In her presentation at the annual LCWR assembly, Sr. Pat Murray, IBVM gave six images for leadership in a global world. I have written about the first two of them. This one is the third: Embrace Vulnerability. She was speaking about religious life and our institutions and how we are experiencing a greater fragility and vulnerability. She said: “In a profound way this makes us more relevant than ever; it places us in communion with the people of our time and places, especially those at the peripheries….this calls us to a deep humility that creates space for conversion and change.”
It made me begin to think about the very word itself, “vulnerable” and the images it conjures up in my mind. I thought of the elderly in nursing homes, or the plight of refugees, or girls being trafficked. Vulnerability is easier thought of in reference to other people, not us. Yet we know that we have our vulnerable spots too. We can be hurt, frustrated, taken advantage of, betrayed. We have limitations, we are not invincible. We grow old, we wear out. Our hearts can be broken. Being vulnerable is the cost of being human. It also allows us to be moved, to have compassion, to empathize, to relate to others and our world. It helps to enable friendship and community. Perhaps because vulnerability allows us to give the gift of our honest selves.
I think of the Scripture from St. Paul that talks about being earthen vessels…anyone who has ever tried to do pottery knows that not every clay pot comes out perfect. But we also know that if we are honest and accepting of our flaws and limitations, it gives us the compassion to accept others as well. Our Provident God, the Potter, takes that clay pot and transforms it with his grace. Providence takes our fragile lives and turns them to be perfect vessels for God’s power to do its work. Not just for us and in us; but in the world and for the world too.
Sister Pat also said in that part of her presentation: “We know that our experience of weakness, confusion and searching, places us among the men and women of our day. What we have to offer to people today is above all our experiences of vulnerability, fragility and weakness and our profound belief that God’s grace seldom comes in the way that we might expect.”
It seems to me that the Women of Providence congregations, along with their Associates, give witness to this living out of vulnerability as they encounter the people and needs of today. Let none of us be afraid to embrace our vulnerability.
Barbara McMullen, CDP