“I’m too busy” is a thing we sometimes say when we really mean that this activity or that person is just not important enough to us. As Vincentians, we have come to learn that this can never be the answer when we are interrupted by a call from the neighbor.
It’s a lesson many learn as parents. We might enjoy nothing more than to watch our favorite team play on TV, but if it conflicts with the ballet recital or the Little League game, well…we can check the score later.
It’s never really a matter of time; it’s a matter of priorities.
Like parenthood, our calling as Vincentians is “a vocation for every moment of our lives.” [Rule, Part I, 2.7] Our moments, and how we spend them, are driven by love, not by the schedules we’d planned. That’s easy to remember when it is your child tugging at your sleeve, but it sometimes slips our minds when it is a neighbor in need interrupting dinner.
This was the exact point St. Vincent made when replying to one of the missioners who had apologized for sharing his troubles. “Brother,” Vincent replied, “have no fear that you’re bothering me. You should realize that someone appointed by God to serve others is no more put out by the demands made on him than a father would be in regard to his children.” [CCD XII:392]
It is not that we view the neighbor as a child, but rather that we always remember we were called first by God, and that He calls us from time to time in the person of the neighbor in need. We don’t have to make time for our neighbors, because being Christ to us, the time is already theirs.
None of this is to say that we are not allowed to get tired! St. Vincent constantly reminded his followers not to allow their zeal to make them do more than they were able. [CCD II:375] More importantly, as he once told St. Louise, we must rest to regain our strength, because even if we don’t need it, the neighbor in need does. [CCD I:392]
In our memories, the joy of the ballet recital or the Little League game entirely wash away whatever else we thought was important at the time. We can clearly see that there were no better things to do; that we received a greater gift than we ever could have given.
In a similar way, we thank God for the blessings we receive from those whom we visit. In the fullness of time, in union with Christ and with each other, we will rejoice in the memory of every interruption.
Where is the neighbor in my list of daily priorities?
Faces of Holiness (especially Vincent, Father of the Poor)