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

Walter Isaacson has written insightfully about some great geniuses – Leonardo DaVinci, Ben Franklin, Einstein, Steve Jobs. He certainly recognizes the importance of intelligence. But he thinks the most common trait may be the extraordinary ability to apply creativity and imaginative thinking to almost any situation.

Vincent was a creative genius… in networking!

In this Vincentian Mindwalk I explore why St. Vincent dePaul should be classified as a genius. By his life, Vincent also shows us how to develop our gift for imaginative thinking.

Vincent’s journey to genius

The wealthy people of France could be excused for initially thinking, “What good can come from Dax? ” Certainly, he showed talent. But would anyone of his contemporaries have imagined that he would “just about change the face of France and the Church”? Could they have foreseen that 400 years after his death, literally millions of people in over 150 countries of the world would be serving the forgotten of the world?

I believe Vincent discovered his special brand of genius by reading scripture imaginatively. His route was different from another person who shaped his world. St. Paul. Saul had a powerful encounter with Jesus, who helped him see His presence in the very persons he was persecuting.

It seems that around the age of 30, Vincent DePaul began to encounter Jesus in the scripture. He learned from observing Jesus in the scriptures to see and care for the marginalized. There Vincent learned to think like Jesus. So he began to care for the outcasts of society. He took Jesus’ command seriously … “Do this in memory of me” in the situations he found himself in.

Vincent’s special genius for networking

Vincent dared imagine a world where people took care of one another. He imagined what it would look like to take Jesus’ prayer, Our Father, seriously, He treated everyone, even and especially the forgotten people on the margins, as his sisters and brothers. 

With clarity of vision, he also knew he was just one person. In his “Christ imagination,” he also saw clergy, laity, women uniting in God’s vision.

With this imagination, he shaped the supposed “influencers” of his age, clerics, and tapped into previously unrecognized resources for ministry – laity, and especially women. He inspired each to imagine the dignity of brothers and sisters. He triggered each to ask, “what must I do?” for my sister and brother in need.

Our call to be a genius

Is his genius at networking is a kind of “forgotten truth” for followers of Vincent?

Vincent, the networker, was

  1. convinced others would share his vision if asked
  2. humble enough to ask others to help.
  3. adept at involving others in what he saw needed to be done.
  4. inventive in finding strength in his limitations
  5. , courageous and skillful enough to foster the role of the laity, especially women.

We can be geniuses if we remember those five characteristics of Vincent!

Living the Vincentian genius is imagining what must be done and being brave enough to imagine the most appropriate ways of doing it.

“What must I do?” Live out the imagination of God, Jesus, and St. Vincent – the Vincentian imagination. and charism.

Then we, too, will be geniuses “creative unto infinity!”

Daring to imagine new ways of networking

  • Do we imagine our world with the mind of Jesus?
  • Or are we overwhelmed thinking we must do everything ourselves?

Click below for an early audio version of the Vincentian Mindwalk

Are you a Genius?
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