The Importance of an Oxygen Mask
It’s a sight no air passenger wants to see. A real oxygen mask dropping from overhead. Yet, many people ignore the pre-take-off instruction. “If you are traveling with a small child, and the cabin loses oxygen, and the air masks drop down. Place the mask over your own face first, then over your child’s.”
We all know the importance of oxygen. We really cannot survive more than a few minutes without oxygen. We can be of no use to anyone else on the plane if we do not heed this instruction. The advice makes sense.
This got me wondering about Jesus and Vincent, and all our Vincentian Family heroes and heroines. They all did amazing things. But they needed the oxygen of a clear vision of who called them and what was their mission… Something that comes in prayerful awareness. How did they replenish their spiritual oxygen sources?
What was their source of oxygen… especially in crisis?
Oxygen for Jesus and Vincent
Jesus frequently went off by Himself to pray. John even devotes a whole chapter to the picture of Jesus praying as he faced his greatest crisis. He needed to keep clear what was about to happen and why. He was also praying for the people he loved… you and me.
He also takes his followers to a “deserted place,” where they won’t be distracted and will be able to focus on the food he wants to give them — his presence and his word about his Father. He knew his apostles were doers of the word. But Jesus reminded them they need to be hearers of the word about the Father and his mission.
The ever-practical Vincent understood this balance of activity and prayer very well.
“You will practice charity better by preserving yourself to serve your neighbor for a long time than by wearing yourself out in a short time over the salvation of a few.” St. Vincent de Paul CCD:VIII:42Give me a man of prayer and he will be capable of everything. He may say with the apostle, “I can do all things in him who strengthens me.” The Congregation will last as long as it faithfully carries out the practice of prayer, which is like an impregnable rampart shielding the missionaries from all manner of attack. SV XI, 83
No wonder J. Patrick Murphy writes his booklet Mr. Vincent.
Vincent balanced and intermingled prayer, reflection and action in his life and work.
Lesson: It is easier to live a balanced life if you mix the basics together.
Our own need for oxygen
Fr. Dennis Holtschneider, CM of the Eastern Province said in well!
We will be no good for the poor if we are cynical, burned out, frustrated, distant from God, and distant from your own heart. You must learn to pray. You must learn how to step back and reflect on how you are being changed by the work you do.
You must learn how to balance your own life against the infinite needs of the poor, learning how to help but walk away for relaxation, family, rest, and fun.
Your person and your heart need to be fully alive if you are going to be any good for the poor long term. You must see to your own needs before you see to the needs of the more vulnerable ones around you. ( On Vincentian Formation)
Paying attention to the preflight announcement
Do we wait until there is an emergency to look for oxygen?
When and how do I replenish my oxygen – awareness of the One who sent me?
How do I balance the basic tension of action and contemplation?
[An earlier version of this post first appeared on FamVin]