The Humility of Not Taking Gifts for Granted

Vincent de Paul at table with poor, Graz

When I saw Fr. Tom McKenna’s prayer concluding a week of stories about humility as experienced in the Vincentian tradition, I remembered an earlier reflection of his. “What Was Poured Into Me” It unpacks beautifully his prayer.

He begins by sharing people’s experiences of waking up to gifts from their parents that they had taken for granted. (I personally am amazed at the German wisdom sayings I absorbed in my childhood that pop into my head as apt summaries of experiences today.) Here I share you with the section where he lifts up the heritage and treasures from Louise and Vincent we might have taken for granted.

Perhaps we have not recognized their gifts in

The way you read the papers, hear the news, interpret the culture. That is, over the years, more and more looking at it all through the lens of what will serve the least of the brothers and sisters, what will give them a voice and a place at the table. Did you come to that on your own?

What you tend to notice in the Gospels. The way some passages and stories have a leg up on other parts, shine out more brightly on the page, catch your eye; e.g., the Good Samaritan, the poor man at the gate of the rich man, Jesus in the Synagogue picking out the Isaiah passage about “being sent to bring the good news to the poor,” Mt. 25, Jesus gathering the little children, etc. Did you yourself create this sensitivity?

Whom do you admire? Aren’t they in part the Louise’s and Vincent’s of the world. Dorothy Day, Oscar Romero, Caesar Chavez, Pope Francis, and closer to home the heroines and heroes of your own Vincentian circle (fill in the names). The question is not so much how admirable they were, but rather where did you pick up this particular taste in admiring?

Your deep stories. The subterranean ones that have come to resonate such that they act as your guides and beacons and north stars; i.e., the Family stories (the lives of our saints and blessed, incidents in Louise and Vincent’s lives, seeing the “other side of coin,” the living legends still among us.)

May I add as an example that includes so much of the above – the ability to be moved by the Austrian painting of Vincent Seated at the Table with the Poor. We have learned to see the face of Christ in the midst of the table of the poor.

Let us take a few moments to acknowledge these gifts. He suggests we use the call-and-response in our Prefaces to the Eucharistic prayer: “Lift up your hearts” (to all that’s being given). “It is right and just” (to give thanks to The Lord who is our God.)

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