Saturday, November 10, 2007

Clare considers her future

He is just a young man from the other side of Assisi, a failed soldier, a youth who has helped to build the defensive walls around the city in order to protect us from the attacks of the Perugians. We have never even spoken to each other. We are of a different class altogether: he, the son of a merchant and I, the daughter of an ancient noble family. Yet why do I feel so drawn to all that he says and does? Why do I find myself listening to the gossip of the servants and of the visitors who pass by our house? Why do I find myself hoping to catch a glimpse of him as he walks through the town, dressed as a beggar and asking for stones to rebuild the ruined church of San Damiano, some distance down the hillside? Why do I find myself walking in that direction, often without planning to do so, but my feet seeming to have a will of their own?

The tapestry needle has fallen still in my hands, which are also now motionless on my lap. My thoughts are far from the design that I have been creating for so long.

It is strange. Even a young girl such as I, hidden within the care of my family, could not but hear of the young man, Francesco Bernadone. I heard the story of how he went out to fight a battle, dressed in costly armour, and then returned without even drawing his sword to fight. There were so many critics who called him a coward and bade him to put his money where his mouth was, for before he set off, he had long been boasting of his aim to become a famous knight.

Yet he did put his money exactly where his mouth was: he stripped himself naked in the Square and returned his fine clothes to his father. “Hitherto I have called Pietro Bernadone ‘father’. From henceforth I have only one Father: God”. I heard of how the bishop covered Francesco with his own cloak.

The townsfolk were scandalised. Even Bernadone’s enemies felt pity for him when they saw the anguish in his face. As for the Lady Pica, there was not a woman in Assisi who did not want to embrace her to soothe her heartbroken sobbing.

Yet, although I also felt the agony of the parents, there was something about Francesco’s gesture that made me long to follow him and do the same. Not, of course, to stand in the Square in my nakedness, but, yes, for my heart and soul to be naked, open before the Lord who also seems to be calling me to something I cannot yet define. There is something about the actions of Francesco that fan to a burning brightness the little ember that has been burning inside my own heart.

What should I do? I cannot follow Francesco into the woods. What would people say? Yet, at the same time, when he speaks of having fallen in love with Lady Poverty, he makes me think of my Lord, who was truly poor and who was so tender and caring to all those who were suffering.

I have tried to do all those things that I feel my Lord would be asking of me. I take food from the kitchens in order to feed the lepers. I send food down to Francesco and his companions as they work at San Damiano. I try to be kind and charitable to all. I spend long hours in prayer and yet I still feel as though I have done absolutely nothing with my life. Somehow it is as if God is not satisfied with my efforts. It is as if, until now, I have only given him a part of myself whereas he wants my whole heart and my whole soul.

What should I do? Would it help if I were to speak with Francesco? Would he accept me as a follower as he travels towards the Lord? How would he advise me? He has fallen in love with his Lady Poverty and has divested himself of everything except his desire for total unity with her. Francesco would understand. My heart belongs to God. I want my body and soul to also belong totally within the loving embrace of my Lord.

Will Jesus speak to me through the words of Francesco?

God bless,
Sr. Janet