Doing the Dishes

by | May 3, 2024 | Formation, Reflections | 1 comment

Calls for social change are quickly politicized …therefore quickly colored red or blue, rarely purple.

I wonder how St. Vincent would be colored?

Vincentians across the spectrum may forget the Vincentian paradox. St. Vincent brought great social change to 17th century France… but … he had no grand theory of social change.

This Mindwalk is a reflection on a saying of a contemporary change agent – Shane Claiborne

“Everybody wants a revolution, but nobody wants to do the dishes.”

First back to Vincent…

St. Vincent changed the face of 17th century France

Vincent did not have any grandiose plan for social changes.

Yet, in one of the paradoxes of history, he is now being recognized as one of the most effective change agents in the history of the church… and French society. At his funeral, a nationally known orator said “Vincent just about changed the face of France.” Quite a tribute!

St. Vincent not only saw the needs of his sisters and brothers. He organized ministerial responses to their suffering. His insight … “The poor suffer less from a lack of generosity than from a lack of organization.”

He made his own the words of Isaiah and Jesus… “proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord”

He energized the clergy by forming something new … a network of seminaries!

Women especially responded to serve those in need. In each parish he and his followers served, they established “Confraternities”.

St. Vincent’s legacy has stood the test of time because he not only changed his world but anticipated many of the most exciting currents in today’s Church …

Back to Shane Claiborne

Shane Clairborne has a reputation for “walking the talk.” He is fond of saying

“Everybody wants a revolution, but nobody wants to do the dishes.”

Shane Claiborne still does the dishes.

reviewer drove home the point.  Ben Katt wrote Shane Claiborne still does the dishes — the ordinary, everyday, simple stuff on the city blocks and street corners and row house front porches of his neighborhood.

  • He says “Hello” to his neighbors (or maybe it was “Howdy”?), calls them by name and asks them how they’re doing.
  • He kindly, but firmly tells the young man subtly (to outside eyes!) dealing drugs on the corner, “We’re keeping this corner clean.”
  • He helps organize a prayer vigil to mourn the victims of recent shootings in the neighborhood and is actively involved in the development of the neighborhood park.
  • He walks an out-of-towner to the El train stop a few blocks away.

St. Vincent’s way of saying it 

“Let us love God. But let it be with the sweat of our brows and the strength of our arms!”

I am quite sure he would resonate with the appeal “… and do the dishes!”

Vincent certainly paid attention to details. His conferences to the Daughters of Charity are filled with his attentiveness

I am becoming increasingly convinced that it was his attention to the details he observed in the stories told by and about Jesus.

In our desire to do more than just bind up wounds but also prevent the wounds from occurring, we might do well to follow Vincent’s example of reflective reading of the scripture to see parallels in our lives.

Are Vincentians doing the dishes of social change?

  • Do I do the dishes of getting to know the person in front of me?
  • Do I do the dishes by asking the very simple question, WHY? Why is this happening?
  • Do I do the dishes by looking around to see who can help change the “why”?

Originally posted on Vincentian Mindwalk


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