“Stop that daydreaming!”
I suspect that each of us heard those words at least once in our childhood. Often it would be followed up with “There’s work to do!”
On this feast of Vincent De Paul, we can be thankful Vincent never stopped dreaming… and working.
He imagined a world very different from the world he lived in. He imagined a world that could be … and asked what can I do.
Imagination and God
Imagination – “the ability to see something that others don’t see or do not yet exist“.
- God certainly sees much more than we can see.
- “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard” … God seeing infinitely more… .
- We are made in the image and likeness of God. God shared the gift of imagination with us
But God went even further…
- God shared his own image and likeness in the person of Jesus.
- The Word made flesh showed us what God imagined for us… and all creation
Whatever gifts of imagination St. Vincent had, he certainly refined them.
Scripture was his mentor.
Vincent read the Gospels imaginatively. In his 30’s, he seemed to learn how to enter into the scriptures in a very personal way. He placed himself in each story he read. He imagined himself as each person in the story.
Through this process, Vincent learned to imagine the way God/Jesus imagined.
He “put on the mind of Christ!”
What can I do?
With the mind of Christ, St. Vincent dared to ask what we refer to today as the Vincentian question. “What must be done?
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, especially the forgotten people on the margins, as his sisters and brothers.
Vincent’s “imagination” led to changing his world.
Most of his contemporaries accepted their world as “the way it is”. No doubt, he also saw the massive social inequality and the polarization of peasants and power. He especially saw the resignation to the status quo.
Vincent saw more!
He viewed the on-the-ground reality against the vision and mission of Jesus bringing good news to the Poor. He saw beyond the “facts.”
So, he continually asked what we refer to today as the Vincentian question. “What must be done?”
With God and the Word made flesh, Vincent dared imagine a world where people took care of one another. I doubt he had any other specic plan than using his imagination to provide the answer to what must be done to bring “good news” to the suffering.
With clarity of vision, he knew he was just one person. In his “Christ imagination,” he also saw clergy, laity, and women uniting in God’s vision.
With this imagination, he shaped the supposed “influencers” of his age, clerics. He also tapped into previously unrecognized resources for ministry – laity, and especially women. He learned much from St. Louise in the course of their 35 years of collaboration.
He inspired others to imagine the dignity of brothers and sisters. He triggered each to ask, “what must I do?” for my sister and brother in need.
Daring to imagine with God
Today, we can easily get discouraged… “What can you do?”
We will, however, always find our way if we ask the quintessential Vincentian question first offered by Madam De Gondi, ”Something must be done; what must I do?”
This is another way of understanding the “Vincentian charism.” it is knowing that something must be done and being brave enough to imagine.
“What must I do?” is to live out the imagination of God, Jesus, St. Vincent – the Vincentian imagination. and charism