Flexibility and Suppleness in Your Spirituality #IamVincent

by | Aug 4, 2016 | Formation, Reflections

Being able to “bend” to the will of God requires this: flexibility and suppleness in your spirituality. Why doesn’t the palm tree fall in a storm when the oak is ripped from its roots?


Well, three things really:

  • lots of short roots,
  • a “bundled-together” trunk, and
  • a leaf structure geared to easy replacement.

Profundity and depth have their place. But flexibility and suppleness in your spirituality shouldn’t be ignored.

Spirituality can be like that

In an article about the possible future of the Vincentian spirit, recently published at We are Vincentians, Jaime Corera briefly describes Vincent’s experience:

The conversion of St. Vincent de Paul to the evangelization of the poor was, of course, totally an experience of faith, which he personally lived from 1618 to 1625 by preaching missions on the de Gondi estates with the help of occasional companions. He soon discovered, however, through the suggestions and influence of Madame de Gondi, that a long-term work of evangelizing the poor could not be undertaken without stable organizations built on good foundations. This discovery was embodied in the founding of the Congregation of the Mission (1625-1626), the Daughters of Charity (1633), and the Ladies of Charity (1634), and other kinds of organizations more loosely structured, created for particular situations (Macon, organizations of help for the war in Lorraine, Picardy and Paris).

The transformation of the scope of Vincent’s work is very interesting. His vision, in the beginning centered on small towns near Paris and later extended throughout the kingdom of France, ended up by taking on international dimensions. The advice and influence of the Congregation of the Propagation of the Faith played an important role (III, 163-65). St. Vincent believed he was obligated to respond affirmatively to its requests, as was the case in all his works, because he was called “to respond to the will of God “(ibid). In addition, one of the reasons for sending his followers to the farthest frontiers of Europe was a fear that God would remove the faith from Europe “because of the fault of our corrupt practices” (III, 187-89). The new vision of a universal outreach was in perfect harmony with the original and central intuition of his spirituality. In effect, at that time, like today, the masses of the poor were rather outside than inside corrupt Europe.

The conversion of St. Vincent affected all the psychological and emotional dimensions of his personality. But it also profoundly affected his theology, his relation to God in theory and in practice. Before Vincent’s conversion to the poor, Berulle was his chief mentor in dismantling the God-centeredness of his youthful piety and his studies in Toulouse, in order to orient him toward a purely Christo-centric Christian vision (please forgive the redundancy, but it is useful here). This means that his vision of faith passed from being a theo-logy (which all religions have) to being a Christo-logy (which only Christianity has and this is what precisely distinguishes it from other religions).

You can see it. His “spirituality” has :

  • various roots: experiences, dialogues, reflections, encounters, geographies;
  • a “bundled” texture: traditional, experiential, almost iterative in the way it is formed; more a spiritual “way” ( a la A. Dodin in (1993 ed.) Vincent De Paul and Charity New York : New City Press) than a spirituality;
  • the ability to repair itself: accustomed to failure and learning from it.

How would you describe your spiritual way? Is there a high degree of flexibility and suppleness in your spirituality? From where has it emerged? Can you say #IamVincent?