated, and guided to contribute toward achieving it together, collaboratively. This truth becomes a helpful lens through which to interpret much of Vincent de Paul’s life and ministry and the Vincentian tradition that followed.

At DePaul, we are fond of calling ourselves “a community gathered together for the sake of the mission,” a modern translation of the name Vincent de Paul gave to the religious community he founded, the Congregation of the Mission. One of Vincent’s important insights was that this mission can be effective and sustained only when the gifts present in individuals who make up the community are shared freely and generously in its service.

As you reflect on the many gifts present in your own life during this Thanksgiving season, pause also to recognize the gifts, talents, and resources that you have to offer to others. Begin with what has been given to you in your life and has helped to shape the person you have become, but consider also what you, in turn, can generously share with others in the communities of which you are a part, including our DePaul University community. Only through such sharing will our common mission flourish.

This Thanksgiving season may an abundance of gifts flow freely both into your life and outward from you into the different communities of which you are a part!

Reflection by: Mark Laboe, Associate Vice President, Division of Mission and Ministry


  [i] Conference 1, Explanation of the Regulations, 31 July 1634, CCD, 9:2. Available at: https://‌via.‌library.‌depaul.‌‌edu/‌vincentian_ebooks/34/.

 

Inspired by Joy:  A Day with Vincent Program (Wednesday, December 15th)

“We must be full reservoirs in order to let our water spill out without becoming empty, and we must possess the spirit with which we want them to be animated, for no one can give what he does not have.” Vincent de Paul

Fill your reservoir before the holiday break with a morning retreat grounded in our Vincentian mission and interfaith wisdom. Reconnect with what brings you joy…the greatest gift you can offer to those around you!

You can participate in two ways:

  • Join us in person: 9:00 am – 1:00 pm, including breakfast, lunch, and some fun surprises (LP Student Center 314)
  • Join us virtually:  9:30-11:00 am (Zoom)

Register now at: https://december-day-with-vincent.eventbrite.com

 

Sharing Our Trials as Well as Our Joys

“I received your letter yesterday; as always, it gave me fresh reasons for praising God. Still, it troubled me a little because, from what you tell me in your last letter, it seems to me you are suffering from something, although you did not state this clearly. Please share with me, Monsieur, your trials as well as your joys.”[1]

Moses (Peace be upon Him) is one of the most important figures in all three Abrahamic traditions,[2] and historically in American culture.[3] The Qur’an devotes more time to the life of Moses[4] than to any other person. In the Qur’anic telling, when Moses flees Egypt and the Pharaoh he arrives in Midian in a desperate situation. He hasn’t had anything to eat other than leaves, is physically drained and exhausted, and he remains deeply fearful that there are powerful forces seeking to capture and punish him. He is separated from all that was once dear and familiar. Moses comes across a large group of men watering their animals at a well, but his attention is drawn to two women who are said to be holding back theirs. Moses approaches them and asks “what is the matter?”[5] After they explain that their father is old and can’t come to the well, and that the men will not let them water their animals, Moses assists them and waters their animals himself. Moses then leaves to rest and pray to God, but this is the beginning of an unexpected blessing that will radically shift the course of his future.

Many of us have experienced, especially in times of loss, anxiety, or other suffering, the blessing of having someone listen to our story or to our feelings. In some cases they may be able to assist us in material ways. At other times, perhaps they can only accompany us in our grief or hardship. Either way, it often feels that sharing our burdens lessens them. This is what profoundly struck me in the excerpt above: “Please share with me Monsieur, your trials as well as your joys.” As Marilynne Robinson says in Gilead, “There’s a lot under the surface of life, everyone knows that.”[6] When we are able through words or actions, let those close to us know that they can share with us what is normally kept under the surface, their trials as well as their joys. This can be a powerful step towards creating real community. We strive to make DePaul more than just a workplace. We strive to create a community joined together for the sake of mission. Let us ask ourselves how we can be open to those around us, whether it be students we serve, those we supervise, or the fellow employees we encounter and work alongside.

There are many ways people respond to the brokenness of our world. One of the most memorable characters in literature is found in Charles Dickens’ Bleak House. Mrs. Jellyby fills her every moment with “work” towards an idealistic project in Africa, which she thinks will do enormous social good. Yet this project never comes to fruition. All the while she is ignoring the sufferings of those close to her, including her husband and her own children. In truly listening to the trials and joys of others, that which is under the surface, we begin to discern how we can best respond to those challenges that are within our sphere of influence. We see changes that can be made and realities that can be faced together.

