By Paul Ainslie, President, SVdP Indy
We are a people of faith. As Catholics and Christians, we have belief in the tenants of our religion and in the promise of everlasting life. As Vincentians, we have faith that our works are following the examples of St. Vincent de Paul and Blessed Frederic Ozanam and the founding spirit of the Society. We know what we have is not just a commitment, but a vocation.
Did you ever wonder what the opposite of faith is? At last month’s National Assembly of the U.S. Society of St. Vincent de Paul that question was posed to 800+ attendees by an unlikely messenger: John Foppe, the Executive Director of the St. Louis Council. John was born without any arms. At the age of 10 he couldn’t dress himself. He couldn’t play sports, couldn’t get a date in high school, and could have lived his life in seclusion. Instead he has become a motivational speaker and freely shares how he overcame his “condition.” His 2002 book, “What’s Your Excuse? Making The Most Of What You Have,” says it all. We all have conditions, he says, and we all have obstacles we must overcome. His may seem a bit more difficult than some, but nevertheless he is happily married with a daughter just finishing high school. His life seems like a miracle.
For John, faith is what carried him forward. And the opposite of faith is what he had to master. The opposite of faith is control. He could not control how he was nor how people would respond. But he could accept this as his cross to bear, and just move forward.
I know I often need to feel in control—that unless I can command the situation then everything might be lost. But in reality, all that any of us can do is to try to be ready for what comes next in our lives. “Man plans, and God laughs” is all too true. As we read in Isaiah “‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord.”
As we go about serving our neighbors in need, our special Vincentian charism is to see Christ in each and every person. We cannot judge what we do not understand fully. We can, however, offer the important gift we have: hope.