We talk, perhaps too glibly, of the Vincentian charism. For a moment, I would like to reframe the conversation. Let’s talk about the Vincentian imagination!… and how it led to the “Vincentian Question.”
Imagination – “the ability to see something that others don’t see or does not yet exist.
- God certainly sees much more than we can see.
- God’s imagination – the ability to see what “eye has not seen nor ear heard”.
- God shared the gift of imagination with us. We are made in the image and likeness of God.
- God went even further.
- God shared his own image and likeness in the person of Jesus.
- The Word made flesh showed us what God imagined for us.
Whatever gifts of imagination St. Vincent had he certainly refined them. Scripture was his mentor.
Vincent read the Gospels imaginatively. In his 30’s he seemed to learn how to enter into the scriptures. He placed himself in each story he read. He imagined himself as each person in the story. Through this process, Vincent learned to imagine the way God/Jesus imagined. He learned to read the sighs and signs of the times.
He began to understand God’s imagination. He began to imagine like God. He “put on the mind of Christ!”
The Vincentian Question… and Charism
With the mind of Christ, he dared to ask what we refer to today as the Vincentian question. “What must be done?
Vincent dared imagine a world where people took care of one another. He imagined what it would look like to take Jesus’ prayer, Our Father, seriously, He treated everyone, even and especially, the forgotten people on the margins as his sisters and brothers. There is no evidence he had any other plan than doing what Providence was calling him to do… to bring Good News to the poor in every situation.
Vincent’s “imagination” led to changing his world. Most accepted their world as “the way it is”. No doubt he saw the massive social inequality, the polarization of peasants and power. He especially saw the resignation to the status quo.
Vincent saw more! He saw there was something out of focus. He felt this, especially when he viewed the on-the-ground reality against the vision and mission of Jesus bringing good news to the Poor. So he continually asked what we refer to today as the Vincentian question. “What must be done?”
With God and the Word made flesh, he dared imagine a world where people took care of one another. I doubt he had any other plan than using his imagination to provide the answer to what must be done to bring “good news” to the suffering.
With clarity of vision, he also knew he was just one person. In his “Christ imagination,” he also saw clergy, laity, women uniting in God’s vision.
With this imagination, he shaped the supposed “influencers” of his age, clerics, and tapped into previously unrecognized resources for ministry – laity, and especially women. He inspired each to imagine the dignity of brothers and sisters. He triggered each to ask, “what must I do?” for my sister and brother in need.
Today, we can easily get lost asking ourselves, “What can you do?” We will, however, always find our way if we ask the quintessential Vincentian question first offered by Madam De Gondi, ”Something must be done; what must I do”
This is another way of understanding the “Vincentian charism.” Knowing that something must be done and being brave enough to imagine. “What must I do?” is to live out the imagination of God, Jesus, St. Vincent – the Vincentian imagination. and charism
I love words. But more than words action.
This gives me much to ponder today.
We can not only imagine a better world, but we can be part
Of the re-creation team.