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The great geniuses of history

Who are the great geniuses of history? There are certainly many who shaped the daily lives of people of their time … and well beyond.

Socrates, Plato, Leonardo DaVinci, Einstein, Madame Curie, Henry Ford, Isaac Newton, Galileo… the list goes on and on. Then there are the most influential religious figures such a Jesus Christ, Moses, Mohammed, Confucius… again the list goes on.

In the Vincentian Family, we are blessed to have our own genius in the person of Vincent. As I have written elsewhere he shaped the Church of France in 17th century and even the church of more recent times.

Yet I suspect that because he did not leave us a list of scholarly tomes or culture-changing inventions we may not appreciate his genius. But a genius he was. His was a different kind of genius… a genius for involving others in getting things done.

The genius of networking

“St. Vincent left a wonderful gift within the Church. He has placed it, to a large extent, in your hands and in mine. Pass it on to the young.” (Father Robert Maloney to the Vincentian Family in 1998)

Indeed, Vincent left a wonderful gift to the Church.

We all know and appreciate his passion for the poor. His foundations came out of his passion for the poor.

But Vincent was also a genius in organizing and networking. His passion for the poor expressed itself through an empowering humilty that invited others to share their gifts.

He crossed all barriers of class and caste, whether secular or ecclesial. He was welcomed in the homes of the poor and the corridors of power.

“Forgotten truths about a genius at networking

Sometimes I wonder whether his genius at networking is a kind of “forgotten truth” about Vincent.

  • The truth is that he was convinced that others would share his vision and be generous in their response to needs. “The poor suffer less from a lack of generosity than from a lack of organization.”
  • The truth is that he was humble enough to ask others to help. He was not wedded to any messianic delusions, tendencies of thinking that he had to do it on his own.
  • The truth is that he was adept at involving others in what he saw needed to be done. He found his strength in accepting his limitations.
  • The truth is that so often he had the courage and the skill to walk where none had walked before. Over 400 years ago he fostered the role of the laity, especially women.

Living his genius today

The DNA is there.”And why not? We have all been nurtured on the words “Let us love God but let it be with the sweat of our brows and the strength of our arms.”

With our sense of practicality, we now seem to be realizing that our service will be all the more effective to the extent we collaborate. There is a growing realization that our sweat will bear more fruit if we join hands.

To the degree that we understand this aspect of Vincent, we will be challenged to be more than “lone rangers” whether individually or as as Congregations in the midst of the wider family of followers of Vincent.

Vincent’s gift can be fire for the 21st century if we will seize it. That gift is in our hands!

Challenges for us

  • Do we recognize the forgotten elements of his genius?
  • Do we make conscious efforts to collaborate and network in our mission.

Click below for an audio version of this Vincentian Mindwalk

St. Vincent – Genius at Networking