God can turn our mud into gold. But you still have to offer it to him! Interview with Alexia Vidot, author of the book “Spiritual Praise of Imperfection” published by Artège this November 8, 2023.
Human beings struggle to show themselves unvarnished because their desire for absolutes and perfection is so great. What then should we do with the faults, imperfections and other blunders with which man is steeped? Should we become a policeman against ourselves or on the contrary give up? What if accepted imperfections were a tool to journey towards the Kingdom of God? Alexia Vidot, author of a work entitled Spiritual Praise of Imperfection (Artège), invites us to reconcile with our imperfections. A path to holiness. Interview.
Aleteia: Who hasn’t tried to present themselves in the best light? Why highlight your little failings?
Alexia Vidot : How many charismatic figures have we praised, idealized, canonized during their lifetime – ultimately idolized – while stopping at appearances? And, when the masks fell, we were frightened to discover that the most beautiful clothes, those of apparent perfection, can cover many gray areas. It is too quickly to forget that the greatest saints were sinners. Bernadette Soubirous expressed it this way: “I would like us to say the faults of the saints and what they did to correct themselves; that would serve us much more than their miracles and their ecstasies. » We must come back to earth, reconnect with the wonder of incarnation, not run towards an above-ground spiritual ideal. In a word, reconcile with your dark areas. As long as we do not accept our lumpy humanity, there is a great risk of constructing a spiritual character that is very beautiful, certainly, but which hides its atrocities. Whereas it was because Christ’s face was dirty that Veronica wiped it. God can turn our mud into gold. You still have to give it to him!
Isn’t it a little depressing or discouraging to be nothing but mud and dust?
What is not accepted cannot be transformed; conversion requires a true look at oneself and the world around one. The temptation can be great, once our misery is before our eyes, either to remain without doing anything, to resign ourselves to it, or to aim for the heights of perfection of our ideal of man by the sole force of our efforts and our will. ; but the Spirit wants to come to the aid of our weakness. God doesn’t want us to be superheroes of prayer or evangelism. Our pride in wanting to be perfect blocks its action. God’s grace only works wonders at the very heart of human weakness.
I like this passage from Odile Haumonté in Living Today with the Saints (Salvator, 2022):
Teresa of Avila went to the chapel one day and said toJesus: “I don’t want to stay here.I don’t want to pray, I don’t want to tell you anything, I want to leave.» She begins to count the tiles on the floor.A few days later, she asked Jesus which of all his prayers and actions was his favorite.Jesus: “Remember the day when, in chapel, you started counting the slabs.This is the prayer that made me fall in love with you the most!Because you could very well have left, but you stayed, you chose me, even if you were only counting the tiles.
It is a matter of recognizing with healthy realism what is wrong within oneself and around oneself in order to ask Christ to act precisely in these troubled places.
So for God to act in us, we must learn to present ourselves before Him and before men in complete transparency?
This humanity which tires us, frustrates us and sometimes frightens us, it is from God that we get it, we must not forget it! By lamenting too much about its imperfections, we forget that it is the work of its hands. And this work is excellent! The observation of our misery should not make us feel guilty, but push us to repentance and conversion, to set us in motion to be transformed, to journey towards His likeness! Bernanos is so right when he writes in his Journal of a Country Priest : “It is easier than we think to hate ourselves. Grace is to forget oneself. But if all pride had died in us, the grace of graces would be to humbly love ourselves, like any of the suffering members of Jesus Christ. »
It’s about accepting and recognizing one’s faults in order to ultimately correct them better, or use them better?
Imperfections, limits, even defects become the favorite places of Christ’s action to bring his creature to holiness, in the glory of his Kingdom. Saint Thomas Aquinas wrote: “At the sites of these wounds, a special beauty will appear. » We can take this analogy: each weakness of a child is an opportunity for his parents to outdo himself in love, in delicacy, in inventiveness, to help him grow. Thanks to the love of his parents, the child’s weaknesses can become strengths.
It is the spirit of Saint Paul which opens and concludes your work: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” ( 2 Cor 12:9 ).
Absolutely, and it is through our weaknesses that we move towards perfection. “You therefore will be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect,” says Saint Matthew in his Gospel ( Mt 5:48 ). Holiness is not perfection by human standards, holiness is being perfect as the Father is perfect.
Accepting your imperfections and following Christ inviting you to perfection, aren’t these two extremes difficult to connect?
Yes, we are on a crest line: God is perfect in being three persons. It is perfection of relationship, of communion, of radical openness to others. Charity is not perfect harmony, simple relationships without tensions. The other will always be other. The Father is not the Son, the Son is not the Spirit: the Trinity is a radical otherness and a complete communion. Here on earth there will be no perfect couples, families, or communities. I repeat the words of Marie Noël : “The best, most nurturing souls are made of a few great radiant kindnesses and a thousand small, obscure miseries. »
Joyfully accepting one’s imperfections, falling, getting up again, leaving more and more space for God’s action, this is a program of holiness.
Moreover, the “be perfect” of Saint Matthew becomes “show yourselves compassionate, as your Father is compassionate” in Luke. Joyfully accepting one’s imperfections, falling, getting up again, leaving more and more space for God’s action, this is a program of holiness, the program of a lifetime!