Vincentians are about belonging… and tension
Sr. Regina Bechtle, SC, in a seminal article over a decade ago, captures the visions of our founders.
Jesus’ vision: Good news to those on the margins – sick, prisoners, poor, immigrants, forgotten, powerless – THEY BELONG.
Vincent & Louise’s vision: Christ meets us in the poor who have a claim on us. WE NEED ONE ANOTHER-WE BELONG to one another.
Ozanam’s vision: Our world isn’t meant to be cold and heartless, but a place where all BELONG.
Elizabeth Seton’s vision: We must live, pray, work together in deep, caring relationships lived in lives of service.
She continues with words that ring true in the United States and many countries today…
Our call is to develop our capacity for hospitality, for communion. And isn’t this countercultural? Doesn’t this put us at one extreme of our U.S. society?
Yet our call always nudges us to do precisely that. Enlarge the circle, make room for more at the table, think outside the box, dream bigger, color outside the lines, scan the horizon and look always beyond ourselves. Ask questions like: Who else needs to be part of this conversation, this planning? Whose wisdom are we missing? What if we invited XXXXXX to join us?
And the reason for doing this – for heeding the call to conversion that translates into being servants of hospitality and communion and belonging? It’s not just because it’s a nice thing to do – it’s part and parcel of the Gospel challenge. It’s the way we must act if God’s dream is ever to be realized – the reign of God, the Kingdom that Jesus never tired talking about, and showing us what it might look like.
Lent is about Waking up to Belonging and the Tension of AND
How do we as individuals and organizations wake up to this vision of belonging… especially in an age stressing “me first” and isolation? More and more people are being excluded.
One of the keys ways to waking up to belong in the real world is living with the tensions of holding on to the values of both poles.
Once again Sr. Regina nails it…
As Vincent, Louise, Elizabeth, Catherine, Rosalie, Frederic, and Thomas listened to the Word of God and pondered God’s ways with humans, something happened, something clicked. As they contemplated Jesus Christ, evangelizer of the poor, source and model of all charity, they had the intuition that the WAY TO GOD IS THE WAY OF BOTH/AND, not either/or. As they faced the tensions and conflicts of their times, as the Spirit opened their eyes wider and wider to see the face of Christ everywhere, they planted themselves firmly in the “AND.” Not with their – heads in the sand, but with their heads and hearts and bodies in the “AND.”
Action AND prayer
Solitude AND community
Head AND heart Now AND not-yet
Charity AND justice
Service that is material AND spiritual
AND is a key Vincentian word. Our founders were people who lived at the extremes and chose to hold them together.
Embrace being in the middle
All of our ancestors to whom we look for guidance on this Vincentian way found energy there, in the AND. At times when we touch our truest self we know that too. Real life happens in the in-between, in the connections, in the struggle to live connected, to live an integrated, whole, holy life, not simply on either end. We get off balance, sidetracked when we resist the work of integration and opt for one side or the other. It’s a place outside of the COMFORT ZONE for most of us, isn’t it, a place where we often meet our own resistance.
Let us use this Lent to enter into the middles of our world and the in-between’s of life. Let’s be the bridge to belonging!
Read her full reflection… especially the section on how our resistances can be our teacher.
- Have I ever thought that belief in belonging brings tension?
- What is my response to tension? Do I run away to one side or the other? Do I honor the truth of both poles of the tension?
- Where can I find guidance and strength to hang on to both sides and the people that live on one side or the other?