By Margaret Ann O’Neill, SC 

We have come to Rome: to remember; to re-commit; to rejoice. And of course… we are here, to celebrate our spiritual DNA: TOWARD BOUNDLESS LOVING.

What a joy to be with family….gracias. All of you are now, even more, a part of my world!

Let me start by focusing just a little bit on Vincent’s gift to the church and the world. The saints, those friends of God, who left a profound impression on humankind and the church, did so because they discovered a new dimension to Christianity: a new way of living… a new way of reading the Gospel.

In the midst of the hostile environment of Jansenism, where Original Sin and human depravity was afflicting everyone in the church and in the society, Vincent reacted strongly, searched his own heart and, gradually affirmed that grace, God’s loving presence, is not merited, but rather; it is freely given; it is pure gift…freely given to everyone.

Fired up with this belief, Vincent through prayer and action comes to know that there is no way to stop this wave of love. The love of God is unstoppable… so, Vincent, boldly loves, with the awareness that God is love and the human person is able to love with the divine love that has been poured out freely into human hearts. Yes, for Vincent human holiness is an encounter of human love with divine love, especially in the person of the poor.

Vincent did not see the road to holiness as some direct path that led to God, but rather, as a path that moved in one direction, then another, and still another.  It was more like the wisdom of God that mystics possess, not the result of knowing but of savoring, not so much mindfulness but heart- fullness. It was more the result of a deep encounter, by seeing the within-ness of the other… the within-ness of everything, the within of himself.

Vincent believed and lived paradoxes: humility and audacity; action and mysticism; firmness and gentleness; perseverance and flexibility; intelligent activity and trusting surrender. (Always both and)

It gives me joy to mention this here…here in Rome. Vincent truly believed in partnership in the church and that is why he listened, learned and trusted the instincts and wisdom of Louise. Together they imagined and gave birth to a movement that has inspired us all.

They started a revolution of tenderness… a revolution to humanize and put a face on the stranger and the vulnerable. Our Founders knew the need to lock eyes and to join hearts with those to whom human dignity and human rights were denied.

With zeal, with a passion, Vincent and Louise responded to human needs and organized institutions to keep charity alive, keep love expressed.  Yes, we are witnesses to, and partners with them in that long evolution of service….. service given in both humility and simplicity.

Vincent and Louise instructed all of us, the Vincentian family, to ask forgiveness of those receiving our help….receiving our love. How well they knew that the “giver is the getter and the getter is the giver”! It really was…it truly is… love touching love.

Two stories:

  • Tonight we share our food ….
  • Somebody knows my pain… REAL SOLIDARITY

Imagine we were told, our chapels, our shrine places, were the city streets…we were told to leave God for God. Not that prayer was unimportant; but oh, how overwhelming to both Vincent and Louise was the deep awareness, the deep realization, that Presence, grace freely given, is everywhere…everything, everyone is sacred.  (Imagine this is long before Vatican II)

Vincent and Louise were fully awake to their troubled times, and they risked responding to it, in new ways. They challenged church, society, and each other, when necessary, with hope and deep confidence that their project, their ministry was of God.

Clearly, we have come to this holy City to re-commit ourselves to boundless loving so, I ask each of us, “How do we stay awake? How do we stay faithful in our own times, in our context? Four hundred years later what is the spiritual revolution needed to transform us, and our world? What and how should we teach by our actions and our words to a world so broken…a world so far from the dream of God?

I want to invite…no, I want to challenge all Vincentians, to look deeply inside the mystery of the TRINITY…yes, to ponder this dis-placed… this forgotten doctrine…for too long this doctrine has been THE STRANGER, waiting to be welcomed, waiting to show us how to live.

Actually, I want to suggest we need a Trinitarian Revolution… nothing less.

Like you, I thought little about the Trinity because I was told, “it is a mystery…you cannot understand it. …just believe it.”  …

Richard Rohr says, and I quote, “Mystery is not something you cannot understand, but rather, Mystery is something you can understand endlessly.”

True there is no point at which you can say, “Ah, I’ve got it”. Rather my friends, always and forever Mystery gets youMystery holds you/us. You experience Mystery. You experience love. You savor it.

This unearthing of the Trinity cannot come a moment too soon! Our world is so broken, so disconnected, so afraid, so longing to be healed, a world so in need of love.

Are we ready to admit that we have trespassed on the fullness of God, the fullness of Mystery, by trying to lock God in a religion, a book, a person, a gender? Can we only think in nouns?  Is it too late to re-verb? Can we finally confront Aristotle who puts forth the theory that SUBSTANCE is always over RELATIONSHIP?

