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I sometimes catch myself fantasizing about how wonderful it would be to be a monk in a Trappist monastery where I could spend lots of time in prayer and reflection. In this fantasy, I would be much holier, much more tolerant and understanding, and certainly kinder and more caring than I am. The reality is, though, that most likely within a couple of months at the monastery, the Abbot would be calling me in to his office to chastise me for talking excessively and breaking silence, sleeping in and missing Lauds, and hiding a cell phone in my room. While some people are called to be a Trappist monk, I am not one of them. And my fantasy about being a better and holier person if I were a Trappist monk is just that—a fantasy. It is my way of justifying those times when I fail to live and act as a follower of Jesus.
I suspect all of us have our own version of the: “I would be a much holier and better person if only ----” (You can fill in the blank). In part, these fantasies are understandable. There are times for all of us when pettiness, meanness, or even spitefulness finds expression in our lives, and we tell ourselves that it would not have happened—“if only.”
The above is not a new problem. It has been around at least since the beginnings of our Church. We even have a name for it. We call it sin. Now we need to be clear. Christians didn’t invent sin. We do believe, though, that because of and in Jesus Christ, we have found the remedy for sin. In Jesus Christ, God is continually offering us the grace we need to resist sin and/or to repent of our sins. The only hitch is that God never forces God’s grace on us. Rather God offers us God’s grace. It is always our free choice to accept that grace or to reject.
To be a better and holier person we only have to accept the grace God offers us. Now some days, I do this fairly well. There are other days, though, when it is a real struggle. I suspect the reason for this is that there is a certain attractiveness about sin. The reality is, though, that the attractiveness of sin is short lived, and it merely distracts me from the more difficult task of accepting my faults and failings, and acknowledging my need for God.
I don’t have to become a Trappist monk to be a better person. I do need to be open, though, to the grace God is continually offering me. I used to think this would get easier as I got older, but sin runs deep in our lives and isn’t easily rooted out. God’s grace, though, is constant and ever present, and this gives me hope that some day I will be that better person I want to be.
In the fall of 2007 I was hired as The Basilica Block Party Intern. If you would have asked me as a college senior if I would still be working at The Basilica more than seven years later I probably would have said no. I loved my internship, but it was not until I began working elsewhere that I realized what a truly unique and rare place The Basilica and the community it services are.
In the spring of 2009, I returned as a full-time employee in The Basilica’s development office. Six years later, I am grateful to be a staff member and to experience The Basilica’s beauty on a daily basis.
Even as seeing the building has become part of my daily routine, I am constantly reminded by all those that enter its doors how important this building is to so many people. It is a beautiful and historic landmark, but it is more than that, it is a spiritual home to thousands, a center for the arts, a refuge for those in need and a beacon of hope in our community.
I was reminded of this again last fall, when 7 year old Owen came to visit the Basilica with his Grandmother. Like so many of us, Owen fell in love with what he saw and wanted to know how the Basilica was cared for. His Grandmother told him it takes donations from thousand of people each year to care for this historic building.
Upon hearing this Owen decided to donate from his piggy bank - $2.03 to The Basilica Landmark. But Owen did not stop there. He then turned to his family and asked them if they would join him in making their own donations, collecting an additional $45.25.
What makes Owen’s gift even more special is that it qualifies for our Participation Challenge. For every NEW Annual fund gift received, a generous anonymous donor will donate $100 to The Basilica Landmark up to $70,000. No minimum gift is required, which means Owen’s $2.03 immediately turned into $102.03.
Now we turn to you; please join Owen by making a gift to The Basilica Landmark today.
With your help, The Basilica Landmark can continue its work to address the growing needs of our parish, steward our buildings, and ensure The Basilica can continue to service our community.
