Sunday Inspiration: Our Willingness To Be Vulnerable

I became interested in the Jesuits when I created a Jesuit character, Father Isaiah Colburn, in The Color of Light. As part of my research I began to follow Father James Martin, SJ, on Facebook, as well as the Jesuit magazine, America.

Willingness to be vulnerableThis week I was entranced by America’s story of Andrew Garfield, who plays a missionary in a new Martin Scorsese film, Silence. The article in here if you would like to read it in its entirety.

To prepare for his role Garfield took a year long spiritual tutorial in the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius from Father Martin, and experienced some profound changes.

The following story from the article really grabbed me. Garfield, still new to acting, was about to appear in Hamlet, and he was overcome with his own inadequacies. We’ve all been there, right? Frightened and uncertain, he went for a walk.

To calm his nerves he walked up and down the South Bank of the Thames. It was an overcast day and his thoughts turned to escape: “I begin thinking of throwing myself into the river. I have nothing to give, I have nothing to offer, I’m a fraud.” He understands it now as a moment of prayer: “I’m asking for something. I’m asking for help.”

And then he heard a street performer singing, rather imperfectly, a familiar song, “Vincent,” by Don MacLean. It was the imperfection of the performance that he remembers most. “If that guy had stayed in bed saying ‘I have nothing to offer, my voice isn’t that good, I’m not ready to perform in public, I’m not enough.’ If he had listened to those voices, I wouldn’t have been given what I needed,” he said. “His willingness to be vulnerable really changed my life. I think I understood for the first time how art makes meaning, how art changes people’s lives. It changed my life.”

Of course Vincent Van Gogh’s, own willingness to be imperfect changed all our lives, too.

I firmly believe that none of us will ever know whose lives we change by our own willingness to be vulnerable. But the next time I’m frightened about what I have to offer, I hope I’ll remember this story. I hope it helps you, too.

Art makes meaning. Art changes lives. Your own art, imperfect and tentative as it might be, may change a life as well. Of course so might  a warm hug on a cold day or home baked cookies when a neighbor is ill. It’s our willingness to be vulnerable, to accept that our offerings may not be perfect or even valued highly by everyone, that could make all the difference.

And we may never know. Or need to.


  1. Bess Stark on January 15, 2017 at 12:27 pm

    I am rereading “Whiskey Island” and the follow up book “The Parting Glass” I absolutely love them. They would make a great TV series or a movie on maybe Hallmark Network. They show such wonderful family interaction. Must be set in Cleveland and get the midwest feel. Must not be glamourized just the true love of family

    • Emilie Richards on January 15, 2017 at 8:56 pm

      I’ve even had people volunteer to star in Whiskey Island. I think it would make a good movie, too, but first someone in Hollywood would need to show an interest. Meantime thank you so much for such a nice compliment.

  2. Donalene Poduska on January 15, 2017 at 4:42 pm

    My husband went to a Jesuit high school and then later taught 45 years in a Jesuit college. I learned about Jesuits when we started dating (I did not belong to the Catholic Church). They are committed to education. The current Pope continues to display his Jesuit training and experiences.

    • Emilie Richards on January 15, 2017 at 8:57 pm

      Yes, I think it was a big surprise to the entire world to have a Jesuit chosen. His dedication to social justice is certainly proof of his Jesuit ideals and training.

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