For Reflection: Is there someone in your life with whom you can truly share your trials as well as your joys? Are there people for whom you provide that deep listening? What are some of the reasons we may be reluctant to share with others, or open ourselves to others sharing with us? How can we overcome these barriers to deeper community?

Reflection by: Abdul-Malik Ryan, Muslim Chaplain and Assistant Director of Religious Diversity and Pastoral Care, Division of Mission and Ministry

See also our past Mission Monday reflection “Being Fully Present” by Emily Lahood-Olsen, based on a quotation from Saint Louise de Marillac: https://blogs.depaul.edu/dmm/2019/10/21/being-fully-present/

We remind all of you that one of the ways you are invited to share with the DePaul community, whether sharing news of weddings, births, adoptions, or bereavements in your immediate family, is through the Newsline Family Events column: https://resources.depaul.edu/newsline/contact/Pages/life-events.aspx

You are also invited to share any requests for prayer with the Division of Mission and Ministry at: https://offices.depaul.edu/mission-ministry/religious-spiritual-life/Pages/Prayer-Requests.aspx


[1] Letter 1823, To Charles Ozenne, Superior, In Warsaw, 1 January 1655, CCD, 5:255.

[2] Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. As I remarked in a recent interfaith dialogue event about Moses, perhaps they could just as accurately (if not more so) be referred to as the three Mosaic faiths or traditions.

[3] Moses serves as one of the most popular superhero archetypes in popular culture and historically has been a touchstone for all Americans regardless of their political beliefs.

[4] In Arabic, Musa.

[5] Qur’an 28:22-24.

[6] Marilynne Robinson, Gilead (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2004), p. 6.

Saint Vincent de Paul: From Memory to Commitment

Vincent de Paul’s spirituality is not a spirituality of the academy but of life. Johann Baptist Metz, a German theologian, was the first one to talk about “the spirituality of open eyes.” According to him, “the experience of God biblically inspired is not a perception uniquely related to oneself but rather a perception vividly intensified by the pain and suffering of others.”[1] This is the spirituality of Saint Vincent de Paul whose memory we are celebrating today. Vincent was a man of faith whose eyes were wide open.

Looking was what saved him. When Vincent decided to open his eyes, his humanity and the purpose of his life were redefined. This progressive conversion of our founder gradually defined his spiritual maturity. “The poor, who do not know where to go or what to do, who are suffering already and who increase daily, are my burden and my sorrow.”[2] His many experiences with the poor shook him with great force, opened his eyes, and molded his spirituality. They led him to read history as a mediation of God continually revealing His will to us.

A prominent turn in contemporary theology has involved the call for a renewed relationship between Christian spirituality, sociopolitical factors, and environmental concerns. At DePaul University we feel that this is a challenge we cannot avoid. Our understanding of Catholic and Vincentian traditions must be informed by opening our eyes to the societal challenges made plain in our university Mission Statement. Catholic Higher Education is being invited from the heart of the Catholic Church to become an effective tool for social transformation, social mobility, sustainability, nonviolence, racial equity, and justice.[3]

“Since its founding in 1898, DePaul University has remained dedicated to making education accessible to all, with special attention to including underserved and underrepresented communities.”[4] Our continuous commitment is grounded in our understanding of the Vincentian Spirit, and on facing the challenges and opportunities of our contemporary world. Education is a human right currently denied to most members of our human family. It is a fundamental resource necessary for individuals and communities to thrive. Access to education and equity is an ongoing struggle, recently made evident by our concerns, our fears, and our prayers for the women of Afghanistan.

Today, I invite the DePaul community to celebrate Saint Vincent de Paul by continuing our move from memory to commitment. To embrace a spirituality of open eyes, as Vincent did, we need to dare to see, to hear, and to boldly interpret the signs of the times. This must be done personally, communally, and socially. In listening to the cries of our earth itself and the cries from across our planet of all those suffering exclusion and discrimination, we should understand that God is calling us.

HAPPY FEAST DAY DEAR DEPAUL COMMUNITY!

———

Reflection by: Fr. Guillermo Campuzano, C.M., Vice President of Mission and Ministry

Please join DePaul colleagues for the Annual Vincentian Feast Day Mass and Lunch at both campuses today, Monday September 27th at 12 Noon, in the Miraculous Medal Chapel (Loop – 1st floor Lewis building) and the St. Louise de Marillac Chapel (LPC 1st floor Student Center). Lunch to follow masses at both campuses. All are welcome!