This spring, we have begun construction on the Reardon Rectory to convert the unfinished space on the 4th floor to offices, archives and art storage space. Now nearly 90 years old, the Reardon Rectory cannot accommodate current and future space needs for our growing parish. Upon completion of the project the Basilica’s extensive art and archive collection will finally have proper storage as well as space for individuals to visit and view the collection. In addition to adding space to the rectory, the entire building will also receive central AC, replacing 35 individual wall units for added energy efficiency as well as updated fire suppression for added safety.
Tuck-pointing the bell towers will also take place. The featured project in this year’s Fund-a-Need auction at the Basilica Landmark Ball, The Basilica’s bell towers are in desperate need of repair. In 2011, a 300-pound exterior stone came loose from The Basilica’s west bell tower, falling from the façade and crushing the front steps. Thankfully, no one was injured, but this incident heightened the need for new mortar on these towers. Beginning in 2015, and every five years thereafter, tuck-pointing of the bell towers will be required to keep them in a safe condition and to ensure the integrity of the towers.
These are just two of many projects The Basilica Landmark will address this year, investing more than $2 million in The Basilica and its campus in 2015.
I feel deep gratitude for Owen and all those in our community for your ongoing investment in our beautiful historic landmark and campus projects. It took many hands to build the Basilica more than 100 years ago and it continues to take all of us to care for it. I ask you to please join Owen by making a gift to The Basilica Landmark today. To find more information on any Landmark projects or to make a gift please go to thebasilicalandmark.org.
I have been using the same books to pray the Liturgy of the Hours (formerly the Breviary) for over 35 years, and yet on a regular basis a word in the psalms or scripture readings, or one of the prayers, will catch me by surprise and be a source of prayer and reflection for me. Most recently this happened with one of the prayers of intercession for Thursday of the fourth week of the psalter. The prayer was simple: “Grant, Lord, that we may see in each person the dignity of one redeemed by your Son's blood, so that we may respect the freedom and the conscience of all.”
As I reflected on this prayer it struck me how easy it is for me to not to see the dignity in each person, let alone respect their freedom and their conscience. More often than I care to admit I view someone do something or I hear someone say something, and I assign a negative meaning to their words or actions, without ever bothering to check to see if there was any accuracy to my interpretation.
Perhaps I am looking for company in this particular failing, but I suspect this is something we all do—at least occasionally. Someone will say something or do something and we take offense, without bothering to check to see if our interpretation of their behavior or their words was correct. When we do this, we fail to see in that person the dignity of one redeemed by Jesus’ blood. And instead we have sat in judgment of them.
In addition to respecting the dignity of others, though, it is also important to remember that even if we disagree with their behaviors and/or words, we are still called to respect their freedom and their conscience. In saying this there is a need for clarity. Respecting someone’s freedom and conscience does not mean we are giving assent to their behavior or words. Nor does it mean that we can’t voice our disagreement. Rather, respecting someone’s freedom and conscience means that we must strive to see and love in them what God sees and loves in them. Certainly this is not always easy. And clearly from time to time we all fail at it. As followers of Jesus, though, it is a task from which we cannot shrink.
Christ did not come to redeem only a select few. He came to redeem all of us. None of us by dint of our own effort can achieve our own salvation. We all stand in need of the salvation that is offered us through Jesus Christ. This is one of the fundamental truths of our faith. I believe we only begin to understand the depth of this truth when we are able to see in each person the dignity of one redeemed by Jesus’ blood and respect the freedom and the conscience of all.
“Ask Mother Mary for help.” With these words my grandmother always sent me along, either to school or camp or just on my way home. At first I thought she was telling me I could always ask her for help as her name was Mary. It was not until she was more explicit about it that I learned she was referring to the Blessed Mother.
From that day on whenever my grandmother suggested I “ask Mother Mary for help” I obliged. Without much thought, I usually just repeated what my grandmother told me and prayed: “Mother Mary, help me.” Most of the time, there was no specific need. And while this interaction seemed somewhat perfunctory and almost mindless it was comforting.
