Bear with me for a moment before I reflect on the fantasy of a Vincentian Super Bowl. – Spoiler alert…the tickets will not cost you an arm and a leg… just “the sweat of your brow and the strength of your arm.” (SV XI, 40. 60)
Super Bowls and other sporting events
I was a young priest at the time of the first Super Bowl game in 1967. Tickets topped out at $12. Yes, $12, Since then life has gotten much more expensive … and complicated. There have been many memorable competitions since then. And fierce competition has been one of the hallmarks of this major sporting event in the United States.
Fast forward to other more recent sporting events,
One selfless London Marathon runner sacrificed his own race to help a physically exhausted fellow runner across the finishing line. Matthew Rees said
“I saw this guy and his legs just crumbled below him. I saw him try to stand up again and his legs just went down again, and I thought ‘this is more important, getting him across the line is more important than shaving a few seconds off my time’. This is what the marathon is about – it’s about people – it’s for everyone. Moments like this make it worth it. I’m just glad he’s okay.”
Think also about the Special Olympics dedicated to helping people achieve their personal best, reach their full potential.
The Spirit of a Vincentian Superbowl
I think you can see where I am going. I am not envisioning a competition between the various branches of the Vincentian Family for serving the most meals, making the most home visits, educating the most people. Don’t get me wrong! These are not unimportant. But ultimately our mission as followers of Christ the Evangelizer of the poor is to help our brothers and sisters across the finish line of awareness that we are brothers and sisters because we are sons and daughters of God. We are about helping others, especially those on the peripheries, to realize their full human potential. St. Irenaeus said it well “The glory of God is the human person fully alive!”
“I went over to try and help him and every time he tried to get up he just fell down again and again, so I just tried to cheer him on, picked him up and said: ‘Come on, we can do this.’
“He was really grateful, but he wasn’t very coherent, he was just like ‘I have to finish, I have to finish’ and I said ‘you will finish, you will get there, come on let’s do this’, but every time he tried to move he would just fall again so it was important to guide him.”
I envision this as the spirit of the Vincentian Superbowl. All the followers of Vincent and Louise whether lay or clerical, female or male, in organized branches or just inspired as individuals to use the strength of their arms and the sweat of their brows for the least of their brothers and sisters.
A Vincentian Training Regime
Serving in this model requires training. St. Vincent offered some guidelines to his followers… the five Vincentian virtues.
I recently revisited Vincentian Fr. Ed Udovic’s video podcast about a contemporary approach to understanding the 5 virtues(values) of St. Vincent de Paul.
In his view, Vincent’s five virtues might be translated as being:
Hard working (Zeal for souls)
Suggestions for Lent
- Start Lent by reflecting on the image of the finishing line being a greater awareness of being sisters and brothers because we are sons and daughters.
- Move on to “seeing” those among us (including ourselves) who are stumbling along and offer them our humble help.
- Spend some days raising our own consciousness of each of Vincent’s virtues – honesty, approachability, self-discipline, realism and hard work.
By the end of Lent, we should have a greater awareness of how these inform our following of Christ who embodied them in his life, death and resurrection.