Building your resume or building your legacy?

A number of years ago, the political and cultural commentator David Brooks penned a thought-provoking article juxtaposing resume virtues with eulogy virtues.[1] While resume virtues are skills that you bring to the marketplace, eulogy virtues run deeper and define one’s depth of character. Eulogy virtues are the characteristics that we recall at a person’s funeral when we seek to describe the quality of their life.

According to Brooks, although most of us would probably agree that eulogy virtues are the most important, our culture and educational systems tend to put more effort into teaching skills for professional success. As a result, many of us neglect to cultivate the skills necessary to deepen our interior lives. We don’t until life confronts us with situations that require us to wrestle more profoundly with questions of meaning and purpose.

Saint Vincent de Paul’s trajectory seems to mirror the developmental shifts that Brooks lays out. Indeed, much of Vincent’s early experience reveals the ambitions of a young cleric who, motivated by “chances for advancement” and thoughts of “an honorable retirement,”[2] focused on furthering his ecclesial career and “building his resume.” While spiritual and ecclesial formation were certainly an integral part of his theological training, Vincent’s initial priestly motivation stemmed primarily from his desire to escape the financially uncertain life of a peasant farmer. As a result, Vincent, “the eager and ambitious cleric,” sought upward mobility by climbing the ecclesial ladder.[3]

Yet Vincent’s dreams of social advancement did not remain the driving force of his ministry for long. Amid the twists and turns of his vocation, a series of pivotal moments would challenge Vincent’s aspirations and invite him to think beyond himself and consider those in front of him who were living in deprivation. Prompted by such encounters as his visit to a dying peasant in 1617,[4] Vincent began to focus his ministry primarily on the needs and spiritual well-being of those who were poor and abandoned, whose dignity was not often recognized in seventeenth-century French society. He became immensely dissatisfied with the way the world appeared around him.[5] Yet, rather than accept the status quo, he channeled his frustration into a quest to build the world that he wanted to see.[6]

In tangible terms, these spiritual invitations led Vincent to abandon his desire for his own career advancement in favor of seeking a more just and equitable world. Consequently, he spent the rest of his life not merely asking, What must be done?[7] but using his actions as a pathway to live his way to the answer.

As Brooks notes, “some people have experiences that turn their careers into a calling.” While Vincent’s motivation to do good stemmed from his desire to build the Kingdom of God, his trajectory as an ambitious young clergyman might never have changed direction were it not for his ability to listen deeply and respond to what God asked of him. Vincent quite simply longed to serve God faithfully. The cries of those on the margins transformed his heart and motivated him to use “the strength of [his] arms and the sweat of [his brow]”[8]

Reflection Questions:

“We all go into professions for many reasons: money, status, security. But some people have experiences that turn a career into a calling.”[9]

Have there been moments in your career at DePaul when you have experienced your work as a calling? What was it about these moments that transformed your work?

What do you feel called to build in your life right now?

 

Reflection by:           

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


[1] David Brooks, “The Moral Bucket List,” New York Times, April 12, 2015, Sunday Opinion, https://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/12/opinion/sunday/david-brooks-the-moral-bucket-list.html.

[2] Letter 0003, “Vincent de Paul To His Mother, in Pouy,” 17 February 1610, CCD, 1:15  Available on line at: https://digicol.lib.depaul.edu/digital/collection/depaul01/id/84/rec/1

[3] Douglas Slawson, C.M., “Vincent de Paul’s Discernment of His Own Vocation And That of the Congregation of the Mission,” Vincentian Heritage Journal 10:1 (1989): 6. Available at: https://via.library.depaul.edu/vhj/vol10/iss1/1.

[4] Luigi Mezzadri, C.M., and José María Román, C.M., The Vincentians: A General History of the Congregation of the Mission, trans. Robert Cummings (New York: New City Press, 2009), 1:10. Quoted in Scott Kelley, “Vincentian Pragmatism: Toward a Method for Systemic Change,” Vincentian Heritage Journal (2012): 31:2. Available at: https://via.library.depaul.edu/vhj/vol31/iss2/2.