One time I remember asking my grandmother how it was that I should request Mary’s help? I clearly had never met her. And since we did not know one another how could I be assured that she would help me? Without saying a word, my grandmother stopped me in my tracks and walked me to the Lourdes grotto in her garden. She told me to “look at her face.” We stood there for a long while without saying anything. At first I thought it strange but as I continued to look at Mary’s face it was as if I no longer saw the plaster statue of Our Lady of Lourdes. I actually had a strong sense that I was gazing into the eyes of Mary herself. I had a veritable “Visio Divina” or “Seeing the Divine” moment before it was named thus.
Mary looked remarkably like my grandmother, though maybe a bit younger and darker skinned. And sounding like my grandmother she assured me that I could always “Ask Mother Mary for help.” I am not sure how long the experience lasted. Suddenly, I felt my grandmother’s hand on my shoulder. I looked at her. She nodded and walked me back to the front door. As we said our goodbyes I told her that Mary looked and sounded just like her. My grandmother smiled, waved me out and said “Ask Mother Mary for help.”
As I am writing this column I am looking into the face of the many statues of Mary that grace my office: Our Lady of Lourdes, Our Lady Queen of Heaven, Our Lady of Fatima, Our Lady of Sorrows, Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception, the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Our Lady of LaVang, Our Lady of Africa, Our Lady of Guadalupe. They all look different. They appear as they were described by those who had a vision of them. And they all remind me of that one moment filled with grace so many years ago and I can hear my grandmother’s voice inviting me to: “Ask Mother Mary for help.”
My response to this invitation is no longer as quick, automatic or evident as it was when I was a young boy. I guess I have become a bit tainted by age and I may have lost some of my ability for spiritual seeing and hearing. Sometimes I wish for that uncomplicated time when I could just ask for help. I also wish for the amazing sense of Mary’s presence I had so many years ago. Maybe I don’t listen well enough? Or maybe I look in all the wrong places?
As we celebrate Mary during the month of May I will be looking for her, not only in the face of the many statues I have in my office but also in the faces of the many women who surround me. They have nourished my faith from the very beginning and they continue to do so until today. Some of them do this from the other side of this life while others do it here and now. And I will ponder the question whether Mary took on my grandmother’s face when she appeared to me or whether my grandmother looked like Mary? In either case, it is an affirmation that all of us are called—not only to become like Christ—but also to become like Mary, this strong Jewish women who dared to say yes to the greatest mystery of all: bearing God to the world.
On Mother’s day I will light a candle for my mother, my grandmother and for all the women who surround me as I think of them and honor them and pray for them. I will ponder their face in that of Mary and Mary’s face in theirs and I will “ask Mother Mary for help.”
Working to end hunger in our country and world can seem overwhelming. Hunger is a complex, age-old human struggle. What can one person do?
Providing direct assistance to people who are hungry through churches and charities is vital. It feeds many families in immediate need and gives people hope for the future. But even if churches and charities doubled their efforts, they still would not be able to end hunger on their own. Our federal government must play a role. Only government leaders can make economic, social, and political decisions necessary to attack the deep structural causes, and ultimately eliminate widespread hunger and poverty. Just a sentence or two written into a piece of legislation can benefit millions of people in the United States and around the world.
As people of faith and conscience, we must remind leaders of their responsibilities to the people they represent, and offer constructive solutions. We can advocate for changes in public policy that will end hunger and poverty in the decades ahead. Advocating with and for people who are hungry is something each of us can do, and it doesn’t take a lot of time. It just takes the will to act and speak out. Even though the political process in Washington can seem challenging, we remain hope-filled and confident that our voices will make a difference.
Bread for the World is a non-partisan, Christian citizens' movement in the United States that urges our nation's leaders to end hunger at home and abroad. God's grace moves us to help our neighbors, whether they live in the next house, the next state, or the next continent. If we work together and confront the problem of hunger directly, we can end hunger in our time. Everyone, including our government, must do their part. Together, we can build the political commitment needed to overcome hunger and poverty.
