In addition to the other qualities of Vincentians, such as detachment, a disinterested spirit and a desire to build a better world, we could also add, resilience … a difficult concept to understand, but one that says much about who we are. The word is often used in Exact Sciences (specifically in Physics) and designates the property of some materials to accumulate energy when pressure or stress is applied and then, these materials are able to return to their original state without undergoing any deformation.

The word resilience comes from the Latin “resilio,” which means to return to the natural state. The concept of resilience in human science can be summed up in the following manner: the ability of an individual to behave in a healthy in the midst of an insane environment[1], that is, the ability of the individual to overcome and cope with adversity. In other words, resilience is the ability of people to deal appropriately with the challenges and pressures of every-day life

In the world of business and human resources, people are seen as resilient when they reveal their ability to be flexible and strong, knowing how to overcome obstacles and continue to carry out their responsibilities with the same vigor and determination. An example of such resilience is seen in the pole that is used by athletes when competing in the high jump … the pole bends to its limit without breaking and ultimately enables the athlete to cross over the bar at incredible heights.

Vincentians, by nature, are resilient. They endure the hardships of life, especially setbacks when attempting to assist families who are in need. People are resilient when they accept things as they are, (seeing the positive in a situation and looking for ways to get the most out of a difficult situation). People are also resilient when they forgive others and give such persons a second chance (acting in such manner, Vincentians reveal their faith in the fact that unjust situations can be made just).

All the members of the Vincentian Conferences and of the 150 branches of the Vincentian Family are resilient since they have the ability to endure the vicissitudes of life without losing their hope in the ideals that guide their journey through life as well as their ministry on behalf of others. Resilient men and women are not disappointed by other people, do not judge or place labels on others. They know how to be balanced and focus their activity on that which is righteous and virtuous.

Vincentians are resilient by nature, and that is why their “inner flame” never fades, not even in the midst of disappointment and/or discouragement (be it disappointment/discouragement with people or with institutions). Vincentians never give up, but continue to seek ways to resolve the problems that might arise in their group or that might have to be confronted by the men and women who are being assisted.

This ability to problem-solve often becomes contagious to the families in need because they are encouraged to affirm their gifts and abilities. Resilient Vincentians, through a cultivation of empathy, attempt to identify with and express their solidarity to those men and women who experience so many different forms of suffering. Horace[2], the great Italian thinker, said that “adversity has the effect of exposing talents that, in favorable circumstances, would have remained hidden”[3].

So, my dear Vincentians, let us use our ability to be resilient as we minister on behalf of the most disadvantaged members of society.

[1]     Rutter, M. Developing Minds: Challenge and Continuity across the Life Span. United Kingdom: Penguin Books, 1992.

[2]     Quintus Horatius Flaccus (65 BC – 8 BC) was distinguished Latin lyrical poet.

[3]     Horace. Odes: Book II, ode X.

Renato Lima de Oliveira
16th General President of the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul

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