Even holy men and women are human

We all have a variety of emotional responses within us, mixed feelings, so then if we try to control and suppress those that seem too ‘negative’ eventually the pressure will become too much.

The Jesuit priest Fr Carlos Valles tells a story from his own experience about a holy old priest who had led a model life holding responsible jobs as rector, superior and provincial. All his life he had been considered a living picture of the rules and regulations to be observed: punctual, active, devout, prayerful, considerate, modest, reliable, fair, generous, persevering, thoughtful – the embodiment of the perfect religious. As such he was honoured and respected by everyone.

As Valles goes on all would have been well if he had died in time, for the tensions he had endured over the years had taxed his patience and loaded resentments all of which he had kept hidden. But one year before his death it seemed as if something snapped: ‘the tongue was loosened, and the resentments of a life-time began to flow in an unholy tide of frightful proportions.’ Grabbing hold of Valles the holy man describes how he knows that everyone wants rid of him and hates him but he too hates everyone and has done for all the stupidities that he had to deal with over the years. ‘You will have to keep looking after me, whether you like it or not. I know that you hate me for all the things you have to do to me now; but I also hated you all my life for the nuisance you all were to me wherever I was. Go and tell them all: I mean to be around still for quite some time, and I will have my vengeance…’

The mixed feelings had of course been there throughout his life and work, the good feelings acknowledged with gratitude and humility but the bad ones suppressed and with much energy … ‘but the heroic scheme broke down in the end and the secret was out… There had been negative feelings in him all along, but by ignoring them and shelving them, he had only prepared the tragic showdown of his last days. Negative feelings can only be ignored at a price.’

The work is really to face the mixed feelings – the angel and the devil. The issue is how to do this, clearly by accepting that such negative emotions exist and then by processing them into feelings which can be voiced at least initially within us and the energy of the negative emotions such as anger and hatred be used constructively rather than repressed only to remerge destructively further down the line.

As Valles concludes he does not want to die cursing but rather to clean the dark corners, sweep under the carpet and to air grievances and confess animosities. There is no point falsely loving our enemies before accepting that we do have them and exploring what it is about them that so upsets and jars within us. Through such a process one can learn a lot about oneself, come to accept it and so en route extend the same benefit to the enemy who usually turns out to  have strong links to the more unattractive parts of oneself.