A real-time Vincentian Ancestry.com!
A real-time Vincentian Ancestry.com!
There’s a writer who characterizes the lives of the saints as “bibliographic entries onto the life of the Lord Jesus Christ.” A bibliography: a series of additions to the one story; i.e., variations on how Jesus’ story plays out, new and slightly altered versions of His narrative that are triggered off (in The Spirit) by different times and cultures and movements — and perhaps especially by seemingly unconnected and accidental events. In one way or other, these other stories retell the story. Or better, as they’re happening they are that One story as it’s in the process of being set out again for another age.
So St. Peter today. Here he is traveling the land, following and filled by The Spirit of God, (or as one translation has it, “walking in the consolation of the Holy Spirit”). And doing what? Doing what Jesus did, proclaiming the in-breaking of the Kingdom of God and healing people in God’s name. To the paralyzed man, “get up and make your bed.” And more spectacularly to this woman being laid out for her funeral, “Tabitha, rise up… And he presented her alive to the holy ones and the widows gathered around.”
It’s Jesus’ story being retold to that first generation after Jesus has “gone away for a little while.”
But then come all the other saints, or as the bible says “the friends of God and prophets.” In one way or other, they are also re-tellings. They are like little tiles in a big mosaic, each giving off some of the light that shines through the founding story which back lights them all. They’re not the exact same as Jesus story, but indeed variations on it, elucidations of it for particular times and places, “remakes” of the original version each one of which sets that story more snugly and recognizably into some later age.
And how well we in the Vincentian Family are familiar with those “remakes” made in the 17th century, those accounts of Louise and Vincent who in their attitudes and behaviors and works left especially vivid portrayals of who Jesus was for their day (and is for ours). But closer to home, there are the people we’ve known, both in our own families and especially those special ones in the wider Vincentian Family, who “told the story.” Their life histories recounted at their wakes and funerals and anniversaries have come to be appreciated as one version or other of the original.
This line of thought provides a kind of gospel examination of conscience for all of us. How do we fit into that story in what we do and how we see and judge things, and in how much we pay attention to the One who’s always continually telling that story?
A practical lesson and question. How often do I set myself inside that story? That is to say when the different experiences of life come at me:
– have I gotten into the habit of connecting what’s happening to me with what’s happening in that original version?
– can I line up the dots of my story according to the much bigger pattern of the Christian narrative?
– do I try to get my bearings by its stars, and find my meaning by viewing my history inside the overarching meaning of this all-encompassing story?
Who does this? It’s the person who tries in her joy with Jesus’ delight as He spots the finger of His Father at work in the everyday world. It’s the individual who in a period of suffering follows closely along behind the Lord carrying His cross. It’s the person who at crisis times hands it all over into the loving hands of the Father.
All of these are further “bibliographic entries,” biographies of Jesus Christ as His story gets remade, re-imagined, re-issued, and re-lived in every age.
Do I see myself telling the story of Jesus in my life?
Can other recognize my variation on the storyline of Jesus?
Fr. Tom Mckenna currently lives in Philadelphia with our candidates in the Internal seminary or Novitiate. This reflection first appeared in FamVin. He has served as an advisor to the Daughters of Charity of the St. Louise Province. Prior serving a Provincial he taught theology at St. John’s University.
Sr. Annelle Fitzpatrick continues her reflections on unsuspected opportunities for dialogue with our Muslim neighbors. She engages almost daily with Muslim students in her classes at St. John’s University and is struck by how much they engage with the story of Vincent’s captivity in Tunisia.
This third reflection on unsuspected opportunities for dialogue with our Muslim neighbors. focuses on an event recorded in both the Quran and the Bible – the Visitation.
