Simone Weil – waiting and attending

[Simone Weil] felt quite clear that it was her own vocation to be on the threshold of the church. She had frequently discussed Catholicism with J. M. Perrin, a Dominican priest she first met in Marseilles. He urged her to seek baptism. But shortly before leaving for New York she had written to him, saying, I have always remained at this exact point, on the threshold of the Church, without moving. It was the place where she made her spiritual home.

This sense of waiting on the threshold was a key element of her larger spiritual perspective, in which she stressed the importance of an attitude of attentive, receptive waiting. In New York she wrote in her journal: Waiting patiently in expectation is the foundation of the spiritual life. In her letters and journals she was slowly and hesitantly carving out an account of how attentiveness could enable spiritual growth. It was, she believed, the person of receptivity and openness who would discover the truth. Deep truth had a way of eluding those who set out to grasp it by willpower.

Simone Weil believed that this discipline of attention was necessary if we are to know God. But she also believed that it was necessary if we are to know, and to help, other persons. In this way her philosophy of attention seeks to unite contemplation and action. In an essay written before she left France, published inWaiting for God, she says, Those who are unhappy have no need for anything in this world but people capable of giving them attention. The capacity to give one’s attention to a sufferer is a very rare and difficult thing; it is almost a miracle; it is a miracle.



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