A more refreshing current theology of Trinity can enliven faith in a way that is not just rooted in our own tradition but in, all wisdom, experience, and love. I ask us, “Will we… LET GOD BE GOD? Will we… let Love be Love?”

Catherine Mowry LaCugna, in her classic, GOD FOR US, proposes that Trinity is not ultimately a teaching about God, but rather a teaching about personhood.

She insists that God is absolute relatedness… and the foundational good news is that creation and humanity have been drawn into this flow of loving relationship…this gift of relating lovingly.

In fact, she tells us, that the life of God does not just belong to God alone. Everything is holy; everything is connected…God is the life force of everything of everyone…there are no strangers.

This must become our mantra, the Vincentian mantra: there are no strangers. What was budding in the hearts of Vincent and Louise is beginning to flower.

Everything, everyone is invited to be a part of this three part HARMONY, this holy communion, this radical relationship…humanity is created in the image of community, in the image of Trinity.

Today scientists confirm for us that everything is inter-related. They tell us that everything that exists is never stable, and is nothing but a jump from one interaction to another. The Italian scientist, Carlo Rovelli suggests that we should no longer talk about the big bang but maybe rather, about the BIG BOUNCE …things moving, emerging, relating.

Marinate in this …Trinity is not just a teaching about the life of God but about the life of personhood.

Let me suggest: this is the spiritual Paradigm shift, our world needs. God is not a Being… but INTER-BEING, Absolute Relatedness. I want to suggest, we do not look at the Trinity as spectators, as outsiders.  Rather, we are all invited into this dance of love, into this wave of love that is unstoppable.

God is not the Dancer but the Dance…start thinking movement…start thinking verbs… not just nouns….start thinking relationships not just substances…God is the dance, not the Dancer…and we are part of that very dance.

La Cugna also tells us, that we praise God by building right relationships, and sin is destroying right relationships. Stop thinking and speaking about Bombs; Start thinking and speaking about BONDS…start speaking about Bondings…!

Atomic Bombings, NO …Atomic Bondings, YES! (Quite Vincentian, no?)

Will we try to mid-wife new metaphors for this creative Energy and power that continues to invite us to renew the face of the earth? Will we try to use our creativity, to find new ways to nourish and sustain our spirits?

Will we swim, and dance, in a spirituality birthed out of the awareness, that we truly praise God when we build right relationships…with people and all other species on this planet and that sin is in destroying relationships. Will we let this sink into or souls and have it shape the way we touch our planet, our borders, the way we use, share all natural resources?

Who is our neighbor? The Good Samaritan, yes…the Syrian refugees, yes… the children sold for sex, yes…AND….the sea turtles, the bees, the butterflies…YES.

Oh, how we have come to see the vastness of creation and its real connectedness, its real relatedness and we must re-read all faith stories in this context and see and feel them emerging, being liberated with new meanings, see them evolving.

I am so happy I have lived long enough to see the radical doctrine of the Trinity emerging, opening up like a beautiful flower. All that is… is birthed and connected by this loving movement….this incessant VERB. Yes, I stand in awe at how the early Cappadocian fathers speak about Mystery… speak about God, after Jesus.

They express this as Love flaring forth… love expressed… received… returning, transforming, connecting, expanding, invading, inviting. What insight! ….and… they tell us…we are made in the image and likeness of God….of this Mystery.

Let me mention here that there is a new book by Carla Sunberg, The Cappodocian Mothers! Sunberg explores the way in which the holy lives of seven Cappodocian women bring greater clarification and understanding to the theology, the fathers are struggling to express.

These women give life to the language of the Cappodocian fathers! It becomes impossible to separate these women from their theology or their theology from these women. While the women did not preach or publish, they shaped the character of their close male relatives. They were exemplars of holiness, generously giving in compassionate caring…and for these theologians they truly reflected the image of God. In fact these women embodied what they were struggling to write about! They saw these women as living examples of deification….theosis.

Our radical understanding of God is, that God is not an isolated monad, but a living communion in relationship with the world…in effect we say that God is what God does …love. …God is not a BEING but inter-being….Absolute Relatedness… the life force of everything …the life force of everyone.

We do not just look at Trinity as spectators, marveling and imitating… rather, Mystery invites us to live within the flow of love expressed… to be part of this harmony.

Listen to the poet, Emily Dickenson: In the name of the birds, the butterflies and the breeze, Amen.

Can we not say, “In the name of Vincent, Nelson Mandela and Gandhi”, Amen. In the name of, “peacemakers, caregivers, and Vincentians”, Amen

Story: De Paul University

So let us say: In the name of Vincentian Baptists, Vincentian Buddhists and Vincentian Catholics, Amen.

