A Vincentian View: Dreaming

by | Jan 17, 2024 | Formation, Reflections | 1 comment

The “March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom” on August 28,1963 was scheduled to include a 3-hour program of speeches and performances by various civil rights leaders.  In the planning, Martin Luther King had volunteered to bring the gathering to a close.  He was allotted 4 minutes.  He spoke longer—17 minutes. He had a prepared text.  When you watch the video, you can see how often he looks at his notes in the first eleven minutes.  He has written down his eloquent remarks.  Then, something happens.  He moves to a spontaneous presentation and speaks solely from the heart.  He gives little attention to any notes.  This is the beautiful and powerful “I have a dream” portion of his talk.  It becomes its identifying element and an American standard.

The story is that the great Mahaliah Jackson, who stood nearby King, shouted out “Tell them about the dream, Martin, tell them about the dream.”  Then, something clicked in his head.  Clearly, he had thought about this dream on other occasions, but now the time seemed right and the words flowed passionately.  One can feel the Spirit at work as he discovers what he wants to say and how to say it.  From a past filled with injustice and prejudice, he dreams of a future embraced by the Gospel—one in which equality and respect for all people will dominate the landscape.  One in which his children will thrive and grow strong.  One in which America will realize its hope filled promise.

T.E. Lawrence (Seven Pillars of Wisdom: A Triumph) has something to say about these kinds of dreams:

“All men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake up in the day to find it was vanity, but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible.”

King had these open-eyed dreams.  And, he acts on them with bold speech and focused action, with a willingness to put his life and faith on the line to attain the good that he sought.  We know how that turned out.

I wonder about Vincent as a dreamer.  We can describe his practical side, but we can also recognize how he dared to envision things differently—to dream.  What would Vincent have said if Louise encouraged him to speak about their dream while he was preaching?  It would certainly involve a promised distribution of food, clothing, and housing for the needy.  It would engage people of every class in the service of those who needed help because of illness, age, and war.  It would be alive to the needs of the young in terms of education, care, and love.  It would strive to make the Gospel better known and lived by all people in terms of faith, forgiveness, and fidelity. As we look at the life and ministry of Vincent, discovering the elements involved in his dream would reveal a heart filled with the message of the Gospel and modeled on the example of Jesus.

As an American, Martin Luther King makes me dream of a better world.  Vincent de Paul does the same for the Vincentian Family.  I, too, need to dream and to strive to bring this vision to fruition with my prayerful effort.

1 Comment

  1. Tom M

    This was one good piece of Vincentian writing. Thanks