Sunday, November 11, 2007

Francis reflects on the Lady Clare

Her hair lies in my hand. It is beautiful: long, blonde and gently curling. It was both a joy and a pain to cut it. Yet now, her hair is in my hand and her shorn head covered with a veil. It is a sign to all the world that the Lady Clare has chosen to dedicate her life to God, that she has rejected the wealth and the nobility that were hers until a few minutes ago, and still could be should she regret the step that she has taken.

Yet I believe that something very rare and beautiful has happened, something that I find hard to put into words. I truly believe that God has touched her heart and has called her to himself. I truly believe that God has asked her to count everything as loss compared to the true riches of knowing and loving him.

Clare’s heart is like a garden filled almost to bursting with beautiful flowers. I can think of no better description, for what is more lovely than a flower…or birdsong…or the sun…or the moon…? It is difficult to draw an exact comparison because if I reflect on one aspect of Creation that speaks to me of my Lord, I think of another which is just as beautiful in its own way. Is it not amazing the way in which the whole of the Universe is merely a reflection, and a poor one at that, of the Father who made them?

I confess to feeling somewhat confused. How could I have dreamed that in my own following of the Crucified and in falling in love with my dearest Lady Poverty, that others would be drawn to a similar path? I had never planned to attract followers, especially not someone like the Lady Clare, and yet, if I think of the magnetic wonder of the words of my Lord, how could others not feel drawn to him? If the Lord is choosing me as an instrument, then so be it, but he has certainly chosen the weakest, humblest, smallest and most unworthy tool in his entire collection.

Lady Clare. If I think of her, I also think of my beloved Lady Poverty. Are the two one and the same? No, for Lady Poverty was with Jesus even on the Cross. When he was fastened there, so was she. If anybody was truly Lady Poverty, then who could match his mother? Yet Lady Poverty was even more than she, much as she was uniquely blessed. Whereas Mary’s heart was with Jesus on the Cross, Lady Poverty was holding her in her embrace and, at the same time, was entirely nailed to the Cross with her Lord, pierced by the same nails, experiencing the same sense of destitution and rejection by the very ones whom he had loved so dearly.

Yet Clare also has a feeling for Poverty. If she did not, then how else could she have left her family and all the comforts of her station?

Now, as I kneel before the Crucified here, in the little church of San Damiano, I remember the moment when he spoke to me and told me to rebuild his Church, which, as I could see, was falling into disrepair. At the time, I thought he meant only to find stones to replace those that had fallen to the ground or had been carted off for other purposes.

If the Lord is sending me followers whom I have not sought, is he perhaps asking for something different? If he is calling others to search for him in the company of Lady Poverty and has even called the Lady Clare, what is he saying? Is he inviting us to something beyond a physical building? Is he calling us to a deeper union with him through the Gospel? How do we find out what he is saying? How do we follow him on a path that is untrodden but on which he has also blazed the trail?

Lord, teach me what I should do. Teach us to be open to all that you are telling us in our hearts.

God bless,
Sr. Janet