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: https://via.library.depaul.edu/maloney/13/

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

Living with Zeal

“If love of God is a fire, zeal is its flame; if love is a sun, zeal is its ray.” 211, The Five Characteristic Virtues, 22 August 1659, CCD, 12:250.

Vincent de Paul once stated, “If love of God is a fire, zeal is its flame; if love is a sun, zeal is its ray.” (CCD, 12:250) Such an image invokes the idea of a love that burns with compassion for one’s neighbor and motivates us to serve. Vincent saw zeal as a spreading fire that attracts others to its light. Robert Maloney, C.M., writes, “A love that is on fire will seek to communicate itself to others. It will seek to draw others into the same wonderful mission that it is carrying out.” (Maloney, The Way of Vincent de Paul [1992], 68)

Through a Vincentian lens, the love that gives birth to our zeal must be both affective and effective. Driving the wisdom of this home, consider Vincent’s much-quoted exhortation, “Let us love God, but let it be with the strength of our arms and the sweat of our brows.” (Maloney, Way, 46) Working for a Vincentian institution such as DePaul, we are invited to act and respond in a compassionate, pragmatic, and creative way. In order to achieve this, affective and effective love held in faithful dialogue characterizes our decision-making processes, shapes our approach to work and our interactions with colleagues, and gives direction to our zeal.

For Vincent, the virtue of zeal also meant hard work and a commitment to furthering the principles and shared values of the community. As important as this virtue was to him, however, he also was cognizant of what can impede zeal’s benefits, namely inattentiveness and burnout. For Vincent, inattentiveness involved allowing ourselves to become distracted by trivial things. This can be difficult for us today given the constant noise of contemporary society (social media, multi-tasking, etc.). He also was wary of the dangers of burnout, once advising Louise de Marillac, “Be very careful to conserve it (your health) for the love of the Lord and his poor members and be careful not to do too much.” (Maloney, Way, 47) Vincent seemed to understand the need for a balanced lifestyle with healthy boundaries.

As part of the DePaul community rooted in the Vincentian mission, we are invited to adopt this virtue of zeal, grounded in affective and effective love, and lived out with a balance and thoughtfulness that enables us to sustain our mission over the long haul. In contemplating the meaning of zeal in your life, think of the experiences or people that exhibit a “love on fire.” What else might help stoke the flame of zeal within you?  What are the actions that you and others might take to keep the fire of DePaul’s mission burning today, almost 400 years after the Congregation of the Mission began?

Reflection by:

Siobhan O’Donoghue, Director of Faculty and Staff Engagement, Division of Mission & Ministry

 

Upcoming Events:

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

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

DePaul faculty and staff are invited to a day of service, reflection, and community. On Friday, March 6th, we will gather at DePaul’s Lincoln Park Campus for breakfast then go out into the city to serve with and learn from our community partners. This is a great opportunity for staff and faculty to serve Chicago, grow in community, reconnect with your values, and deepen your understanding of our Vincentian mission. We hope you’ll join us! For questions, contact Tom Judge at: tjudge@depaul.edu To register go to: http://go.depaul.edu/serviceday

 

 

Meekness, the Charming Virtue

“How good you are, a God, my God, how good you are, since indeed in… (Saint) Francis de Sales, your creature, there is such great gentleness” (29, Deposition at the Process of Beatification of Francis de Sales, 17 April 1628, CCD, 13a:91.)

In telling of his own spiritual journey, Saint Vincent de Paul described being moved and transformed as a young man by his encounter and relationship with Francis de Sales — the Bishop of Geneva later recognized by the Catholic Church (in part through Vincent’s passionate testimony) as a Saint. Vincent, who was surely intellectually gifted and ambitious as a youth, expresses in the quote above his profound appreciation for Francis and the effect he had on him and others. De Sales instilled a deep appreciation in Vincent for how approachability and gentleness serve to open hearts. This, Vincent realized, is often more important and more transformative than the work our intellect does to win an argument.

DePaul University is a very large and multi-faceted institution. As important as mission statements or other proclamations of our mission may be, students, staff, and members of our community will only believe claims that “DePaul” cares about them if they feel the people they interact with here actually do. What a difference it makes if people feel that those around them are easily approachable because they radiate gentleness, joy, and authentic concern for others!

The virtue of meekness may be seen at times as a character trait or type of charisma with which some are blessed and others are not. However, Vincent believed that it could and must be cultivated, both in himself and in others whom he mentored and guided. Vincent saw himself as someone who was naturally prone to anger, and he had to learn how to channel that anger in healthy, productive ways. Our anger can sometimes be a great gift, for instance when prompted by the suffering and injustice we observe in the world around us. Yet, it must be focused in healthy ways, or else it may be wrongly directed at those around us, or in ways that do not lead to benefit.

Who are some people in your own experience who have this gift of approachability and gentleness? What are ways that we can cultivate the virtue of meekness, while remaining authentic in our relationships and having the necessary strength to encourage others to be the best versions of themselves?

 

Reflection by: Abdul-Malik Ryan, Assistant Director and Muslim Chaplain, 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 tjudge@depaul.edu.

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: https://famvin.org/wiki/Fr%C3%A9d%C3%A9ric_Ozanam

Society of St. Vincent de Paul USA: https://www.svdpusa.org/

Rosalie Rendu: https://www.vinnies.org.au/page/About/History/Bl_Rosalie_Rendu/