The Basilica is joining other churches throughout our country in Bread for the World’s 2015 Offering of Letters. We are mobilizing our entire parish community to write letters and urge Congress to renew our federal government’s major child nutrition programs, including those for school meals, summer feeding, and the WIC nutrition programs for pregnant and new mothers along with their small children.
Every five years, Congress must re-authorize the law that funds these programs, which have helped so many children. Even with all the progress that has been made, only half of children receiving school lunches benefit from breakfast. Summer meals are available to less than 10 percent of those children who count on lunches during the school year. Overall, one in five children goes to bed hungry every night in the U.S.
Now is the time to renew these national nutrition programs. We invite you to be part of the Bread for the World’s 2015 Offering of Letters by taking a few minutes to write letters to your members of Congress. Urge them to protect child nutrition programs from cuts and harmful policy changes, and improve children’s access to school breakfasts and summer meals. Working together, we can be part of God’s will on earth that all children receive the food that enables them to learn, be healthy, and grow strong.
Advocacy on behalf of the most vulnerable is a constitutive part of our faith. As God’s hands and feet in the world, we work toward a beloved community in which every person has an equal opportunity to thrive. The Offering of Letters is one way that we can live out this commitment. It invites us to be good stewards, using our voices to encourage our elected representatives to take the necessary steps to end hunger.
The Basilica will be collecting letters from you, our parish community, throughout the month of May. Place your letters in baskets in the back of church or in the parish Rectory. Before they are mailed, we will gather these letters and bless them in Mass throughout the weekend of June 6/7, 2015. We encourage all members to participate in this call to action. You can learn more at www.mary.org/offeringofletters. Let us act together and make a difference!
The Basilica of Saint Mary is on the threshold of making a huge difference in our community. We are on the verge of doing something great. Working together, we have an opportunity to effectively put our faith into action—leaving the world a better place for future generations.
What are we doing? What is so grand and effectual? Beginning in early May, when you throw away garbage at the Basilica, you will have three options: Is it recycling? Is it organics? Is it trash? Your choice to sort waste accurately will help change the culture of The Basilica, and save our world. This simple choice can speak boldly and prophetically to our community.
Is this hyperbole? Well, perhaps. But I suggest that this very simple gesture, multiplied over and over every day, can indeed change our world. This focused attention to the waste stream we create, individually and collectively as a parish community, can make a significant difference in our world.
We can too easily minimize the impact of small, individual efforts in a big world. Yet, we are invited to consider the impact of our collective actions, working together as the Body of Christ, advocating and acting on behalf of the most vulnerable. All it takes is a desire to engage—a willingness to care and act.
Currently, The Basilica sends at least two-thirds of our waste stream into trash, with less than a third recycled. Over and over we put materials that have value into the trash—adding to landfills or incinerator use. Hennepin County was considering enlarging the incinerator just north of The Basilica due to over use. A large proportion of what is being burned has value, and they have refocused their efforts to increase composting. We can help in this effort. As we all help to sort our waste, we will drastically reduce what The Basilica puts into the landfills and incinerators. The goal for The Basilica is to move to 10% trash.
One big change for The Basilica is to begin to collect organics that can be easily composted into rich soil. Did you know that 40% of the waste stream created by each of us every day is organics? Food waste, non-recyclable paper, flowers and plant waste, and other organic items add up to almost half of our garbage. When organics are placed in a landfill, they create methane gas, which is 70 times worse a greenhouse gas than carbon-dioxide. If we divert even 15% of the organics from our landfills, we would realize a reduction of methane gas equal to taking over 23,500 cars off the road. We can make a huge difference. All it takes is a choice: place all organics into the correct waste bin.
Recycling can seem mundane or old-school. Yet, when we choose recycling, we allow our waste to be reconstituted and reused. Some things, like aluminum cans and glass bottles/jars, have no limit on the number of times they can be recycled. They don’t lose their quality when recycled over and over.
