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Oprah Winfrey got me thinking with two questions.

I don’t normally read Oprah Winfrey’s blog. But this reflection popped up as I looked for something else. The two questions she asked…

1. How do I want the world to be different because I lived in it?


Your existence is already a factor in world history—now, what sort of factor do you want it to be? Maybe you know you’re here to create worldwide prosperity, a beautiful family, or one really excellent bagel. If your impressions are more vague, keep asking this question. Eventually, you’ll glimpse clearer outlines of your destiny. Live by design, not by accident.

2. How do I want to be different because I lived in this world?

In small ways or large, your life will change the world—and in small ways or large, the world will change you. What experiences do you want to have during your brief sojourn here? Make a list. Make a vision board. Make a promise. This won’t control your future, but it will shape it.

Two questions changed Vincent’s way of thinking… and acting

St. Vincent implicitly always asked two questions…

  • What is wrong with this picture I see?
  • What is the next thing that needs to be done?

Vincent saw there was a family in need of food.

After requesting his parishioners to help he discovered they had too much for one day and not enough for the week. Why must this family have too much one day and not enough the next?

He asked, Why can’t we organize this better? What can be done?

And so was born the Ladies of Charity – the oldest functioning organization of laywomen in the church.

He found a parish in which people were dying without the sacraments and clergy who had no sense of the spiritual needs of their people.

He asked, Why are people not being fed spiritually. What can be done?

That started him on a lifetime in which he changed the formation of the clergy. First, he gathered the more interested clergy into weekly meetings called the Tuesday conferences. When that was not enough he took seriously the Council of Trent’s recommendation that there be seminaries to form priests. From there it was not surprising that Bishops and Royalty asked his advice before looking for good clergy.

He saw that the generous ladies of wealth found menial tasks of carrying soup to the poor too onerous.

He helped young girls from among the poor who offered to take on that work. Thus was born the Daughters of Charity.

But there was a problem when they wanted to commit themselves by vows.

The Church and society expected religious women to wear special habits and live safely tucked away in convents.

He asked, Why must dedicated women be confined to convents? What can be done?

Vincent in effect asked why women were not allowed to minister and found a way around the legal structures of the day.

Our heritage of asking Vincent’s questions

Looking at the questions Vincent asked himself offers us some inspiration for changing our ways of thinking.

If you look closely at all the heroes and heroines in the Vincentian Family you will recognize a pattern. They all asked two questions… Why? What can be done?

It is amazing what we can learn… and do… when we ask challenging questions.

How about these challenging questions…

  • Do I ask “What is wrong with this picture??
  • Do I ask “What must I do?”

Click below for an audio version of this Vincentian Mindwalk

What questions get you thinking?