An elevator goes up, goes down. People get on and off.
I live in a large Vincentian community facility where at 78 I like to think I am in the mid-range age group of this community (okay maybe upper). It is no surprise that the elevator is crucial for so many of us. The other day as I was waiting for the elevator I remembered J. Patrick Murphy’s brief reflection on the life of Vincent. in his booklet Mr. Vincent.
Vincent was a peasant and a lawyer.
Lesson: Know your roots, lift up those behind you, educate up.
I always knew he was a peasant and lawyer but I never thought of the connection between those phases in his life. I don’t think I will ever think of that connection in the same way now that I discovered words uttered by Kevin Spacey, an American actor, film director, producer, singer and comedian.
“If you’re lucky enough to do well, it’s your responsibility to send the elevator back down”
Vincent never forgot who he was and where he came from. When it finally dawned on him that others were not as blessed as he was as chaplain to the DeGondi estates, he committed his life to the marginalized, sending down the elevator to bring them up from their positions on the periphery to awareness of the Good News.
I now also hear the reading from the Mass of St. Vincent differently
Consider your own calling, brothers. Not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. Rather, God chose the foolish of the world to shame the wise, and God chose the weak of the world to shame the strong, and God chose the lowly and despised of the world, those who count for nothing, to reduce to nothing those who are something, so that no human being might boast* before God. It is due to him that you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God, as well as righteousness, sanctification, and redemption. 1 Cor 1:26-29
The foundational scripture passage for the Congregation of the Mission is
He unrolled the scroll and found the passage where it was written: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free,
Rolling up the scroll, he handed it back to the attendant and sat down, and the eyes of all in the synagogue looked intently at him.
He said to them, “Today this scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.”
Vincent took this to heart and in the rest of his life was constantly moving out of his comfort zone, sending the elevator back down. This was his mission, and the mission of those who followed him in the Congregation of the MISSION.
Although Madamoiselle De Gondi desperately wanted him to stay with her and her family Vincent was not comfortable there.
In his final presentation to the delegates of the General Assembly of the Congregation of the Mission Fr. G. Gregory Gay called on the members of the community to move out of their comfort zone and reclaim the vocation to be men on a mission.
What more, then, does this going forth involve? Since the time that Robert Maloney was superior general, we have become involved in various international missions. While this has been a recent development in the Congregation, nevertheless we can trace its roots back to the time of Vincent de Paul who sent the Missionaries to Madagascar, Ireland and Scotland, Poland, Italy, Tunis, Algiers. Yes, we are a Congregation composed of individual Provinces, but we are first and foremost an international congregation, and that reality characterizes the way in which we go forth.
What else does this going forth involve? This fundamental stance of our Congregation means that you and I are willing to get involved in the daily life of those people who are marginalized and living on the peripheries of society.
We do not, however, act or minister alone. Rather we go forth and minister as members of a large Vincentian Family. We go forth and minister from a systemic change approach. That is why I have taken the time to dialogue with the larger Vincentian Family in all my visits to the different Provinces. I have absolutely no doubt that as a Vincentian Family we have the potential to transform the world.
Together let us remember who we are, where we come from and … send the elevator back down… together!