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…