Hero takes a fall


Others living up to expectations… right now that seems impossible for so many. 

The news about L’Arche and Jean Vanier shocked so many of us. Yet another hero fallen, the great man has done terrible things. If you have no idea what I am talking about, please see this link.

At first – after the shock, after feeling ill about it, I started to realize that maybe I was not shocked at all. Sometimes I think that my ability to be shocked is long gone. Having grown up in a family of abuse, having gone through quite a long and ultimately healing journey of life, I have a very distinct and perhaps quite different point of view. Long ago I had to make some peace that it is entirely possible that the most beloved humans in your life may also be the most broken ones. As a result, they may end up working to break you, intentionally or not. How do you make any sense of that? I cannot give you a map, I can only tell you that it is so hard to hold it all, but it can be possible.

How my heart aches for women who were manipulated by Vanier and then had to hear a steady stream of how great he was. I cannot imagine how any of them must have felt. What a mess and what an abuse of power.

When I read this particular news, after gut punch beyond gut punch of such news, I began to think…  what is God trying to say to us?  Beyond that I started to wonder about what is being gestated in the Spirit? And what is trying to be born? Here we are at the gateway to another Lenten season and the question screams out at me – what will die, what needs to die? Things do need to die during Lent, so that thing can be born. What is trying to be born? What do want from new life? And how will we live our resurrection?

That is where I begin my Lent, with the reminder that another hero takes another fall. As this was happening we also got news that the sainthood cause of Rutilio Grande SJ as Pope Francis declared him a martyr. Normally I would be cheering about this, but today I am not of that mind. I have long loved and admired his work and memory, but right now I feel anxious about priests, about men being declared saints. At least for the moment until we can come to some realistic place about what sin is and what grace is and what healing is. And until we can some to some place where truth is told and reparations are made in meaningful ways. I am not supposing that anyone else has abused anyone, but I am exhausted by learning dark truths that were buried in falsehoods, in woven tales, and in lies. Maybe we just need a moratorium, even for those we love and cherish, we need some time.

downloadHonestly, I feel as if I enter Lent stunned by so much information, and I enter Lent craving silence, space, stillness, and peace. And I enter Lent without much chance to get large doses of any of those things. So it goes, I will carve out the small places and spaces of solitude needed.

How do you enter Lent? Who has fallen in your life? What has died? What needs to die? Whatever it is, may your days be blessed. I will try to do some writing, but as you know things have been spotty of late. We will see what God has in store for us. Onward, onward we go – fallen heroes and all.


8 thoughts on “Hero takes a fall

  1. Another hero to bite the dust… Why do we need so much to have heroes and villains?
    Yes, I do feel sorry for the women, and the all women (and men) throughout the world who are used and abused…
    And I feel sorry for the perpetrators…
    In which way am I like them?

    Thank you for this reflection, Fran… Lots of good questions, points to think about in the weeks to come. I wish you a Blessed Lenten Pilgrimage and I look forward to walking with you as you progress toward your goal xoxo

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  2. I will not comment on Jean Vanier, except to say that within every one of us lies the potential for great holiness and deep depravity. What I have been pondering is the danger of idealising people, putting them on pedestals, and very nearly revering them as gods. Fran, my musings began a few weeks ago when you mentioned that you had loved Princess Diana and were badly affected by her death. I felt anxious to read that, because I wondered how we can claim to love someone we don’t know. That led me to fear that maybe in our modern age, it is all too easy to live in a fantasy world in the way, as a child, I would place myself in books I had read and weave my own story with me as my
    favourite character. We are bombarded by stories of people in the public eye, and fabricate our own version of them for good or for ill. Similarly, on Facebook, and I am sure other social media platforms, we can read adoring comments after posts from whoever happens to be grabbing attention at the time and gathering hundreds of followers. Social media also provides a platform for claiming such people as friends, as if, by doing so, some of the person’s charisma may be seen in us. I have even read a blog which consisted solely of someone telling the world about all the well known people who would recognise them if they met. All this alarms me. I am as concerned when I hear a claim that my parish priest is a living saint as I am when I read repeated adulation of a character such as Jean Vanier, for whom many wanted instant canonisation. We will continue to be shocked and disappointed while we are ready to attribute to human beings the perfection which belongs to God alone. Even the greatest sinner is a beloved child of God, just as the seemingly Godly person may be concealing some secret which we do not want to know.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s a good point about how do we love someone we do not know… Thank you for saying that Maria. What I mourned and thought I loved was an image of someone.

      The point of my post was close to what you were saying – we will always be disappointed in those we push up on pedestals, no matter how good they are.

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  3. Fran, as I expressed to you on Saturday the news about Jean Vanier is deeply saddening. I would add that it is especially so for the women who were abused and heard constantly how wonderful he was. Yet this is the human condition that we are capable of good and evil. Jean Vanier’s work has helped many throughout the world and this does not eradicate that but it does cast a pall on it. I’m reminded that Jesus told the rich young ruler,“Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone.” (Luke 18:19) We are called to remember that only God is good; we are capable with God’s help of doing good things but we are also very capable of falling from Grace.
    Thank you for this well-expressed reflection.

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  4. Fran, my friend, I seldom respond to posts. but your most recent post evoked great thought in me.

    What is God telling us? …..I have several ideas to offer.

    As you know, I too have bourne my fair share of abuse at the hands of both men and women. Still, I fight on claiming what is mine by birth and baptism. Write from this place, with no intent to minimize or criticize those whose experience is not mine.

    I think, first, that God tells us again and again that we are all broken. That some of the greatest good, the most brilliant art, the most compassionate responses come from people that are the most broken. These people are noticed because of the atypical outcomes of their pain. If we look at our own brokenness, we have to ask how does our goodness arise from our pain?

    Another aspect of this same reality, the pain of brokenness, comes when we look at those who do things that rise to the top of the media cycle and grab our attention. I feel strongly that this is a call to God to look at ourselves in this situation. How often have we, in our own probably less notable ways, done the same? Is some of the pain and horror due to the light this event or events shines on our darkens places. Honestly, who has not done something that has hurt another? How often do we in our little ways use power and influence over another to gain our point of view or desired outcome?

    I think the answer to this second perspective is clear: No one. This is the story of the Garden of Eden. Only one has walked this earth and not done fallen into this most human experience, His name was Jesus. This is the necessary sin of Adam from which Jesus came to release us. The readings for this First Sunday of lent again show us how Jesus turns away from power and toward God.

    Finally, heroes are not real. They are a construct that forces an image of a person into an idealized frame. Heroes are humans living with all their human frailties.

    So, what is God telling us? I think that God is calling us to conversion again and again. To understand that we are not only all capable but daily abuse our power, that there is none among us who is without sins of power and pride. There is one hero. His name is Jesus.

    In this upcoming season of lent, we must shine a light in our most dark places and continually turn away from our human failing and turn toward God who is Love. Jean Vanier and so many others who have fallen from our pedestals are only the most obvious reminders of this constant call to conversion.

    Peace, friend

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