One of the most tender stories contained in Christian Scriptures is “The Visitation” found in the Gospel of Luke. The story recounts the meeting of two women – both swept up in the mystery of God’s call –and both keenly aware of that God was leading them into a mysterious and uncertain future. The story tells us that as the two women embrace, Elizabeth, who is three months pregnant, mysteriously senses that Mary is also with child. Mary is astounded that Elizabeth is aware that she is pregnant and Mary asks “How did you know”? Elizabeth response – “The moment I heard your voice, the child within me lept for joy”. (Hadiths Al Tabari – earliest major running commentary of the Quran)
Not many Christians are aware but the story of the Visitation is also part of the Muslim tradition. However, I believe the passage recorded in the Muslim tradition is much more profound. Mary asks the same question – but Elizabeth responds by saying – ‘The moment I heard your voice, I felt the child in my womb bow to the child in your womb” (Hadiths Al Tabari – earliest major running commentary of the Quran)
The gesture of bowing to another person is not part of western culture. However, within other cultures, the significance of bowing to another person has profound meaning. The deeper the bow and the length of time one holds the bow is also fraught with symbolism (the longer one stays bent before another – is an indication of the esteem with which the other person is held – and the person of higher rank must break the bow first)! In certain situations, such encounters can be quite humorous as individuals often try to humble themselves by bopping up and down for several minutes – attempting to show that the other person is of higher
In Asian cultures, such as Vietnam, Korea, China, Taiwan, Japan, bowing is more than a gesture of greeting. It is a recognition that another person is superior in rank or accomplishment. Bowing is an essential component of the Japanese tea ceremony. In Japan, students bow to teachers before class begins. Even within the martial arts, as one is about to inflict pain and defeat one’s enemy, the contestants bow to each other as a gesture of mutual respect and admiration for their opponents skill.
It is considered a serious sin to bow to anyone or anything other than God alone! A Muslim bowing to another human is guilty of the sin of “SHIRK” – that is the sin of worshipping or giving praise to someone other than Allah alone! Thus, when John the Baptist bows to Jesus, it is an indication of the profound respect that
John the Baptist (recognized as a Prophet in the Quran) has for Jesus.
Several Tafsir masters (experts in Islamic scriptures) believe that this subtle difference in the account of the Visitation is profound in that it reflects the incredible esteem given to Jesus in the Muslim tradition.
While Muslims vehemently reject the notion that Jesus is the Son of God, they do, however, recognize Jesus both as a Prophet and a special Messenger of Allah. To me – that’s a great starting point for dialogue!
Perhaps if groups of Muslims and Christian could come together and jointly reflect on the encounter of these two holy women, we might come up with unbelievable synergy as Catholic and Muslim neighbors discuss questions such as:
1) If one looks today’s popular culture and reflects on how Americans spend both their time and money, what would you say Americans worship?
2) As parents, how do we keep our children from being swept up by the materialistic and secular mentality inherent in today’s world?
Footnote: In the Hindu traditions people show deference by bowing or kneeling down and touching feet of an elder or respected person. Traditionally, a child is expected to bow down to their parents and elders during certain formal ceremonies.
“What an amazing experience!”
It gives me joy to mention this here…here in Rome. Vincent truly believed in partnership in the church and that is why he listened, learned and trusted the instincts and wisdom of Louise.
Together they imagined and gave birth to a movement that has inspired us all.They started a revolution of tenderness… a revolution to humanize and put a face on the stranger and the vulnerable. Our Founders knew the need to lock eyes and to join hearts with those to whom human dignity and human rights were denied.
With zeal, with a passion, Vincent and Louise responded to human needs and organized institutions to keep charity alive, keep love expressed. Yes, we are witnesses to, and partners with them in that long evolution of service….. service given in both humility and simplicity.
Vincent and Louise instructed all of us, the Vincentian family, to ask forgiveness of those receiving our help….receiving our love. How well they knew that the “giver is the getter and the getter is the giver”! It really was…it truly is… love touching love.
Let us gather here these days with a genuine attitude of gratitude knowing,… that God still has faith in us… and knowing, that we still have faith in each other.
Let us promise to touch each other and our world with, a tenderness that transforms and with a truth that challenges.