[1] Matthew T. Eggemeier, “A Mysticism of Open Eyes: Compassion for a Suffering World and the Askesis of Contemplative Prayer,” Spiritus: A Journal of Christian Spirituality 12:1 (2012): 43-62. See: researchgate.net.

[2] Letter 1143, To Rene Almeras, Superior, In Rome, 8 October 1649, CCD, 3:492.

[3] Francis, Global Compact on Education, 15 October 2020. See: vatican.va.

[4] DePaul University Mission Statement, March 2021. See: mission statement.

The Enduring Spirit of DePaul’s Mission

“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?”[1]

In 1659, Vincent invited his community to reflect upon the distinguishing characteristics, core values, and commitments of the Vincentian mission and to recommit to the essence of its spirit. Vincent understood the importance of reflecting on our actions to inform our understanding of the present, as well as to better craft the evolving future.

The seeds of DePaul’s mission were planted in seventeenth-century France and our heritage begins there. Yet, to paraphrase Vincent, even in these early days he challenged his community to discern “do we have the Vincentian Spirit or don’t we?”

Today, centuries later, each of us is invited to reflect upon similar questions. In what ways is the Vincentian Spirit manifest in our work and community? Where is it lacking? How are we interpreting the spirit of the mission for the reality of DePaul University’s present and the reality of its tomorrow?

In 2020-2021, for the first time in 35 years, DePaul engaged 600 community members in a ten-month-long participatory process to reflect upon who we are and whom we dream of becoming. Our updated mission statement is the result of this inclusive and communal process. Drawing on the same spirit as Vincent, it expresses the university’s current reality, reflects our shared values, and articulates our evolving hopes and common dreams.

Over the next seven days, we invite you to participate in the annual St. Vincent de Paul Heritage Week. In attending one or more of an array of mission-focused events, you will have the opportunity to celebrate our Vincentian Heritage, reflect upon the mission in today’s context, and examine its dynamic, unfolding meaning at both a personal and professional level.

We look forward to welcoming you and celebrating at one or more of these events. Registration information for the week can be found here.


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

[1] Conference 211, The Five Characteristic Virtues (Common Rules, Chap. II, Art. 14), 22 August 1659, CCD, 12:251.

Can We Choose Enthusiasm?

I recently realized that I need to move past my habitual cynicism if I am to contribute to positive and creative solutions in overcoming challenges—in my personal life, in my work life, and as a citizen of our city and world. I am learning that in a society in which emotions increasingly seem to drive behavior, exercising thoughtful agency and intentionality in how we live and respond, regardless of how we feel, can be a great spiritual challenge.

For example, can we choose to be enthusiastic and do so authentically, even when our emotions or life circumstances might weigh us down? And, if so, will it even make a positive difference? To a certain extent the answer is yes, in that our emotional state can often change simply with a shift in perspective. Life habits, like exercise, meditation, or friendship, can also do much to cultivate enthusiasm and gratitude for what is present and possible before us. Our communities also play a vital role in helping us to cultivate and sustain an enthusiastic hope and vision. Moreover, rather than cynicism, in terms of its generative impact enthusiasm certainly tends to be more inspiring and effective in persuading others toward positive action.

Dictionaries suggest enthusiasm involves enjoyment, interest, and an energy or zest for life. Our current day understanding of enthusiasm shares something in common with what Vincent de Paul, in his day, named “zeal.” Vincent said, “if love is a sun, zeal is its ray.”[1] He seemed to see zeal as closely tied to courage and to an abiding trust in Providence, but also as something that one could acquire through lived experience and grace. Vincent once described zeal as the “soul of virtues.”[2] Zeal, for Vincent, was more than mere sentiment; it seemed to involve channeling our own conscious will and giving ourselves over to a purpose beyond ourselves. For him, this larger purpose was what he called “the spirit of the Mission.”[3]

How might we remain enthusiastic or cultivate the virtue of zeal in the face of today’s challenges, both personal and societal? As we witness the most recent destruction in Haiti, the horrific situation in Afghanistan, the pernicious gun violence in our city, the continued havoc caused by the pandemic and natural disasters like hurricanes, or the intractable systemic problems of racism, poverty, and war… and on and on… pain, sadness, and anger are perfectly understandable feelings to be experiencing. How do we get from there to enthusiasm or zeal, and why even bother?

