Vincentian View: “Renewing our Promises”

Fr. Patrick J. Griffin, CM, Special to the Torch

This past Saturday, March 25, the Christian community celebrated the solemnity of the Annunciation.  On this day, the angel Gabriel came to ask Mary to be the Mother of Jesus.  We have a depiction of this scene in our Thomas More Church among the Mary windows behind the altar.  With Mary’s “Yes,” Jesus begins his life within her.  Nine months from this day, the Christian community celebrates Christmas.

March 25 also possesses special importance for the Daughters of Charity, the community of consecrated women founded by Vincent de Paul and his life-long collaborator, Louise de Marillac.  These sisters have regularly been a part of our St. John’s University community.  Each year, on this March day, they follow the example of Mary’s lifelong “yes.” Last Saturday marked the 375th anniversary of the taking of vows for the first time by Louise de Marillac (remember Marillac Hall on campus) and four other women.  For the Daughters of Charity, the annual taking of vows became the practice and they call it “renovation.”  Sr. Pat Evanick, one of our campus ministers and a Daughter of Charity, renewed her vows in this week.  We pray that God may give her the grace to be faithful to the words of her heart.  

Yearly promising one’s whole life to God in poverty, chastity, obedience and service of the poor offers a powerful encouragement for a sister to remind herself of the fact that she has given herself completely to God.  When our words become too routine, when our actions become simply habit, we can lose the energy which comes from a love without bounds. I know this to be true for myself and not simply my sisters in the Vincentian Family.  I, too, need to rejuvenate my commitment to the service of the Lord.

The opportunity for renewal is not limited to March 25.  At Easter, the Christian repeats his/her Baptismal promises; on an anniversary, a married couple may reaffirm their wedding vows; on the Fourth of July, Americans remember their commitment to their country and its values.  Renewal poses a value across many areas of our life and decisions.  The ease with which we can forget how blessed we are and how dependent we are upon the goodness of God and one another, gives impetus to the desire to stop and take stock.

Mary’s willingness to say “yes” at the Annunciation was not a one-shot deal.  To be a mother requires daily commitment and reinvigoration.  The number of images of Mary across our campus can remind us of that truth in her life and calls for a similar dedication in our own.  At the heart of a Vincentian University rests a sensitivity to the marginalized among us because we recognize them as our brothers and sisters in the Lord.  When we hear that summons and answer faithfully, we make a genuine contribution to our community and society.  This kind of promise is well worth our effort and regular renewal.