Disciples in the Modern City #3

The third Disciple in the Modern City is Madeleine Delbrêl (1904-1964). A French woman who having declared “God is dead … long live death” as a teenage philosophy student, then discovered God living with her through difficult moments. She founded a House of Hospitality in a communist suburb of Paris and spent her life there working as a Social worker. She wrote on Marxist-Catholic relations and in “We the Ordinary People of the Streets” the role of lay people as missionaries in daily life.  However, in his talk, Rowan Williams concentrated on a series of aphorisms collected together as “The Little Monk” in which Delbrêl imparts wisdom for belonging to a Christian community. For example:-

  • To shine is not the same as to enlighten. (On a day of great eloquence.)
  • Hold you tongue when you can, so that you can speak when you must. (When the little monk had some silly stories to tell.)
  • Not as a great saint, and not a great sinner –  simply be one part of the great community called church. (The little monk when reflecting on his flaws.)
  • Beware of how you judge those who do not appreciate you. (When he felt treated as a nobody.)
  • Put yourself in the shoes of others, don’t force them to wear yours. (When the little monk dictated rules of spiritual discipline.)
  • Know that it is very fortunate for a monastery to have an incompetent leader when, on confessing his incompetence, he leaves it up to God. (One disastrous day)
  • Let God take over. Then you take action – if there’s still anything to act upon. (When the little monk came up with new ideas for his monks.)
  • Prayer does not mean being intelligent – it means being present. (When paying heed to people chatting on the street.
  • When you can’t dance, let your soul tango. (The little monk after a days struggle with accounting.)

Be blessed, Craig