Sunday, August 25, 2013

The Cleaning Lady

The author of the Letter to the Hebrews reminds us today that “…whom the Lord loves, he disciplines; He scourges every son he receives.”  How hard it is to remember this when the Heavenly Father chastens us through the circumstances of life!  Often our first reaction to trouble and trial is to complain, to become resentful and to plot our revenge on those whom we deem to be the cause.  The Letter to the Hebrews continues:  “At the time it is administered, all discipline seems a cause for grief and not for joy, but later it brings forth the fruit of peace and justice to those who are trained in its school.”  Every trial is meant to bring us into a closer relationship with the Lord of love.  It is all worth it!  But sometimes it takes awhile for us to get there.

One Sister ponders this truth using the image of a cleaning lady struggling to accept her position of marginalization and finally coming to understand that Another sees and loves her most tenderly despite what her employers think of her.

The Cleaning Lady

Peering through the curtained western sky,
My swiftly setting sun
summons me, so I
Must run, for now I see my work is done.

Neglected, filthy rags I used to clean
The spills and messes some have left behind,
The dying sun reveals a moldy green.
Look not at me, my ladies, lest you find
What best is kept unseen.

While my work is over and my day is done,
You live in your morning just begun.
And so it is good you are unaware
That scouring despair
Is cleansing me fair
For the One who comes by night.

See how my graying clouds are blushing
In the disappearing light.
And now the hidden glory rushing
Becomes a golden orange bright.

Soon will descend the singing dark
That will veil in velvet my sighing heart
That starts or stills by love’s delight
In Him who just assured me this-
That starlight is enough for bliss.

Thus I gather my cleaning rags and me
Releasing that labor we soon forget,
Pleased that Another remembers yet.

And so with a given serenity,
Lifted up, I will smile and say:
“I pray you have a blessed day”

Sunday, August 18, 2013

The Burning One

On the contrary, the peace which Jesus gives comes with the fire he has cast on the earth.  It was kindled on Calvary and burns in the hearts of everyone who bears their own cross as Jesus bore His.  Peace arises in the midst of pain borne in loving obedience to the Father’s will.  It is awesome to see it.  We all know people who by the grace of God are unconquered by immense suffering.  They are like the bush Moses saw on Sinai that burns but is not consumed.  They challenge us to confront our own fear of suffering and lack of trust in the sovereignty of a God who orders all things to the good for those who love Him.  A Sister expresses this thought in her poetry:

The Burning One

Burning upon a Sinai height
As in the bush that Moses saw,
I, unconsuming Flame, ignite
Your animosity and awe.

Remove the sandals from your feet!
The ground you tread though hard is holy.
You are before a judgement seat.
My ruddy light reveals you wholly.

I gleam like the glowing chestnut trees
Glinting against a fall blue sky,
In the soul tormented, a man on his knees
Who strikes a spark from his flinty "Why?"

I blaze like the sun reflecting wave
Roughened by the rolling springtime wind
In the eyes of a woman abused yet brave
Whose tears outshine the heinous sin.

Deny the mystery, if you dare,
Or accept the unconsuming fire.
This flame that leaps from life's despair
Will cauterize your core desire.

Monday, August 12, 2013

St. Clare 2013

Along with being Sunday, yesterday was observed by us as the Solemnity of our Mother St. Clare. Here are the petitions that were offered at Holy Mass:

That Po
pe Francis may lead the church into the wilderness of Holy Poverty where she will be able to respond to Jesus as in the days of her youth and be again espoused to Him in right, Justice, love and mercy. (cf. Hos. 2:16ff)

That those in positions of authority may keep their eyes fixed on eternal values, and so like St. Clare, they may wield their power only for the good of those under their care.

That the afflicted and persecuted may not lose heart as they see their outward self wasting away, but may be filled with faith and hope, knowing that the life of Jesus is being manifested in them and that they are being prepared for an eternal weight of glory. (cf. 2Cor. 4:6ff)

That through the intercession of our Mother St. Clare, we along with all our friends, family, benefactors and loved ones, may live ever more deeply in the love of Christ the True Vine, so that we may be fruitful branches bearing abundant life for the Church and the whole world. (cf. Jn. 15:4-10)

Today we continue our celebration. Franciscans are experts in celebrating, so we take two days for our Foundress and then again for our Founder St. Francis on October 4 and 5.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Novena to St. Clare

We are three days into the novena of our Holy Mother St.Clare and already many petitions have been entrusted to our prayers.  This year we have been overwhelmed by news of terrible abuse and horrid injustice suffered by some of our closest and dearest friends.  We feel very much the mission St. Clare gave her daughters, to be co-workers with Christ, upholding the weak and frail members of His mystical body by our prayers and penances.  Like our Lady, we stand at the foot of the cross, unable to help in any physical way, but we are there with our love and our compassion.

Truly it is com-passion, that “suffering with” which is at the same time our glory and our willing burden. Yet sometimes, especially when the horrors we read about happening to anonymous people suddenly appear in the faces of those we recognize, our hearts come to the breaking point and even faith is stretched to its limit.  So, what does a Poor Clare do when confronted with this much grief?  She does as her Mother St. Clare did when enemy soldiers, bent on abusing her Sisters, were scaling the cloister walls:  she prostrates herself before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament and hears from Him the assurance that He “will always take care” of her.  Yet she knows this “care” does not mean immunity from suffering, but that it will never become too much because He is with her in it.  A Poor Clare also takes in hand the Holy Scriptures, particularly the Psalms, and prays the laments of David:  “How long, Oh Lord, will you forget me?  How long will you hide your face? How long must I bear grief in my heart day and night?  How long will my enemy prevail?” 

Poor Clares also take refuge in what I like to call the sanity of the mundane.  Manual labor,given by the Creator to the human race after the fall as a penance, also provides a homey sense of usefulness that can be very comforting in the midst of seemingly impossible situations.  I may not be able to cleanse the “filth” in the Church, but I can clean this bathroom; although the angels are not permitted to pull up the weeds in the world for fear of tearing up the wheat, I am able to dig out the weeds afflicting my vegetable garden.  One wonders how many problems would be solved or never even occur if more people spent more time making beauty shine and grow for their families rather than plotting and scheming for pleasure and power at the expense of the vulnerable poor. One Sister expresses her experience in the following poem:

Garden Sense

The awful abyss of absurdity
Sucks the substance of reality.
Sickened by the vertigo
I sway unstable on the heaving brink.

But I grasp the ready hoe
And deal a fatal blow
To a stubborn weed.

Straightening, I feel
The glowing vault of summer glisten me.

I drink,
Pressing the plainly real,
While the garden glimmers clean
From last night’s rain.