“In the words of a Portuguese proverb, “God writes straight with crooked lines”, and He is far more interested in getting us where He wants us to be than we are in getting there. He does not discuss things with us. He leads us faithfully and plainly as we trust Him and simply do the next thing.”
Elisabeth Elliot wrote the above almost 400 years after St. Louise had her “Light of Pentecost” experience. It changed her life.
It was June 4, 1623. Depression was overcoming Louise. Her husband was wasting away. One of her uncles had been publicly executed and the other died in prison.
While at prayer, Louise had a vision in which she saw herself serving the poor and living the vows of religion in community. She wrote this “lumiere” on parchment and carried it on her person as a reminder that despite her difficulties, God was guiding her life. In that vision a priest appeared to her, whom she later identified as Vincent de Paul, her future confidante and collaborator in ministry.
It took a lifetime of living to fully understand this experience! Sr. Maggie Reynolds, DC offers some insights into an unlikely collaboration..
The crooked lines of the relationship between St. Louise and St. Vincent
Vincent and Louise were at best an improbable couple. We are blessed to know the outcomes of the 35-year intersection of these two lives. In their final chapters, they were true collaborators and equals.
However, in the early chapters, any collaboration between these two, so very different in backgrounds, experiences, personalities, and ways of operating, seemed doomed only to end in disaster. No one would have predicted they would become a “power couple”.
Their personalities were very different.
Vincent was outgoing, flexible, confident, affectionate, adventurous, practical, realistic, cautious, prudent, patient, pragmatic, observant, charming, organized, visionary, moody, and wise.
Louise was introverted, anxious, scrupulous, sensitive, reserved, creative, melancholic, impulsive, tenacious, impatient, serious, reflective, pensive, organized, assertive, strong-willed and a worrier.
Their ways of operating were very different.
Vincent was action-orientated and practical, a collaborative, organized, confident and outgoing man. He was also flexible, adaptable, reflective, prudent, objective, patient, steady and a great networker.
Louise was resolute but had the gift of gentle persuasion. Like Vincent, she was collaborative and organized but was also introspective, and a great planner who paid incredible attention to detail. She was complex, sensitive, and impulsive.
So it is not surprising that they experienced some disagreements, tensions, and conflicts that challenged their relationship. Yet, their journey together changed them, France, the Church, and Religious life.
[For details and other examples, visit the reflection of Sr. Maggie Reynolds, D.C. “Collaboration between two exceptional people“]
Relationship Reminders for us today.
Difficulties arise between people collaborating because they are human beings and human beings have conflicts. Their collaboration was always directed towards the mission they believed in. It led to their transformation… and the transformation of France.
They are proof that whatever our background, personality, life experiences, whatever trials we have, and whatever conflicts and tensions we experience, these are not impediments to doing good and achieving goals. Vincent and Louise stand out for us as models of true collaborators in ministry, no matter where we start.
Imperfect people are all we have; accept them where they are and work with them. Together, whether living in vows of service or fidelity to a partner, we can become something much greater than we dreamed. We can renew the face of the earth.
- Can you think of an instance where you collaborated with someone outside your comfort zone?
- Can you think of opportunities missed because you were not able to collaborate?
- Can you recognize how God is writing straight with crooked lines?
Click below for an audio version of this Vincentian Mindwalk