Of Brokenness

Jean Vanier in 2012I’ve been absent from online for a bit, but not from some enlightening reading. The death of Jean Vanier inspired me to recheck my libraries–home, work, parish, and county. Among others, I found the slim volume From Brokenness to Community, a compilation of two lectures at Harvard Divinity School in 1988.

A number of passages struck me, including this one, which begins with a startling and honest admission:

I discovered something which I had never confronted before, that there were immense forces of darkness and hatred within my own heart.

This strikes me as the insights of the saints. Religious people see the darkness outside. Outside themselves, their communities, their safe cadres. Saints know better.

At particular moments of fatigue or stress, I saw forces of hate rising up inside me, and the capacity to hurt someone who was weak and was provoking me! That, I think, was what caused me the most pain: to discover who I really am, and to realize that maybe I did not know who I really was! I did not want to admit all the garbage inside me.

I was thinking of troubled persons and even groups within our own country. The instinct to deny is strong among us.

And then I had to decide whether I would just continue to pretend that I was okay and throw myself into hyperactivity, projects where I could forget all the garbage and prove to others how good I was. Elitism is the sickness of us all. We all want to be on the winning team. That is the heart of apartheid and every form of racism.

Remember, 1988. Today we would substitute out “apartheid” for “white supremacists.”

The important thing is to become conscious of those forces in us and to work at being liberated from them and discover that the worst enemy is inside our own hearts not outside!

This is a difficult path for the saintly. How much harder for the patriotic, political, or capitalist souls among us.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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