Saturday, January 20, 2007

Poor Clare's reflections on her life in a convent

Watching a video on Assisi, the region in Italy possessed with the infectious spirit of St. Francis and St. Clare, I was taken by a segment with the following meditation. As I recently shared some words of the mystic Simone Weil I thought it would be appropriate to offer up some thoughts graced in the spirit of Agape. May the words bring you to a place "free to become each day what a whole life cannot humanly become."

My Life as a Poor Clare
From "The Spirit of Assisi" video
Distributed by: Oriente Occidente Productions

To realize that in something like a breath, a flight, I have spent the greater part of my existence here, a moment suspended, then picked like a peach in June, all its fragrance, its mystery, its poverty and its simplicity in part of the universe’s rhythm.

My life as a Poor Clare, perhaps not yet a re-awakening, but a dream, yes in a great and sweetly wind rock. I speak of a dream, yet here I am lucid attentive to all that happens each event which hints at a presence all the more desired of it not fully perceived.

I wanted to hear your footsteps in the garden Lord and to walk with you. Instead, you set me down here, bent and patient to cultivate that garden for you and for me and for everyone who labors in it during their stay in your house. I wanted to help the whole church, and instead you have put me in a little, hidden place, where to love and to suffer takes up all of each day. I wanted to be filled with you instead you have given me joy and patient waiting.

You didn’t disappoint me Lord, you didn’t betray me when you made me your prisoner so as to set me free to become each day what a whole life cannot humanly become. Do not despoil me of your help, your gift of pity. Here I am a beggar of grace. I am hungry and thirsty for justice. I have fallen deeply into the abyss with the falling of days. I have flown my soul open to sunrises.

Oh my new day, my sun, my perennial day, may I see, may I shine, may I warm myself at your light, your brightness, may I live yearning toward you like the roses in the garden.

Whenever you will desire, coming near by, really you my God, I shall not dare to summon you. I shall admire in silence, made fruitful with you. I offer you Lord this moment which embraces the beginning and the end of a dream I lived during all the sleeping and awakenings of my faith.

[Other than being a part of the video, translated in English, this piece is found in a book entitled "Poverelle dal Signore vocate, Voci dal mondo delle Clarisse" published in 1992 by the Poor Clares in Cortona, Italy. I have not been able to find it anywhere else.]


Athos said...

It is pleasant to be offered the chance to see what means so much to you, Aramis. I, on the other hand, was influence so much by the Cistercians - in the monthly book studies and centering prayer at Holy Cross Abbey and by the writings of Thomas Merton et al.

It's a wondrous thing to see how in God's economy the Church becomes a place of many movements and communities, all revolving around Christ.

David Nybakke said...

Dear Athos and Porthos, as we blog through studies like the Bailie one on conversion, we might try to mix in, on a sort of disciplined and orderly way (I know this is next to impossible), specific studies, mystics, spiritual writings and retreats that we have found helpful in our "rad-trad-Catholic-Girardian-Conserberalism" journey.

Athos said...

I know full well that bowing and prostrating oneself is an appropriate and humble posture before the Lord's Real Presence. But a constant attitude like this negates the divinization process that Christ came to bestow upon humans who take upon themselves (by his grace) the full measure of substantiation and sanctification.

Meaning: I tire of seeing the Poor Clare groveling. Doesn't God want her to stand and rejoice in the resurrection too?

Porthos said...

Now, that's talking like our Little Sister Therese, Ath.

Aramis, the sum total of my spiritual achievement might perhaps dampen the bottom of a small vial, but as opportunity arises I will try to accept your gracious invitation, turn the vial upside down and tap out whatever there is for my Massketeers. Pray that I remember to take the cap off.

David Nybakke said...

My dear brothers Curly and Moe,

Check out a previous post of mine, just the other day (I guess it shows no one reads my posts) . Link on to Sister Patricia and discover a simply wonderful and joy filled poor Clare. Joy rings throughout her life, her mission, her prayers and her humility - althougth the video does not give you any sense of that!

