Yesterday morning I co-presented a retreat on the theme Loving Our Brothers and Sisters with Vincent and Ignatius as our Guides. The retreat was sponsored by City House, a nonprofit entity whose core mission is to provide spiritual listening to people on the margins, including those experiencing poverty, imprisonment, homelessness and addiction. Both Janice Andersen, my co-presenter, and I serve on City House’s Board of Directors.
The theme for the day emerges from the fact that City House’s work incorporates elements of both the Vincentian and Ignatian spiritual traditions. We divided the day into two segments – one devoted to St. Vincent de Paul and Vincentian spirituality and the other devoted to St. Ignatius and Ignatian tradition. For each, I shared a little about the man and the spirituality that flowed from his work and then Janice shared from her own experience how the elements of the two spiritualities are reflected in her ministry. After each of the sets of talks, we gave the participants time to engage in individual prayer, followed by small group sharing and large group discussion. We ended the day with a beautiful closing ritual Janice prepared.
I only recorded the first part of the day – my discussion of Vincent de Paul and on the five virtues that are characteristic of his spirituality: simplicity, humility, meekness, mortification and zeal. You can access a recording of my talk here or stream it from the icon below. (The podcast runs for 20:26.) A copy of the the handout we gave participants to reflect on is here.
P.S. You can learn more about City House here. As I’ve said before, any financial support you can give to support the ministry of City House would be greatly appreciated. If you’ve benefitted from this podcast or any others of the many I’ve posted on this site, please consider a donation.
Today the Catholic Church celebrates the memorial of one of my great heroes, St. Vincent de Paul. My years teaching at St. John’s University (a Vincentian institution) and my consequent friendship with so many members of the Vincentian family have led to my developing a great love for this humble man who was so very sensitive to the needs of others.
I’ve written many things about Vincent over the years I’ve been blogging. Today I simple share an instruction he gave in his Letters, good advice for all of us.
Strive to live content in the midst of those things that
cause your discontent. Free your mind from all that
troubles you, God will take care of things. You will be
unable to make haste in this [choice] without, so to
speak, grieving the heart of God, because he sees that
you do not honor him sufficiently with holy trust. Trust in
him, I beg you, and you will have the fulfillment of what
your heart desires.
To all of my friends in the worldwide Vincentian family, and to all those who try to live out Vincent’s charism, a happy feast day!
Today I join with my Vincentian brothers and sisters around the world in celebration of the feast of St. Vincent de Paul, a saint who occupies a special place in my heart.
My shorthand description for people who know nothing of this wonderful saint is that Vincent really got what Jesus was saying in the judgment passage in Matthew 25. You know the passage – the one where Jesus explains how the sheep and goats will be separated. Vincent took to his heart the message of this passage better than anyone else I can think of (although some of my Vincentian brothers come close).
Vincent looked at the faces of the poor and the marginalized and what he saw was the face of Christ. He once observed, “We cannot better assure our eternal happiness than by living and dying in the service of the poor, in the arms of providence, and with genuine renouncement of ourselves in order to follow Jesus Christ.”
Vincent’s heritage is a spirituality committed to uniting contemplation with action. The words of Robert Maloney, C.M., former Superior General of the Vincentians, on the relationship between prayer and action are a good reminder to all of us on this feast day of Vincent. He writes:
Divorced from action, prayer can turn escapist. It can lose itself in fantasy. It can create illusions of holiness. Conversely, service divorced from prayer can become shallow. It can have a “driven” quality to it. It can become an addiction, an intoxicating lure. It can so dominate a person’s psychology that his or her sense of worth depends on being busy.
An apostolic spirituality is at its best when it holds prayer and action in tension with one another. The person who loves God “with the sweat of his brow and the strength of his arms” knows how to distinguish between beautiful theoretical thoughts about an abstract God and real personal contact with the living Lord contemplated and served in his suffering people.
Wishing all of my friends in the worldwide Vincentian family a blessed feast day.