Tipping points – Siddhartha, Vincent, Ozanam… and you

by | Apr 23, 2016 | Formation, Reflections


In his book Mister Vincent, J Patrick Murphy quotes Malcolm Gladwell who writes about tipping points – the time when things come together to tilt the scale of life to something new.

For Vincent, the tipping point primarily came from two events in 1617, starting in January at Folleville (it means Crazy Town), and Chatillon.

Vincent was in one sense fleeing Paris. After having spent four years on the de Gondi estate he began to feel that his own vision of his priesthood was fading as a result of being surrounded by people who held him in high esteem.

Vincent’s “ tipping points” were when he found the poor and their great need.

As a result of his experience in Folleville, Vincent began to realize that his true vocation involved a return to his peasant roots (fifteen years earlier he fled from this reality). Thus, he made a decision to dedicate his priestly and personal energies to the people who lived in the rural areas.

[Vincent and the birth of a new spiritual vision]

There are some fascinating parallels with Prince Siddhartha, protagonist of the novel by Hermann Hesse, who seeks something more.

Although destined for the life of a successful Brahmin, he leaves his sheltered palace on successive days and discovers old age, sickness and death. These discoveries set him on his path to Enlightenment.

Ozanam and his friends were challenged by some of their radical colleagues to prove that the Church cared for the poor as much as they did. “What is your Church doing now?” the radicals demanded. “What is she doing for the poor of Paris? Show us your works and we will believe you!” This became their tipping point.

In both cases, they were called out of their comfort zones and discovered the worlds of suffering and pain and committed themselves to do something about it.

  • Have you been able to experience the words addressed to Isaiah “See I am doing something new” (Is 49:13)?
  • Can you recognize Bl. Frederic Ozanam’s tipping point when challenged by an atheist?
  • What have been the tipping points in your life?
  • When were you called out of your comfort zone how did you respond?