As Vincentians we follow Christ’s example whenever possible in matters of our faith and love of the poor, each other and God. Why then do we resist another example He provides, of presence?
Would our Catholic faith be different if there was improved technology in Christ’s time? Without mass publishing, phones, and emails, Christ and later the Apostles used their feet. Christ was in person to recruit each Apostle, not relying on a temple poster. He spoke to the masses on the Mount rather than sending out a newsletter or Instagram post. And (Bible spoiler alert!) He came back from the dead and appeared in person to his Apostles. He didn’t send a text or a YouTube video. Even within those earlier times, He didn’t send an angel or messenger on His behalf. Some things you just gotta do in person.
I’d like to think that all this didn’t happen as described only because modern technology didn’t exist. Remember, God once provided simultaneous translation so that everyone heard the Word in their own language – without wires and earpieces! If He so desired, I’m sure he could have had us invent technology earlier and provide cellphones or whatever. No, I think He has always appreciated the singular value of being there in person.
It’s been nearly two years now since it seemed that everything shut down. Business, restaurant, and school closures. No in-person meetings. Weeks of absolute quarantine. Not even what we assumed would always be with us, the Sunday Mass. In our Vincentian work, no Home Visits and no Conference meetings, the core strategies of our mission together. It’s as if COVID was a virus that not only killed people, but also our institutions.
We slowly return now to normal, but with new tools, new systems, and perhaps, for good or bad, new strategies and habits. We have gotten used to doing our work and living our lives increasingly through the phone and the Internet. But just because we can doesn’t always mean we should.
Some people have immunology issues or are simply afraid of contracting the virus, and we need to recognize their situations and adapt as we can. For most of us though, it’s time to return to Christ’s example and get back out there, safely but in person. Technology was a necessary and welcome, saving fix to our challenges. In many ways it is best that we now view that fix as temporary.
From our beginnings, Conference meetings have been in person. Granted, we barely had phones when we started! But while tech has changed since 1833, the benefits of members experiencing our three Essential Elements of Spirituality, Friendship, and Service have outweighed the meeting technology conveniences.
The Home Visit has long set us apart from the many social service agencies and even other good Catholic groups seeking to serve the poor. We, and the person being served, see the Face of Christ only in person.
Our Council, regional, and national meetings are coming back on line as well. I hear from so many that they have missed their friends and the opportunity to share with each other, enhanced when in person relative to emails and phone calls. Breaking bread together is more than a meal; it’s a treasured relationship. I expect next month’s Midyear meeting hallways to be full of good cheer!
Sure, we have tools that can make our tasks faster, less expensive, and more efficient. Serving the poor, though, has never been an efficient undertaking. Increasing our spirituality, our core mission, has never had a shortcut!
As we follow Christ, let’s look to his engagement strategies. He never “mailed it in” to a gathering or a sermon. He sent disciples, often with no more than the clothes on their backs, to strange towns where they knew not a soul to spread the Word in person. At the very core of our faith, He presented Himself to be tortured and crucified. Only through these examples of personal presence could He then return and save all of us.
We have been forced to take cover, physically and often spiritually, for two years. The least we can do now in Christ’s name is to attend our meetings in person, ask friends and family to join and support us with personal invitations, and visit with neighbors in need where they live. Let’s return intentionally to Christ, not only in our prayers but through our lives of renewed presence.
Yours in Christ,