Brothers, open yourself to the wonderful world of being Catholic - the diversity and the choice of disciplines to worship is only available within these walls. What works for your efforts to advance toward simplicity may not work for another, and so the Church provides something else. It is a great world out there, so don't box yourself in with such limited notions of an order of the Church.

Peace, my brohters. 1 4 all and all 4 1!

Athos said...

Well, "Larry", er, Aramis, I don't think I was "boxing" myself in; just commenting that I wanted to see the poor gal get off her knees and nose off the floor. Indeed, the impression I've always had of Franciscans IS one of joy and simplicity as exemplified by their founder, Francis.

And, for that matter, most of all, Jesus our Lord always wanted the least, last and lost to stand up and be healed of unforgivenness and satanic wiles.

Apologies if I left the wrong impression, brother in arms! What ho!

Porthos said...


I read everything here, guys. Just don't always have opportunity to comment, or something worth saying.

Carry on, valiant comrades.

Porthos (aka "Fifth Wheel")

David Nybakke said...

Neither of you commented on the You Tube video that I linked on the post "Great plug". Does it not work?

David Nybakke said...

Mark McIntosh, from "Christology From Within" writes:
Finally von Balthasar takes up directly the question of Jesus' knowledge. Critical of the patristic and scholastic portrayal of Jesus as omniscient, von Balthasar proposes that Jesus’ knowledge should be conceived of as strictly limited to the changing horizons of his mission. His knowledge is of a more practical, “knowing how” variety – how to love and be obedient, how to be expressive of the Father and how to be immured in human darkness. Von Balthasar proffers a highly suggestive analogy by which to understand the changing shape and extent of Jesus’ knowledge and experience of God:

“The equally great variations found in Christian mystical experience of God – ranging from moments of illumination to the constrictions of dryness and forsakenness – can give us an inkling of the possible variety of forms of knowledge experienced by the earthly Jesus.”

It is significant that unlike almost any other similarly “high” christologies, von Balthasar’s proposal makes quite as much of the intensity of night, of suffering and unknowing which Jesus experiences, as of his positive knowledge and intuition. This reflects von Balthasar’s concern to give full scope to Christ’s deep immersion in the most realistic details of alienated human existence. The self-abandon on Christ’s humanity is not just in aid of becoming transparent to the divine mission. Rather, Jesus’ commitment to his mission brings about his full actualization as a concrete human being and so his full sharing in the extremes of the human relationship with God.

McIntosh writes about how von Balthasar recognizes our capacity (in theology) to glance past our extreme alienation from God and he felt that this tendency trivializes the second person of the Trinity.

When one begins to explore the depths at which the human creature is estranged from God, due to our darkness and sinfulness, one finds themselves perpetually fallen with a nose to the floor. It really is the slight-of-hand attempts at enlightenment that find us so hurried to get everyone off the floor from their acts of obedience and worship so that all can feel I’m okay-you’re okay. (Today’s readings kind of fit right in here.) There are few, of the one body of Christ, who exemplify the love and spirit of life and living as much as the Franciscans and especially the poor Clare’s. There are few, of the one body of Christ, who realize the darkness and sinfulness of ourselves and there are few, of the one body of Christ, who prioritize their life in obedience to God for themselves and the rest of us as the one body of Christ. So I am thankful for their total commitment and love to the human creature – the one body of Christ – for their act of worship out of their love for God. Whatever gift I may have, I am very thankful for theirs.

Athos said...

It is very important to believe beyond our feelings what the Church teaches; namely, that when our hearts condemn us, God is greater than our hearts (I John 3:20 - check it out, comrades).

When we have gone to Confession - the holy Sacrament of Reconciliation - we ARE in a state of grace, at one with God through Christ in the Spirit. This is as close to heaven as POSSIBLE while still in our biological state; as close to the original state of grace of Eden as EVER will be experienced. G. K. Chesteron said he converted because of absolution. That is good enough for me...

