Quiet Vulnerability

March 5, 2016 | Reflections from Sr Antonia

I think the moment of our awareness of vulnerability, be it or own or someone else's, is initially a quiet moment. It is similar to the moment before dawn, that moment when everything in all of nature is perfectly still, waiting… quietly waiting. 

Sunrise at the Abbey

A baby's foot

I was once invited to be present at the birth of a child and, as that little one in all his vulnerability entered the world at 4.30 a.m, I felt that the whole world had stood still.  

This has come home to me quite powerfully over the last few weeks during which a vulnerable person shared their fears with me. It took quite some time before it finally dawned on me just how vulnerable this person is. Yes! It 'dawned on me' in just the same way that the dawn announces itself… quietly.


An elderly


Homeless person

Homeless person



I have also seen however, that one needs to be totally empty of self before one can even detect the quietness that heralds vulnerability. The frail elderly in particular, are extremely vulnerable, as are homeless people, and refugees. Notice how quiet their vulnerability is. The minute it protests it is no longer vulnerability, at least not in the same way.

I have also realised that a noisy heart would not notice vulnerability, and a hardened heart certainly could not; only heart capable of true compassion can. And everyone is capable of true compassion. 

Why am I dwelling on all of this I now wondered? I think it is because I was rather shaken by the realisation that it has taken me so long to HEAR and SEE this person's real vulnerability. Yes, I knew that there were "issues" but I was just too busy trying to find solutions to these problems, too eager to "fix it" to notice just how fragile she really was. 

Through these musings I was also led to notice that a little earlier in this reflection I had used the phrase 'heralds the vulnerability' (when I was writing about self-emptying). This notion of heralding the vulnerability reminded me of the quiet moment of that other silent night, the night that heralded the birth of Jesus. He, who was voluntarily vulnerable from the moment of birth, through his childhood and ministry, to his violent death at the hands of others, was the most vulnerable person of all.

Perhaps the best way for me to offer compassion to this person whose vulnerability I am in touch with at present, is for me to actually become a true FOLLOWER of Christ by opening myself up to my own vulnerability. Am I really prepared to be vulnerable so that I can notice the quiet vulnerability of others? Are you?