Lent as a challenge to change our way of thinking
If “metanonia” literally means “change your way of thinking,” then Lent is the perfect time for us to look at systemic change in our own lives and especially as followers of Vincent, Louise, Frederic, Elizabeth, etc. St. John Paul ll challenged Vincentians to understand underlying causes and work toward long-term solutions.
One of the big challenges many of us face is to think beyond ourselves. We need to change the way we think about the needs of our sisters and brothers.
Vincent’s two questions changed his way of thinking
Vincent implicitly asked two questions…
- What is wrong with this picture I see?
- What is the NEXT thing that needs to be done?
1. Vincent saw there was a family in need of food. After requesting his parishioners to help he discovered they had too much for one day and not enough for the week. Why must this family have too much one day and not enough the next?
He asked, Why can’t we organize this better? What can be done?
And so was born the Ladies of Charity – the oldest functioning organization of lay women in the church.
2. He found a parish in which people were dying without the sacraments and clergy who had no sense of the spiritual needs of their people.
He asked, Why are people not being fed spiritually. What can be done?
That started him on a lifetime in which he changed the formation of the clergy. First, he gathered the more interested clergy into weekly meetings called the Tuesday conferences. When that was not enough he took seriously the Council of Trent’s recommendation that there be seminaries to form priests. From there it was not surprising that Bishops and Royalty asked his advice before looking for good clergy.
3. When he saw that the generous ladies of wealth found menial tasks of carrying soup to the poor too onerous, he responded to young girls from among the poor who offered to take on that work. Thus was born the Daughters of Charity. But there was a problem when they wanted to commit themselves by vows.
He asked, Why must dedicated women be confined to convents? What can be done?
The Church and society expected religious women to wear special habits and live safely tucked away in convents. Vincent in effect asked why women were not allowed to minister and found a way around the legal structures of the day.
This Lent… How do we need to change our way of thinking about
- our own lives – from “Just Us” to Justice?
- about how we serve – from just service to also fostering empowerment?
Looking at the questions Vincent asked himself offers us some inspiration for changing our ways of thinking.
If you look closely at all the heroes and heroines in the Vincentian Family you will recognize a pattern. The all asked two questions… Why? What can be done?
It is amazing what we can learn and do when we ask challenging questions.
How about these challenging questions…
- Am I asking questions?
- Am I asking the right questions?