[5] Edward Udovic, C.M., Ph.D. “St. Vincent de Paul, A Person of the 17th Century, a Person for the 21st Century,” Office of Mission and Ministry DePaul University, YouTube video, January 16, 2012, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zrwez_neJT4.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Edward R. Udovic, C.M., Ph.D., “’Our good will and honest efforts.’ Vincentian Perspectives on Poverty Reduction Efforts,” Vincentian Heritage Journal (2008): 28:2, 72. Available at: https://via.library.depaul.edu/vhj/vol28/iss2/5.

[8] Conference 25, “Love of God,” n.d., CCD, 11:32. Available at: https://via.library.depaul.edu/vincentian_ebooks/37/.

[9] Brooks, “Moral Bucket List.”

What Am I Supposed To Do Now?

headline

The whole world – at least our world in the United States – is trying to grasp the horrors that unfolded when a man held out a gun and shot former colleagues on live television. Everything worsened when news broke that the shooter captured his heinous acts on camera and posted them on social media.  Several of us in the office today were sharing our feelings, wondering about a world that has gone so awry and asking a lot of questions. We learned that we were all horrified and bewildered together and we probably aren’t alone, so we thought we share some of our ponderings with you.  Please share comments with us.

“Did you see the video?”

“Yes.  I heard about it and went to my office. I googled it. I saw it, it was terrible – and then I went to another video… I watched the horror unfold. And then I sat there for twenty minutes wondering what I was supposed to do with it. I saw this! Now I am part of it!”

“I went on-line and tried to watch it. I am so thankful the screen was black…but I kept looking for the video and every screen went black. And then I sat there and wondered what had driven me to even want to see this. And yet I was absolutely glued to the screen, listening to the news briefs, clinging to the drama and sucked in.”

“And that’s what he wanted us all to do. We did the very thing he was hoping for! I did exactly what he wanted me to do!”

“I’m upset on multiple levels. I’m upset that it happened. I’m mad at our country because of the need to minimize the impact of gun violence.”

“I’m horrified that these violent killings are being used by some hate groups as a call to arms and to try and discredit the Black Lives Matter movement, which wasn’t involved.”

“We’re all part of this. News stations got some of the highest ratings because of this horror.  Companies and networks make money on this through advertising.”

“I feel sick to my stomach just thinking about it. I’m mad at myself, I’m sad at where we are in our society. I’m scared about my kids…all kids. What messages are they getting?”

“Yeah, what about those kids who actually saw the video? Now those kids can’t tell the difference between reality and play.”

“We witness this killing stuff all the time because of video games. What I do when I’m playing games looks just like the video that this guy posted. We’re in the middle of it all the time.”

“But that’s the thing that makes us numb. And those of us who saw the video or attempted to see it are in the middle. It’s real because of what we saw or tried to see or refused to stop watching as more and more news unfolded.”

“And it should be real, right?  These things are happening and need to be acknowledged instead of ignored!  And yet – this feels so gross and voyeuristic.  Is that what it takes to get attention?  I hope not. …Will good ultimately come out of it?”

“Because of social media we’re always welcomed into different worlds.”

“What do we do with this? How are we supposed to feel? What are we supposed to do?”

“It seems like all we can do is throw our hands up in the air and ask, ‘What do we do?’”

“I wish we had the answers. This is a scary world.”

“Maybe we can just ask the questions and keep talking about it. We don’t have answers…how can we?”

“But we need to take action!”

This conversation unfolded with a sense of helplessness. We know we’re all in this together. We are having the conversations.

We thought of Vincent who has inspired us to ask what we must do. “What must be done?”

And we are comforted by his words: “What keeps [community] together is the unity of hearts.”  We may not have answers right now and we know the world is heaped with horrors…but we’re feeling the pain, we’re moved by the atrocities…and together we might figure out what must be done to stop this kind of horror in our world.

We offer this with heavy hearts, with hopeful hearts, and we invite you into the conversation.

Emily Johnson, DePaul Junior; Matthew Charnay, DePaul Jewish Life Coordinator; Katie Brick, Office of Religious Diversity; Rev. Diane Dardón, DePaul Protestant Chaplain