Materials like paper do not have an infinite life. The number of times paper can get recycled into new paper is limited. Normal copy paper can go through the recycling process five to seven times. After that, the paper fibers will become too short. Newspaper is already of lower quality. It can be turned into egg cartons.
Our habits are often ingrained in our culture and can easily be dismissed. We are a society that measures our productivity by how much we purchase. We often clear out by throwing away. Our faith calls us to calibrate our lives and actions differently. Our invitation is to take these choices seriously.
The exciting part of this initiative is that it involves each of us. We will have success if we all do our part. Yet, the hard part of this initiative is that success depends on each one of us. Let us, together, find ways to energize our imaginations and engage.
Look for new bins, in sets of three, all around The Basilica campus. Help us be successful in our work to leave the world in a better place for future generations. To get more involved in this initiative, contact Donna at email@example.com or Dennis at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Basilica Landmark’s mission is to “Preserve, Restore, and Advance the historic Basilica of Saint Mary for all generations.” Our organization was founded more than 20 years ago by some very good friends who saw the importance of maintaining The Basilica for generations to come through a foundation dedicated to this specific mission. Then, like today, it was important for these leaders to establish a separate 501 (c) (3) organization from The Basilica and separate from the Archdiocese.
We have a great responsibility and privilege in this mission. We are the stewards of America’s first Basilica, and as historic architectural treasures have been demolished, it is still at the heart of Minneapolis and has defined the skyline for more than 100 years.
This past year has been anything but typical for The Basilica Landmark. In November of 2013, we were offered an unprecedented matching challenge gift of $2.5 million. To receive the match, we had to have $2.5 million given by December 31, 2017. As you have probably heard, we met this challenge this January, three years ahead of schedule. We are so grateful for the outpouring of generosity shown to The Basilica Landmark at this exciting time.
This is wonderful news, and $5 million will fund many important projects on our campus, including the 2014 replacement of the church and school HVAC system and replacement of the original boiler from 1913 (finally central air in the school). This year, we will begin the renovation of the Reardon Rectory fourth floor and the installation of sprinklers and central air throughout the building.
Today, we are a thriving organization, investing more than $2 million each year in our campus. And through 2017, significant projects planned on our campus will end our limitations for service and programming expansion. Major projects planned between 2016–2018 include Church tuck-pointing and roofing work, an expansion of the Cowley Center, and tuck-pointing and new window installation in the School. For more information on these projects, visit us online at www.thebasilicalandmark.org.
You can feel the momentum on our campus and the progress paves the way for wonderful things in our future.
To make these projects possible we still need your support, and are thrilled to announce yet another wonderful opportunity to increase the impact of your gift. In 2015, a challenge gift has been made to The Basilica Landmark. For each new annual fund gift of any size this spring, a $100 donation will be made to The Basilica Landmark. Please watch your mailbox for information about the annual fund, and join others with a gift to the annual fund the weekend of April 25 and 26.
We are preparing this building of hope for the future, for the outreach services, for the growing programs on our campus, for the inspiring liturgies, the 20+ concerts available to the public, the inspiring art, and so, so much more. The Basilica Landmark ensures the home for beautiful things that happen there each and every day.
Please also mark your calendar for The Basilica Landmark Ball on May 16, which will be held at The Basilica! Tickets and tables are selling now; reserve your spot by calling Meghan Gustafson at 612. 317.3455.
One of the things I like best about this time of year is seeing the new life that is starting to spring up all around us. That some things must die so that others may live, or that out of death comes new life, clearly is a part of the natural order. The cycle of life, death and rebirth is part of the wonder of creation. In addition to the world of nature, though, the phenomenon of death and rebirth is also found in human beings. The human spirit seems especially resilient. Time and time again I have witnessed people come back from the “grave” of trauma, loss, pain, and suffering. It is easy to look to these experiences, as well as the experiences in the world of nature, and be reminded of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. This is good and important. But we must always remember that, while these things may point to and be a good reminder of the resurrection of Jesus, ultimately they are not on par with the resurrection. They must always fall short of and pale in comparison to that miraculous and wondrous event.