Ours is an age of something radically new. It is more than a reformation. It is to be… an EVOLUTION in love…an EVOLUTION in solidarity, “a Love Inventive to Infinity.”
Are we on board with this revolution to humanize and put a face on the stranger and the vulnerable?
How will people know we are on board?
“Fueled by hope.” In the days immediately preceding the historic symposium in Rome, Fr. Pat Griffin shared the following reflection on FamVin, Now that the event is literally history and the texts of the various presentations become available, perhaps we can use this reflection as a lens providing us a “reminder of the extent of infinity” and fueling our hope.
A Vincentian View: A Message for Us
I have been to more than one Vincent event in the past two weeks which contained an opening prayer which included some passage from Pope Francis’ message to the Vincentian Family on September 27th. Different people, different circumstance, gave emphasis to one part of the letter or another.
I confess to a particular attraction to the very last and the very substantial sentence:
In the glorious wounds of Jesus, may you find the strength of charity, the happiness of the grain that gives life by dying, the fecundity of the rock from which water gushes forth, the joy of coming out of yourself in order to go out into the world, free from nostalgia for the past, confident in God and creative regarding the challenges of today and tomorrow because, as Saint Vincent said, “love is inventive to infinity”.
The sentence is loaded with encouragement and could give rise to a wonderful talk. (Note to self.) We are invited to be strong, happy, fruitful, and selfless. We are directed to be free, confident and creative. We are told to find, gush, respond, and invent. And we are compared to grain and rock. The Holy Father went to a lot of trouble to use as many dynamic, evocative words as he could reasonably fit in one sentence. And it all begins “in the glorious wounds of Christ”—a phrase which specially resonates in the Vincentian Family with our sisters, the Daughters of Charity.
Most interesting for me was one of the ways in which Pope Francis urges us to move forward: “free from nostalgia for the past.” I know exactly what he means. Or, at least, I think I know. The past is that place in which we were more numerous, controlled more institutions, were more respected, and had more influence. Yes, the good old days. It is that memory in which we keep the present prisoner. The Holy Father summons us from that attitude with the words of St. Vincent with which he concludes his note to us: “love is inventive to infinity.”
Our “Vincentian Family Symposium” which begins in these days orients us towards the future. Fueled by hope, we celebrate creativity, collaboration, and communication. And we always holds the service of those who are poor as our primary value. I am eager to read and hear and see all which our gathering will produce. In response to the encouragement of the Holy Father and the Holy Founder, I long for a reminder of the extent of infinity.
Videos from Vincentian Symposium – In the unique setting of St. Peter’s Square in Rome, more than 10,000 members of the Vincentian Family from all over the world have had a very special encounter with Pope Francis.
The day began in the morning, when lay and consecrated members of the many Vincentian branches began to congregate, hoping to receive the message that the Holy Father wanted to address to all.
Testimonies, messages, songs, as well as the presentation of the Famvin Alliance against homelessness and the Vincentian film festival, preceded the arrival of Pope Francisco, around 12 o’clock in the morning.
When I reflect on my first few weeks with my community and the St. Vincent de Paul society, I cannot help but listen and relate to the hymn, “The Summons”. Each line in this song is a question which seems to directly hit the points I am feeling in this phase of my experience with Vincentian Volunteers of Cincinnati or VVC. I feel that the first two verses of this hymn asks all the right questions in regard to how I am feeling about VVC, my experiences with community and SVDP so far. [This reflection first appeared on FamVin.]
Will you come and follow me if I but call your name?– We all said “yes” to the unknown of being a VVC and living in the West End alongside our neighbors in need. Likewise, from a personal perspective, this “yes” was one of the hardest ones I have ever had to make so I imagine my community members have had similar experiences. However, although it was a difficult decision to make, I know God is calling me to be here for a reason and I feel honored to be given this experience through Him.
Will you go where you don’t know and never be the same? – Our living space is intentional and one that we pray to grow in and through. God is changing our hearts every second and every day of being here. I have never been to Cincinnati before and I committed myself to taking that leap of faith to do something I have never done before and to go somewhere that I have never been. I am ready to “never be the same”.
