Neglected Ways of Being God’s Story-tellers
By: John Freund on Jan 28, 2020 / Around the Province
In his recently released message for the 54th World Day of Communication Pope Francis writes movingly that we are not only God’s story but that we must also be God’s storytellers of that story as lived in us and in our brothers and sisters.
“The Gospel of John tells us that the quintessential storyteller – the Word – himself becomes the story: “God’s only Son, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known” (Jn 1: 18). …The history of Christ is not a legacy from the past; it is our story, and always timely. … “You” – Saint Paul wrote – “are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts” (2 Cor 3:3).
With the gaze of the great storyteller – the only one who has the ultimate point of view – we can then approach the other characters, our brothers and sisters, who are with us as actors in today’s story. For no one is an extra on the world stage, and everyone’s story is open to possible change. Even when we tell of evil, we can learn to leave room for redemption; in the midst of evil, we can also recognize the working of goodness and give it space.
Certainly, there are many ways we can manifest our vocation to be God’s storytellers. Another Francis said centuries earlier his humble followers “Preach the Gospel always… and if you must use words.”
We are both God’s story and God’s storytellers. But not only storytellers our own stories but especially for our forgotten and marginalized sisters and brothers. We do so out of the awareness of our own marginalization and grace-filled story.
Vincent as a Voice of the poor
We have a tradition going back to Vincent who was a Voice of the poor.
St. Vincent de Paul was himself shaped by the story of the Good News as told by the inspired writers, especially Luke and Matthew. The story in Luke 4 reveals of Jesus’ mission statement – Bring Good News to the Poor. It also gave Vincent and his family the formulation of their mission statement. Another inspired writer, Matthew tells the story of the roots of this mission – God’s identification with the poor. “Whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers and sister you do for me.” (MT 25). These storytellers led Vincent to see poverty in a new light.
Vincent in his own way used media to change the perception of those in poverty and inspired many to collaborate with him in serving the least among his generation. Vincent was originally reluctant to use the media of his day, letters, to tell the story of the sufferings of the poor and how his collaborators worked tirelessly to bring spiritual and physical good news. He first thought telling these stories was incompatible with humble service.
Then one day he realized that in telling the story of the poor he gave the voice to their sufferings. Telling the stories of what his collaborators were doing inspired others to join in these efforts. He then began to reproduce and circulate the letters his missioners wrote from the field. This, in turn, led the upper classes to offer much-needed material support. As understanding of the need spread through these letters, it inspired others to join cause with him.
Two often neglected ways we tell God’s story
In a recent post on FamVin, David Barringer, CEO of the Society of St. Vincent DePaul USA wrote of Vincentians as God’s storytellers. More specifically he sees that Vincentians can be the storytellers to policy-makers and others who may never “see” poverty in all of its forms.
Why? Vincentians, not just members of the Society but also from all branches are in daily contact with disadvantaged and marginalized persons of all kinds.
Dave Barringer also asked, “How do we as Vincentians use this information, and help our neighbors participate in it, one family at a time?”
The answer is that we can and ought to be the Voice of the Poor. Two concrete examples…
The annual Catholic Social Ministry conference in Washington.
Each year members of the Society of St. Vincent DePaul attend the annual Catholic Social Ministry Gathering of around 400 Catholic social service leaders and advocates for visits to Capitol Hill and discussion of causes related to Catholic Social Teaching. (The event is timed to coincide with this year’s March for Life.)
This includes learning more Life, Climate, Reformative Justice, the federal budget’s social entitlements and other subjects that all have some bearing on people in poverty if we simply choose to see it through this lens.
Vincentians from all branches are in daily contact with the disadvantaged and marginalized of all kinds. They educate themselves. But they also do more. On this day they educate our policy-makers by fanning out and visiting them in their offices as the voice of the poor they know and have no access.
March for Life
The March for Life marks the 47th anniversary of Roe vs. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion nationwide. Many members of the Society of St. Vincent DePaul and other members of the Vincentian Family marched. For more information on the event, view this one-minute time-lapse photographic recap of the long march of hundreds of thousands.
Food for thought
- How conscious am I of being part of God’s story?
- How conscious am I of being God’s storyteller to all the nations?
- How consci0us am I of the many ways I can tell God’s story?