There are many things in the natural world that are precursors of, metaphors for, and pointers to the resurrection. And yes, there are many experiences within human life that remind us of and speak to us of the resurrection. But these things are not comparable with and should not be thought of in the same way we think of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The resurrection of Jesus differs from these experiences not just in degree, but in kind and type.
Now I realize that to some the above may seem like splitting hairs, but I think it is an important distinction. When we compare things in the world of nature, or within our human experience, with the resurrection of Jesus, we run the very real risk of thinking that the resurrection of Jesus is part of the this continuum. I believe, though, that this is a faulty way of looking at things. It reflects an incomplete understanding of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The resurrection of Jesus is completely and wholly different from any experience/occurrence in the created world. In fact, the really good news about the resurrection of Jesus Christ is that it is not part of the natural order of things. It is a supernatural reality.
It is very important for Christians, who live with the natural cycle of death and rebirth, to understand how truly miraculous and how utterly different the resurrection of Jesus truly is. Because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, you and I are invited to share a completely new and wondrous life—a life that is eternal with our God in heaven. This is indeed good news. Moreover, it gives us hope and comfort in the face of the little deaths and rebirths we bear witness to or that are a part of each of our lives.
When we place the resurrection of Jesus on par with the cycle of life, death and rebirth that occurs in the world of nature and in our human experience, we sell short the wonderful miracle of the resurrection. The resurrection of Jesus was not resuscitation and a return to this life, it was a resurrection to a completely new and eternal life.
As we look to the budding forth of new life around us during this season of spring, let us be grateful for the love of our God that makes this new life possible. And let us see in this new life a metaphor for the resurrection of Jesus. But let us also, though, always be mindful of the truly wondrous and miraculous event that the resurrection of Jesus was and is. In and through the resurrection of Jesus, we are offered the gift of new life—a life beyond this life—a life that begins (and never ends) in the eternal love of our God. This is the real miracle of Easter—that in His death and resurrection Christ not only shares eternal life with God, but has promised that same life to all those who believe in and follow him. Certainly we should celebrate this, but also and as importantly we should rejoice in this gift of eternal life that is offered to all believers.
Today as we approach the Triduum and Easter, we begin the holiest of weeks in our church and in our Catholic tradition. The Paschal Mystery is central to our beliefs as we celebrate the passion, the death and the resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
Being the youngest of 12 children and growing up in New York City, it was a very big deal for our Catholic family to spend lots of time in Church. And one of the customs was to journey to as many churches as we could between Holy Thursday and Good Friday. It is a dear memory of those times when my mother took my siblings and me on many bus rides throughout the city visiting various Catholic churches. We would spend time in prayer and appreciate the beauty of each unique church. This tradition instilled in me a deep sense of being in touch with what had happened in Jesus’ life during his last days on earth.
Today this memory brings me back to the importance Jesus’ life and death has in my life today. I once heard a speaker say that by the time Jesus got to the cross, there was nothing left of him to give…he had already given his all for us during his life. And Jesus asks us today to live in that same way—giving what we can to live our lives following in the example of Jesus.
Jesus and what he stood for, what he preached and taught, and how he treated all the people in his life, is the example of total love and mercy—this total love and mercy about which Pope Francis speaks so often. Jesus became a threat to the powers that were in place in the government and in the synagogue. His message was so contrary to what they believed and what they had been taught. “Love your enemies”…that was such a foreign concept to them. “Love the poor and outcast”…that, too, didn’t make sense to them. But Jesus was gaining momentum and people were beginning to listen to him. This made them very nervous and suspicious of Jesus. But they didn’t stop Jesus from continuing to share with them his Father’s love for them—though eventually he was crucified for speaking out these beliefs and teachings that remain central to human dignity and compassion today.
