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

 

 

Humility

“Humility is the origin of all the good that we do.”

Robert P. Maloney, C.M., The Way of Vincent de Paul (1992), 41. See: https://via.library.depaul.edu/vincentian_ebooks/1/

Vincent de Paul believed true humility “brings all other virtues with it.” (Maloney, Way of Vincent de Paul, 41.) Louise de Marillac believed “true humility will regulate everything.” (L.11, Spiritual Writings of Louise de Marillac [1991], 20.) Because of our reverence for these two saints, who together began what we now call the Vincentian family, it remains for us to ask, what was true humility for Vincent and Louise? How might they have defined and recognized it? Moreover, how might we nurture that virtue in ourselves and how is it relevant for us today?

Based on their lives and correspondence, we have come to understand that humility meant many, interrelated things for the two saints. Gratitude for ones gifts, an absence of vanity, having a heart for service, emptying oneself of selfish desires in order to follow the will of God, and being open to transformation by attending to the poor, who are our brothers and sisters. These examples, and more, provide us with guideposts to follow as we pursue that most noble of virtues.

A contemporary understanding of humility, though still seen through a Vincentian lens, is to equate humility with realism. (See Udovic, “Our good will and honest efforts. Vincentian Perspectives on Poverty Reduction,” VH 28:2, 71.) It is to know oneself, and the world in which we live, and to discern what we are capable and not capable of doing. Humility as realism means giving our whole-hearted efforts towards worthy goals. Then, when the work is done, we must have faith that all will be well and that someone or something else will see it through. Recognizing we do not have all the answers, and being open to the gifts and contributions of others, is humility in action. It is the particular benefit of being part of a community. Vincent and Louise understood this.

We might pause and consider how we understand this virtue of humility and its relevance to us today? Do we recognize our own limitations? Are we open to the gifts of others? Do we look to the future with hope, but tempered always by realism? How might you practice humility in your daily life and work?


Reflection by: Tom Judge, Chaplain, DePaul Division of Mission and 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

 

What Beautiful Opportunities…

“…we need to reflect on our willingness to sacrifice, or what we call in our own Vincentian tradition, the virtue of mortification. The root of the word mortification is to die to oneself, to sacrifice, to put the other first.” – 2009 Lenten letter, G. Gregory Gay, C.M. (former Superior General of the Congregation of the Mission), see: https://vinformation.org/en/2015/03/video-of-quotes-on-the-virtue-of-mortification/

Historians say that the virtue St. Vincent de Paul called “mortification” might be better understood as something akin to self-discipline or even sacrifice. In other words, mortification means giving up something we value for the sake of something more valuable. This underlying principle can be quite challenging to live out. Denying ourselves something we desire, in favor of something more worthy but perhaps less enjoyable, takes considerable focus and intentionality.

For Vincent, acts of self-discipline were made easier through being mindful of the result that followed. Therefore, he exhorted his community members to have courage in the face of obstacles for “their reward is great in proportion to the work entailed.” (204, Mortification, 2 May 1659, CCD, 12:185.)

Another helpful way to consider self-discipline may be to ask why we are performing the act. Could it be for reasons of courtesy (giving up our seat on the “L”), or self-improvement (exercising or studying hard), or to benefit the common good (performing our job well, serving the community)? Whatever the worthy motivation for our behavior, being mindful of our values and then endeavoring to live out those values, even in the face of challenge, is the epitome of the virtue Vincent called mortification. It is what we strive to achieve to this very day.

What worthy behaviors do you find most difficult to live out? Does it help if you consider why you are doing them or what the results of your actions will be? What things are hard for you to let go as you pursue a more worthy goal? What areas of your life, at either DePaul or elsewhere, do you think would benefit from some form of self-discipline?

Reflection by:

Tom Judge, chaplain, Division of Mission and 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

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, and on 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.

Zeal for the Mission

“If love of God is a fire, zeal is its flame; if love is a sun, zeal is its ray.” Vincent de Paul (CCD, 12:250)

Vincent de Paul spoke often to his followers of the importance of cultivating the virtues needed to carry out the mission of service to society’s poor and marginalized.  One of the virtues he recognized as particularly important was zeal.  We might translate zeal today as passion, enthusiasm, or energy towards a cause or goal.  With the dawning of the new academic year, how do you hope to experience the “ray of zeal” this quarter?

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/

Charity is a Verb

 

The Vincentian Question, “What Shall Be Done?” is framed in such a way that its answer implies action.  When offering guidance on Charity to his confreres, the Daughters, the Confraternities, and to us, Vincent is clear: “Love of God and of neighbor is authenticated in visible action.” Charity is the true characteristic of the Love of God; it cannot remain idle.  In fact, a life dedicated to Charity demands fearless, unending work involving the “sweat of our brows and the expense of our arms.

“Charity is a Verb” is a chapter from the book Windows on His Vision (pp. 127-128) 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/

Humility the Sure Foundation

 

For Vincent de Paul, the virtue of Humility served as a foundational one without which we have nothing.  It requires us to avoid self-aggrandizement, self-advancement, and seeking the praise of others.  At the same time, however, it encourages our recognition of the gifts we have been given so long as we remember that we bear these gifts so that God may use them for God’s own purposes.  Vincent counsels superiors in his community to be models of humility in dealing with those subject to their authority.

“Humility, the Sure Foundation” is a chapter from the book Windows on His Vision (pp. 131-132) 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/