If you’ve flown on an airplane, you know the instructions: If you are traveling with a small child, and the cabin loses oxygen, and the air masks drop down, what are you supposed to do? (Correct response: “Place the mask over your own face first, then over your child’s.) Exactly! See to your needs first! Vincentian Formation is about learning to be effective ministers of the poor, to be sure, but it’s also about shaping our inner selves so that we continue in this demanding, sometimes thankless, work for a long time. You’ll be no good for the poor if you are cynical, burned out, frustrated, distant from God, and distant from your own heart. You must learn to pray. You must learn how to step back and reflect on what how you are being changed by the work you do. You must learn how to balance your own life against the infinite needs of the poor, learning how to help but walk away for relaxation, family, rest, and fun. Your person and your heart need to be fully alive if you are going to be any good for the poor long term. You must see to your own needs before you see to the needs of the more vulnerable ones around you. Most of us make mistakes in this regard and find ourselves worn out. Formation for mission must teach this lesson. We must see to our deepest needs. It’s critical.
- from Fr. Dennis Holtschneider’s presentation On Vincentian Formation