Reflection – Winter 2023

by Fr. Kevin Canty, CM (National Director), published in AMM Bulletin Winter 2023.

The poet Patrick Cavanagh said: “We only learn what we already know.” This month as we prepare to move out of Winter and into Spring, we also move towards important feasts, that are important for members of the Vincentian family, the Feast of the Assumption of Mary (August 15), and of St Vincent de Paul (September 27).

In the preface for the Feast of the Assumption, we read:

For today the Virgin Mother of God was assumed into heaven, as the beginning and image of your Church’s coming to perfection and a sign of sure hope and comfort to your pilgrim people.

We only learn what we already know. We know about the changes that the seasons bring about in our lives. Autumn that leads into winter and then winter as it leads us into Spring.

Some years ago, I was part of a group that was meeting a few times each year and Michael, who led us and acted as secretary in our early meetings, was usually busy typing and printing and how he was usually busy typing and printing minutes and drafts of different documents for us to consider. I can still hear him often saying, ‘I knew that’. This would be when we corrected some spelling error or some phrase that was unclear. It always received the same reaction, and we all enjoyed his way of denying any mistake or of possibly receiving new information. ’I knew that!’ I have been reflecting on how often I have read or heard the Scriptures being read and have responded in much the same way as Michael did: ’I knew that”. From my reading, for guidance listening to others, I receive new facts, new information, or be conditioned even by others’ opinions or views. A good question to ask myself seems to be, ’where do I get the convictions I live by? Does change occur? Am I open to the Holy Spirit instructing me, and how does this occur? One author in the life of St Vincent de Paul, quotes Vincent speaking about prayer, where Vincent remarks,

Though we have to lift our minds to God, we must above all listen to God speaking to us, for one single word from him is better than a thousand reasons and all the speculations of our minds. We must from time to time raise our hearts to God, conscious of our nothingness, awaiting his speaking to our hearts, uttering a word which leads to eternal life. It is only what God inspires, what comes from him, that is useful for us. What we receive from God we must give to our neighbour after the example of Jesus Christ, who speaking of himself, said, ’I say only what the Father has taught me.

Abelly: ‘Life of St Vincent: Bk 3, pp 63-64

We pray to the Holy Spirit for guidance. We also ask the Holy Spirit to help us to listen to God speaking to us, certainly in the Scriptures, but also as we reflect upon our own experience, and on what we share of our insights and experience with each other. May the Holy Spirit help us to move from knowing about God and God’s ‘Good News’ to actually knowing the One who speaks to us and promises to be with us in all that we do.