Afraid to be Children

I had the wonderful chance to speak by Skype recently to a priest mentor of mine from years ago, and among the many things we shared he quoted for me (and expounded on) this quote from Jean Vanier:

All of us have a secret desire to be seen as saints, heroes, martyrs. We are afraid to be children, to be ourselves.

He talked about his retreat work with priests and laity, and shared some quite remarkable insights that I will try to capture here before they fade from my memory:

I find that so many people who find themselves in places of authority, or in the public eye in the church, forget how to be children in the way Jesus asks us to be: simple, self-forgetful, present to the moment, trusting, honest, innocent, and desirous to be loved by the Father as beloved sons and daughters. They want to be leaders without first being servants; to be fathers or mothers without first being sons and daughters. They create a world of illusions, a world of smoke and mirrors that fends off criticism or attracts applause and affirmation; and they’re obsessed with this because inside they’re empty; they have no place for God to Father them, no playful trust that God truly wishes to rock them in his arms and reveal to them the mysteries of his heart’s vision of them. They criticize others relentlessly and feed off of negativity because they feel in themselves only a love that is riddled with conditions and strangled by judgments. They wish to be seen as worthy and good by others, but forget that God alone, by his eternal gaze of love, can make us worthy and good; can make of our weaknesses, strength; of our pain, redemption; of our sins, grace. A God who sees us through the Cross. God created us to be his beloved children, but we seem determined to remain orphans forever in search of a father’s love. And we pass on the hurt. But it’s only those who have allowed God to see them, to look into them and love them, only those can see others through God’s eyes. In those who receive this beautiful gift of God, you can see them dropping the critical spirit, the dark humor, the self-loathing. It’s like seeing the aftermath of a volcanic eruption — out of the destructive black soot and ash come the flowers…

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11 comments on “Afraid to be Children

  1. Br Patrick says:

    I’m so glad you are back to writing on your blog. It gives us ” spiritual pearls” to pray with in the morning!

  2. Evie says:

    What an honest statement! It is good to be little enough to climb into the Father’s lap. There is peace in such littleness as it is in His arms we rest. St. Therese pray for us!

  3. […] All of us have a secret desire to be seen as saints, heroes, martyrs. We …read more […]

  4. rozanncarter says:

    This, and yesterday’s post, are fantastic. I am so glad you are blogging again, too!!

  5. tony says:

    Dear Mrs. Neal,
    I love the post. I was wondering about looking into Jean Vanier and
    his writings. Do you have a recommendation to start with?

    God bless

    • Tony, I would rec this book (click here) for a Vanier primer.
      The priest is a not published and I am keeping anonymous for his privacy’s sake — he gave me permission to share his insights, but not his name.
      I am glad it blessed you! Godspeed, Tom Neal

  6. I like that. Now if I can just relax & remember it when i’m trying to be someone I’m not. Thank you.

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