If we deny this, we sin the sin of presumption, good sirs.

Porthos said...

I saw the You-Tube, Ar. The Oprah thing, right? Cute!

I'd rather read that book she plugs, though. But it will have to wait.

I'm with you on confession, Ath. Wish I could have it available more often, though. However, that might itself be a grace to force me to deal with certain scrupulosity issues.

Athos said...

Let me clarify: As we pray 'Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world: have mercy on us,' it is vital to have an acute awareness of the vastness of Sin In The World, our on-going culpability for and collusion with it.

But, with Brother Lawrence who, when he discovered he had sinned would look upward and say, "See what happens when You leave me on my own?" we must accept the rapidity of the Father to fly down the road to greet, embrace and shod the returning prodigal. Individually (!), uniquely (!!), even for me (!!!).

When Our Lord says, "Not a sparrow drops that is not noticed," and "even the hairs of your head are counted," we must believe and accept it as fact.

Please understand: I am not gainsaying prostration in praying for mercy. I do it enough. My initial comment was just the desire to see a joyful Franciscan, like the wonderful religious on the You Tube plug. Neat lady!

Best/blessings, A.

Porthos said...

Well, that's all well and good, but I think we should argue about it more.

David Nybakke said...

Individually (!), uniquely (!!), even for me (!!!)

The paradox - the paradox. Deeper exploration, at least where MT is taking me, leads to an outlook of all being relational and mimetic. A MT slant on our readings from Sunday, Reading II 1 Cor 12:12-30; tell us that we are a part of something much greater. And though each part is important and special, each part must consider itself connected to this great mystery of creature. A paradox if ever I have seen one.

So your salvation is wonderful, Athos, it adds to my salvation and to Porthos and to all of the creature, humanity. Your salvation paradoxically lifts us all and not just an individual. This same paradox helps us stay connected to the lost and errant (sisters and brothers) who are also parts of this great creature and mystery.

I beg and ask you Athos and Porthos, do I have this all wrong? Can we continue this dialogue?

Porthos said...

Makes sense to me, Ar.

Of course you can carry on the discourse, dear bro! Just don't ask me to hold up my end of a dialogue where you aren't in the same room and we don't have an hour or two--at least not until my life particulars are sorted out a bit.

I must confess to my bros that electronic discourse, even with my brave Massketeers, is not leading me to think that I am contributing to my or others' salvation in any notable way. I do NOT mean that as a reflection on whatever either of you are getting out of the Net, which may be quite a lot and all quite licit. In my case, though, I distinctly feel that I am being led a bit away from it, and to engage other parts of my life and spirit that need tending to.

Athos said...

Dumas' musketeers, though committed friends, were each one very different: a dishonored count, a priest wannabee, a dandy. All had foibles, weaknesses and strengths. One part foolish, one part misplaced values, one part loyal, one part a grandeur none of them could see in himself.

Perhaps our discussion isn't ostensibly contributing to one another's (or anyone else's) salvation. But I would say we are discussing great themes and great dilemmas of our day as CATHOLICS. That is, as those who have lain swords at the feet of the once and future true King whose kingdom is NOT founded on violence, cruelty, and the satanic accusatory gesture/mimetic mechanism.

If our discussion helps us steer clear of even ONE sacrificial event, where we do NOT slip into an inauthentic conversion, then I believe great things have been done by the Three Massketeers through grace.

Porthos said...

Then, it is good!

I hope what I wrote above was not a denial of any of that! I was just talking about where I am now, which is almost certainly not where anyone else is. I trust my brave Musketeers to keep the thing moving.

Now, for me, it's about giving up things. Even good things.

Athos said...

While you are divesting, Porthos, take care of the self God has given you. The second Great Commandment, after all, is "Love your neighbor as yourself."

Athos said...

Porthos? Are you about, stout fellow?