We belong to each other and the Creative Force you and I call God is responsible for that. That Force, that Energy is what connects everything, everyone. Ivone Gebara, calls God, the SAP of life, the life force of everything. Will we let this disturb us….call us to see a real responsibility to treat everyone with tenderness….live in real solidarity?  Will we wake up from our isolation, from our inhumanity?

According to Ilia Delio, to be Catholic, to be human, is to live in conscious evolution, to be actively engaged in this unfinished universe, as co-creators of justice, peace, mercy, and compassion. Catholicity is a virtue of relatedness, a dynamic energy of whole-making… of solidarity.

Meghan Clarke reminds us that solidarity is an attitude, a virtue, a duty. It is not a vague feeling of compassion or a shallow stress at the misfortune of people. It is waking up to the scandals that surround us…. staring at them, weeping over them.  Solidarity is the virtue by which we strive to be more fully the Trinity. It is feeling the pain, the love, the loneliness of the other.

Story Gustavo…in his book. On Job…woe to you

To be human is to have open arms: to embrace, to build, to heal, to let the life force pass through us and meet the very life force of the other.

But to be human is also to make fists in the face of those structures that rob people of their humanity, that indicate they are not wanted or do not deserve rights, dignity, a safe place to live and grow. (Most natural disasters are not NATURAL.)

The heart of the message of Pope Francis is the radical, uncompromising nature of solidarity. He reminds us by words and actions that we have fallen into the globalization of indifference…an attitude that… oh, it does not concern us…it is none of our business. He warns us that we cannot embrace our own humanity if we do not embrace the humanity of the other.

Until exclusion and inequality in society are reversed it will be impossible to eliminate violence.  Without equal opportunities, the different forms of aggression will find fertile terrain and eventually will explode. Violence will keep recurring no matter how much military might we use to suppress it!

May I stress, in this moment of time, we all need to shout by words and actions to everyone we serve: Get a life, get, a real life.… Get a life not measured by stock portfolios, or the manic pursuit of material consumption. Rather, get a life where together we envision and build a circle of COMPASSION with no one standing outside of it. Let us give each other hope that a humane civilization can and will be made concrete, by considering first the community rather than the individual.

When we leave this symposium… when we head back home with all of the positive, shared energies from this gathering, I ask you to remember that despite so much in common among us …there is one thing you have, that no one else has. Yes, you are and will be the only person alive who has the sole custody of your own heart……your own deepest center.

You can google for an answer, you can google for a mate, for a career…But you cannot google to find out what is in your own heart….the passion that lifts you upward. You have to listen to what is inside of you and discover your own fire. Not only do you need your own fire… but… so does the whole world.

More than ever, the world needs economic structures, economic systems that are built on solidarity, on the tenderness between pueblos. More than ever, the world needs to rethink borders, welcome the OTHER, as KIN, not as STRANGER. More than ever, we need to build bridges not walls. (We built walls in the 14th century!) We cannot amputate our creativity. We must risk, peek around corners, travel to places where there are palpable longings for justice and peace. Yes, I repeat we must stare at how inhumane humanity is.

More than ever, we must be awakened by the scandals we see…the scandal: of hunger, the corruption and impunity of so many of our institutions, the scandal of excessive greed! If we do not perceive the scandals, we will never act. We must see and feel the pain of the world to be a part of this new birthing.

Remember: On Job, (woe to you who come dry eyed)

Let us gather here these days with a genuine attitude of gratitude knowing,… that God still has faith in us… and knowing, that we still have faith in each other.

Let us promise to touch each other and our world with, a tenderness that transforms and with a truth that challenges.

Ours is an age of something radically new. It is more than a reformation. It is to be… an EVOLUTION in love…an EVOLUTION in solidarity, “a Love Inventive to Infinity.”

Works cited:

  • Catherine Mowry La Cugna. God for Us. The Trinity and Christian Life.
  • Ilia , Delio. Making All Things New: Catholicity, Cosmology, Consciousness
  • Rohr, Richard. The Divine Dance: The Trinity and your Transformation
  • Carlo Rovelli.  Seven Brief Lessons on Physics
  • Carla Sunberg. The Cappodocian Mothers: Exemplified in the Writings of Basil, Gregory and Gregory.
  • Meghan Clarke. The Vision of Catholic Social Thought: The Virtue and the Praxis of Human Rights.
  • Ivone Gebara. Out of the Depths: Women’s Experience of Evil and Salvation.

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