- To love another is to see the face of God – Victor Hugo, Les Miserables
- Love, overflowing with small gestures of mutual care, is also civic and political, and it makes itself felt in every action that seeks to build a better world. Love for society and commitment to the common good are outstanding expressions of a charity which affects not only relationships between individuals but also “macro-relationships, social, economic and political ones.” (Laudato Si’ #231).
My reflections come from many years of working in collaboration but as I write this it is with two non-Vincentian groups, with whom we Sisters of Charity of New York currently collaborate that are uppermost in my mind: ROAR (Religious Organizations Along the River) and Metro New York Catholic Climate Movement. They have taught and stretched me in collaboration.
The purpose of this reflection (offered in two parts) is not to describe the groups or their purpose but rather to share with you the elements that for me create a successful collaboration – elements that I see as Vincentian and Setonian.
1. Love needs to be effective and affective. Love is inventive unto infinity. These descriptions of love offer comfort and a challenge to the Company of Charity and all who work for systemic change. We know that effective love encompasses systemic change, which happens, not in isolation but through collaboration, and that to keep that vision before us, we need to be deeply in love – a love that is affective love, the love that Victor Hugo speaks of in Les Miserables.
Pope Francis calls us to fraternal love, mentioned in Laudato Si’ and the subject of his newest encyclical, Fratelli Tutti, released on October 4. He calls us to share the journey as brothers and sisters, one to another, human and nonhuman. He invites us in Laudato Si’ to listen to the cries of Earth and its peoples, to respond in hope, to look on with the gaze of Jesus (LS Chapter 2: The Gospel of Creation; Section VII). These are Vincentian practices that root and “power” our collaborative efforts and initiatives to bring forth fruits of presence, accompaniment, witness and actions in solidarity with our brothers and sisters.
2. Relationships are key to who we are and what we do. As a congregation we have always been closely connected to those experiencing poverty. In recent years, our awareness has expanded to a better understanding of our role in this magnificent evolving 13.8-billion-year Universe and our call to mutually enhancing Earth-human relationships. We are part of the web of life. All of life is interconnected and interdependent. Humans depend on Earth and its vast diversity of life forms, human and nonhuman. “We have forgotten that we ourselves are dust of the earth; our very bodies are made up of her elements, we breathe her air and we receive life and refreshment from her waters.” (LS #2).
For me these relationships keep collaboration real and moving forward. Though collaboration can be time consuming and challenging, we all experience in the listening to one another, the caring and concern we offer each other, the prayer and intentions offered during meetings, a bond that deepens into what I call a “friend-colleague relationship.” These friend-colleagues call me forth…stretch me to be more than I am today as do the air, the water, the land who are the true mentors in life-giving mutuality and sustainability.
I look forward to reflecting on “social friendship” as it is explained in Fratelli Tutti so that my collaborative efforts will promote a “love capable of transcending borders” making “true universal openness possible” (Fratelli Tutti #99), a love that “calls for growth in openness and the ability to accept others …in a greater sense of mutual belonging…” (#95)
In this Laudato Si’ Anniversary Year may our spirit of collaboration grow, within the Vincentian Family and beyond on behalf of our Common Home and all its communities of life, human and nonhuman.
The Vincentian Charism and Laudato Si’ is our effort to share various ways that Vincentians find their charism connects with Laudato Si’. We encourage your comments on these posts and welcome anyone interested in submitting an article to email Jim Paddon at firstname.lastname@example.org.