© 2010 Vincentians Ireland
Provincial Office, St Pauls
An extract from The Way of Vincent de Paul by Fr. Robert P. Maloney CM.
A few years ago as I was preparing for a talk on Vincentian spirituality, I went to a wonderful exhibit of Claude Monet's paintings. Three of them intrigued me especially. Each showed exactly the same location on the Seine – one at dawn, one at midday, one at dusk. Each had a beauty of its own. In the first, gauze-like rays of light filtered through the heavy morning mist that lay on the river. In the second, the face of the river was bathed in sunlight, and the bright green of the trees and the yellow and red of the flowers on the river banks sparkled with light. In the third, long shadows stretched out over the river and only a gentle purple glow lit the evening sky. They wee on very different views of the same reality, and through them Monet was illustrating an important lesson: we cannot exhaust a reality by fixing on it at a single moment or from a single point of view.
It is much the same with the Gospels. When the look at the rich reality of Jesus, they can only attempt to express it in pieces and from varying points of view. The Jesus of Mark is very human in His ignorance; the Jesus of John shares the knowledge of God as He reads the future. In the Gospels, we see Jesus as Lord, but we also see him as suffering servant. We see him forcefully confronting the Pharisees. We see him meek as a lamb led to the slaughter. We find an ascending Christology and a descending Christology, and several in-between.
The saints are similar. It is not easy to capture their richness in a single word or a single phrase. A still photo of St. Vincent or St. Francis of Assisi would not tell the whole story. They did not live merely at a single moment in time, nor in a single place. Neither were they influenced merely by one person, nor did they perform merely one work. The saints' vision of Jesus was rich, and like the many facets of a bright diamond, their lives sparkle before our eyes in varying ways.