One important reason to move towards enthusiasm is because change, whether at the personal, interpersonal, institutional, or societal level, requires it. If we are to move through and past painful emotions and work towards that which can transform, uplift, and create a new reality, we need the energy and vitality of enthusiasm. We need a certain hope and zest for life and for all that is still possible. At DePaul, as a Vincentian university, we must find a way to inspire one another to embody this “zeal.” It is our mission to prepare our graduates to become “agents of transformation throughout their lives” and to address “the great questions of our day, promoting peaceful, just, and equitable solutions to social and environmental challenges.”[4] We should consider enthusiasm, or zeal, an essential Vincentian virtue for our times.

  • What are the habits that help you to cultivate enthusiasm or a zeal for life?
  • How might you help to foster an enthusiasm for the “spirit of the Mission” in your own area of work, or in your circles of influence at DePaul

Reflection by: Mark Laboe, Associate Vice President, Division of Mission and Ministry

[1] Conference 211, The Five Characteristic Virtues (Common Rules, Chap. II, Art. 14), 22 August 1659, CCD, 12:250. See: https://via.library.depaul.edu/vincentian_ebooks/36/

[2] Letter 460, To Pierre Escart, in Annecy, 25 July 1640, Ibid., 2:84. See: https://‌via.library.‌depaul.edu/‌vincentian_‌ebooks/27/

[3] Conference 211, Op. Cit., 12:251.

[4] See: DePaul University Mission Statement

Vincent de Paul Heritage Week 2021

What Must Be Done to Confront Global Homelessness?
Wednesday, September 22 (11:30 am – 12:45 pm)
Student Center 120 A & B

Launching St. Vincent de Paul Heritage Week, faculty, staff, and students are invited to attend a special luncheon on September 22 discussing the questions: “What must be done to confront global homelessness?” How can we better see the problem and advocate for justice? What concrete steps can we take today as we seek a world where everyone has a stake in their community and a place to call home?

Following opening remarks by Fr. Memo Campuzano, C.M., the panel will feature leading experts from two Vincentian organizations at the forefront of the movement to engage with these questions—FamVin Homeless Alliance and Ruff Institute of Global Homelessness.

  • Mark McGreevy OBE, Group CEO Depaul International and Founder – Institute of Global Homelessness at DePaul University
  • Lydia Stazen, Director, Ruff Institute of Global Homelessness
  • Yasmine Cajuste, Project Development Manager for FamVin Homeless Alliance

A vibrant Q&A will follow the panel. We hope you can join us for this discussion in honor of St. Vincent’s Feast Day as part of the St. Vincent de Paul Heritage Week!

Please register here.

St. Vincent de Paul Prayer Breakfast
Vincent: A Man of Possibility and Hope

Friday, September 24 (8:30 – 10:00 am)
Student Center 120 A & B

The St. Vincent de Paul Prayer Breakfast invites DePaul colleagues, students and friends to pause and reflect on St. Vincent, the namesake of our university and his rich legacy as it is lived out today.

During his lifetime, St. Vincent endured great hardship, and found ways of not only enduring but also overcoming challenges by finding hope and embracing possibility. Even when things seemed insurmountable, he found the strength to move forward. How? What can we learn from his legacy? Is it possible to find moments of goodness, joy, and even gratitude in difficult times?

Come join us for breakfast with keynote speaker Darryl Arrington, Assistant Vice President of DePaul’s Center for Access and Attainment, who will help us explore such questions.

Breakfast will begin at 8:30 am, with the keynote to follow. We hope you can join us!

Register here

Vinny Fest
Friday, September 24 (2pm – 4pm)
Lincoln Park Quad & St. Vincent’s Circle

Students, join us for Vinny Fest 2021, a DePaul tradition to honor and celebrate St. Vincent de Paul’s legacy with fun, games, photos with Vincent, free food, and more! Vinny Fest features student organizations, offices, and departments as they host engaging activities to celebrate our mission in action as a DePaul community. Follow @mmatmdepaul on our socials to stay up to date.