Will you let my love be shown? Will you let my name be known? – As a community we are trying to embody the Vincentian message through every action we take. Personally, I am seeing God’s face in our neighbors in such a profound and beautiful way. I am also taken back by my community member’s generosity to this question; they are all wonderful examples of Christ to me.
Will you let my life be grown in you and you in me? – As I mentioned before, God is growing in each of us every day. However, I can personally say that I am feeling closer to God through my neighbors and co-workers, I am reassured that I am where God is calling me to be and I pray this closeness I am feeling only continues to get stronger.
Will you leave yourself behind if I but call your name? – I am a twin and prior to this experience Isabella and I had only ever been apart for a short period of time. By coming to Cincinnati, I was in a very real way leaving myself behind because I have always been my twin’s follower and always stepped back to allow her to take the lead. For the first time ever, I am challenged to be my own person and grow as an individual.
Will you care for cruel and kind and never be the same? – My community members and I feel passionately about our neighbors and the overall social justice system. From my end, I am doing what I can to promote a sense of community and equality among myself and those who I am serving alongside. While I can say that I may never be the same again through this experience, I am also striving to make sure my neighbors feel the same way through their encounters with the Society of St. Vincent de Paul.
Will you risk the hostile stare should your life attract or scare? -When I tell people I am a part of a yearlong service program, I often receive the response; “why would you want to do that?” or, “don’t you want to get your life started?” These questions make me feel like I am risking the hostile stare because I know some won’t approve or understand my choice/calling to be here. However, I am firm that my life will flourish through this experience.
Will you let me answer prayer in you and you in me? – I am enchanted by this question and humbled by its simplicity and strength. Although it is a question that is difficult to grasp, I am tickled by the idea that God is working through me, my community members, and the Society of St. Vincent de Paul as a whole to do His will and to be His hands and feet.
While I can keep going through the song, I feel that the first two verses of this hymn asks all the right questions in regard to how I am feeling about VVC, my experiences with community and SVDP so far. Likewise, these questions resonate with me through the way they keep me in-line with the ways I should be living the Vincentian mission this year and beyond. I am very blessed to be here and I am very hopeful for my future as an advocate and Vincentian.
Kevin was the loving father of Kevin Murray, Jr. (Joyce), Michael Murray (Nancy), Dennis Murray (Lisa), Sean Murray (Mary) and Meg Searing (Howie). He was the cherished grandfather of 16 and great grandfather of one. Kevin is survived by his sister, Mariatheresa Cardell, and was predeceased by his brothers, Fr. John B. Murray, Elliston Murray and sister, Jeanne Murray.
Relatives and friends are invited to Kevin’s Life Celebration at Our Mother of Consolation Church, 9 E. Chestnut Hill Ave., Philadelphia on Tuesday, October 24th from 9-10:15 AM followed by his Funeral Mass at 10:30 AM. Fr. James Dorr, C.M., will celebrate the Mass. Interment will be private.
Monday 11-13 — Vincentian Prayer
Tuesday 11-14 — Are you HONEST? Virtue of SIMPLICITY (Importance of TRUTH)
Wednesday 11-15 — Are you APPROACHABLE? Virtue of MEEKNESS (Importance of a SMILE)
Thursday 11/16 — Are you SELF-DISCIPLINED? Virtue of MORTIFICATION (Importance of being balanced)
Friday 11-17 — Are you REALISTIC? Virtue of HUMILITY (Example of St. Catherine Labouré)
Saturday 11-18 — Are you HARD WORKING for the KINGDOM? Virtue of ZEAL FOR SOULS
Sunday 11-19 — Do you really LOVE? CHARITY (Protection of LIFE and HUMAN RIGHTS)
Monday 11-20 — Mary — Example of the Dynamic Vincentian Virtues
Tuesday 11-21 — Sharing the Faith through the Vincentian Virtues TODAY