I often wonder what side I would have been on if I had lived during Jesus’ time. This Holy Week, take some time to consider this question yourself…what would you have done had you lived 2000 years ago and been faced with this decision? We do know that the way Jesus lived his life affected the whole world and still does.
But the important truth we face today is that we are faced with these questions every day—what will we do today when we are faced with decisions that challenge our faith lives and push us to greater lengths in loving all people? What will we do with that and other ethical questions that arise in our work lives, at home, and in our communities?
If we can but take his simple example of always speaking the truth and doing the most loving actions possible, then we can believe that his Spirit will always be with us and enable us to live a life like Jesus lived. We have that promise through Jesus’ own resurrection. And through our own baptism, we know that we are called to live a life that will make a difference and maybe change the world.
St. Vincent de Paul teaches us to see Christ in those who are sick, poor, and suffering. Radically, he suggests that those who are struggling must become our teachers and mentors, and we—their servants. This is the heart of Vincentian spirituality. Jesus said, “Whatever you do for the least of my brothers and sisters, you do for me” (Matthew 25). Vincentian spirituality recognizes that we are transformed as we embrace life on the margins: We honor God by serving God in the person who is sick, poor, or suffering. We are all called to serve, and to be served. Together, we become the Body of Christ.
St. Vincent articulated five virtues that directed his life. We are invited to reflect on these virtues. How do they resonate in our life? How do they challenge our daily living? How are they supported in our community? This Lent, let us prayerfully wrestle with and embrace these five virtues.
Simplicity is the virtue St. Vincent loved most. “It is my gospel,” he says. Listen to how St. Vincent describes simplicity:
Jesus, the Lord, expects us to have the simplicity of a dove. This means giving a straightforward opinion about things in the way we honestly see them, without needless reservations. It also means doing things without any double-dealing or manipulation, our intention being focused solely on God. Each of us, then, should take care to behave always in this spirit of simplicity, remembering that God likes to deal with the simple, and that he conceals the secrets of heaven from the wise and prudent of this world and reveals them to little ones. But while Christ recommends the simplicity of a dove he tells us to have the prudence of a serpent as well. What he means is that we should speak and behave with discretion. We ought, therefore, to keep quiet about matters which should not be made known, especially if they are unsuitable or unlawful … In actual practice this virtue is about choosing the right way to do things.
For St. Vincent, humility is the recognition that all good comes from God. It reminds us that we are not the originator of life. Humility recognizes that we all have gifts, but also limitations and faults. The Beatitudes tell us that the kingdom of God belongs to the poor in spirit. St. Vincent calls us to stand before God humbly in our daily prayer, and have the attitude of a servant.
Jesus identified himself as meek and humble of heart. St. Vincent believed this. He won the hearts of those who are poor because his meekness developed as warmth, approachability, openness, deep respect for the person of others. Although he tells us that he was irritable by nature, St. Vincent asked God to change his heart: “Grant me a kindly and benign spirit…”
Jesus calls us to follow him even unto death. A radical directive for our lives today, we are called to be willing to stand in God’s grace, even while absorbing the pain and suffering of our neighbor. St. Vincent embraced this challenge and gospel imperative. Consistently, he calls us to be faithful to our duties of serving those who are poor. Even more, he challenges us to prefer them, when they conflict with other more pleasurable things.
Vincent loved, with a burning love. “Let us beg God to enkindle in our hearts a desire to serve him…” St. Vincent challenges us to persevere as servants of the sick, suffering, and poor—while remembering that although the Lord asks us to cooperate in his work, it still remains His work. We must strive to live a balanced life, so that we might have the energy that nourishes zeal.
Prayer from St. Vincent de Paul
“Lord Jesus, teach me by your example….Make me, through the vigor of my efforts and the power of your Spirit, set the world around me on fire. I want to give myself to you, body and soul, heart and mind and spirit, so that I may always do what gladdens you. In your mercy, grant me the grace to have you continue your saving work in me and through me.” Amen.