DeHub Link: https://cglink.me/2cC/r14404 | DeHub Partner Registration Link: https://cglink.me/2cC/s1110

Sunday Night Mass & BBQ
Sunday, September 26, 6pm
St. Vincent de Paul Parish

Join Catholic Campus Ministry and St. Vincent de Paul Parish for a (free) BBQ on the Parish Lawn (on Webster Ave.) to celebrate the Feast Day at 6pm, followed by a festive Sunday Night Mass at 8pm.

Whether you go to Mass weekly, once in a while, or have never been to a Catholic Mass, you are welcome here! Come celebrate!

Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/902946456973517

Feast Day Mass
Monday, September 27, 12:00 pm
Lincoln Park & Loop Campuses

For those wishing to attend Mass celebrating St. Vincent de Paul’s Feast Day, services will be held in the Loop on the 11th floor gallery, and in Lincoln Park in the St. Louise de Marillac chapel.

Feast Day Lunch
Monday, September 27, 12:45 pm
Lincoln Park & Loop Campuses

Celebrate our namesake’s Feast Day with a celebratory lunch at 12:45 pm. Everyone is welcome!
–In the Loop, join us on the 11th floor terrace in the DePaul Center. RSVP here for the Loop lunch.
–For the lunch in Lincoln Park, no need to register, just come to Catholic Campus Ministry.

The Strength of Weakness

Remember, Monsieur that roses are not gathered except in the midst of thorns and that heroic acts of virtue are accomplished only in weakness.[1]

The life experience of Xavier le Pichon, one of the world’s leading geophysicists, has convinced him that care for the weakest among us is what makes us truly human. In essence, le Pinchon maintains that weaknesses, imperfections, and faults are integral to facilitating the evolution of a system or a society. He says: “A system which is too perfect is too rigid because it does not see a need to evolve.”[2]

We find ourselves at a moment in history when our day-to-day reality seems to be evolving by the nanosecond. When aren’t we in a state of flux these days? As we seek to outsmart the pandemic, barely a day goes by without a new advisory directing us to adopt a different behavior Today masks are mandatory, tomorrow, they are not. The day after, masks are highly recommended, then deemed unnecessary, until, of course, the sun comes up to illuminate the wisdom of yet another new day. Booster advisories, social distancing alerts, vaccination updates, the list continues. The ground on which we stand is forever changing at the pervasive ping of a phone or the tenacious twitter of a tweet. The “new normal,” if such a thing even exists, may be the simple reality that we have become a people adrift. The constant shifting of the terrain threatens our equilibrium and unsettles our very core.

During his life, Vincent de Paul weathered a long period of upheaval and turmoil. What seeds of wisdom might his life experience offer us?

Vincent’s approach, as we see reflected in his penned advisory, was to acknowledge that the existence of thorns is necessary for roses to flourish. The lifeblood of the two are interdependent, thus, both are needed for the rosebush to thrive. Yet, Vincent did not stop here. Similar to his countryman, le Pinchon, Vincent suggests that it is the very existence of weakness that creates the fertile ground in which “heroic acts of virtue” must occur. Perhaps, to frame this in more contemporary terms, experiences of weakness and fragility, as hard as they may be to navigate, offer us a unique invitation to demonstrate acts of compassion, love and justice. Indeed, they call us to right relationship and invite us to develop our own humanity.

Vincent developed this wisdom not through a naïve sentimentalized view of the world, but while living through the tumultuous period of the Thirty Years War, and the civil war known as the Fronde. He certainly knew what it was to battle uncertainty and endure upheaval. Moreover, through his experience of caring for those who were poor, he understood firsthand the colossal weight of human need and the complexity of social problems. Yet, in the midst of navigating such rocky terrain, Vincent came to believe that love is always inventive to infinity.[3]

So, today, as we find ourselves barraged by ever-changing news advisories, I invite you to pause and recall a single moment, during the course of the pandemic, in which you felt most fully alive.  What role did weakness play in this moment? What may the unsettled ground of today be trying to teach you as you address the questions of tomorrow?


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

References:

[1] Vincent de Paul, CCD 2:21-22. Written to Jacques Tholard, In Annecy, 1 February 1640.

[2] Le Pinchon, Xavier.  “Ecce Homo (Behold Community)”. https://onbeing.org/blog/xavier-le-pichon-ecce-homo-behold-humanity/

[3] Vincent de Paul, CCD 11:131. Exhortation to a dying brother.

 

A Summer of Sustenance

As a child growing up in London, before I would head out to school, my mother would often seek to entice us to finish up our breakfast by saying, “Eat up all of your breakfast before you leave. You’ll need energy for the day. It’s like a car; if you don’t give it petrol it can’t run.” Her words still give me pause for reflection these many years.

Where do we find sustenance for life?

In our time the importance of self-care is frequently emphasized. It makes sense. If you don’t take care of your body, mind, and spirit, how can they take care of you?

During their time, in their own way, both Vincent de Paul and Louise de Marillac embraced such seeds of wisdom. Because their ministry could certainly take a toll and came at a personal cost, these longtime, caring friends sometimes challenged each other and their communities to take a step back to replenish dwindling reserves. Indeed, as Vincent himself knew, “[I]t’s impossible for us to produce good results if we’re like dry land that yields only thistles.”1 After all, “no one can give what he [or she] does not have.”2

How will you replenish your reservoir this summer? As we combat a global pandemic, this question seems all the more poignant now in light of what has been, and continues to be, one of the most challenging periods in living history.

How are you being invited to nurture your mind, body, and spirit? And how will you recharge the spirit within yourself that invites all to flourish? The invitation awaits. How will you respond?


1 Conference 202, Gentleness (Common Rules, Chap. II, Art. 6), 28 March 1659, CCD, 12:157. See: https://via.library.depaul.edu/coste_en/

2 Letter 1623, To a Seminary Director, CCD, 4:570.

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

Blue Demons and Butterflies

When you see a butterfly fluttering its wings, what comes to mind? For some, possibly the complete metamorphosis from eggs to caterpillar to chrysalis to adult; others might imagine grace and beauty. In the richness of its diverse expressions, nature provides many images of transition and change like the dynamic life of a butterfly. For example, the genus Morpho butterfly includes 29 species and 150 sub-species. Living harmoniously, the size, color, and wingspan of each manifests its unique beauty amid natural diversity. The life and behavior of butterflies teach many lessons if we take time to observe them. Ponder the possibilities.

The royal blue color and dazzling iridescent wings of Morpho butterflies reminds me of the Blue Demons of DePaul University wherein true blue signifies respect, loyalty, and search for truth. As nature is enriched by its diverse expressions, diversity enriches our academic community. When embraced and celebrated, diversity inspires transformation, which butterflies symbolize.

The fleeting, flickering presence of butterflies reveals not only delicate designs but also fragility. Their ongoing fight for survival challenges us to sustain their existence in our world. Created to flourish, human life is also fragile. Human and natural diversity challenges us to live, work, and play together harmoniously—to care for one another, to tend our common home, and to nurture the earth community. Personalism makes that possible.

As a diverse, multi-faith, and inclusive community Vincentian personalism enables us to uphold the dignity of everyone. Respect for each person is foundational. Vincent de Paul taught, “Respect is an expression of the esteem you have for the person you respect…Respect has its source in the understanding because it comes from the knowledge of a person’s worth.”1

We honor one another as Blue Demons and show our Vincentian spirit when we wear DePaul blue on Thursdays or at events. Like the Morpho butterfly with its royal blue robe and fluttering wings, Blue Demons wear blue with pride as their DePaul robe of distinction. Vincent de Paul encouraged his collaborators to “Strive always to have the robe of charity” because that signified love of God and love of neighbor.2 Actions, attitudes, and attentiveness to others express our Vincentian values—the spirit of DePaul.

  1. Just as a caterpillar undergoes change and transformation before spreading its wings as a butterfly, what new attitudes, or behaviors must I develop to appreciate and respect others who do not believe or look like me?
  2. In what ways can I participate in cultural transformation for greater equity and justice for the DePaul community? For the global city of Chicago? For the neighborhood where I live?

1 Conference 96, Cordiality, Respect, and Exclusive Friendships, 2 June 1658, CCD, 10:394. Available at: https://via.library.depaul.edu/coste_en/

2 Conference 93, Mutual Charity and the Duty for Reconciliation, 4 March 1658, CCD, 10:379.

 

Reflection by:    Betty Ann McNeil, D.C., Vincentian Scholar-in-Residence, Mission & Ministry

Are “Thoughts and Prayers” Enough?

“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.

2 Vinicius Teixeira Ribeiro, C.M., “Prayer According to Saint Vincent de Paul – Part III,” 19 April 2020, Famvin.org, at: Prayer According to Saint Vincent.

 

Reflection by: Katie Brick, Executive Assistant, Division of Mission and Ministry