Saturday, October 4, 2014
St. Francis Day
This past week at a special Chapter meeting, the brothers decided to sell Little Portion Friary on Long Island, NY. It was a hard decision, one it has taken years to embrace. Still, it is painful for us and for many others affected by this decision
A friend wrote today in response to our decision:
‘I was reading a bit on Navajo spirituality and came across this bit: "recognizing that life's tests pushed them to the depths of their greatest suffering, they also discovered that the same tests revealed their greatest strengths. The key to their survival was to immerse themselves in life's challenges without become lost in the experience. They had to find an "anchor" within themselves--a belief that gave them the inner strength to endure their tests--and the knowledge that a better day would follow. From this place of power they had the confidence to take risks, change their lives, and make sense of their world."
I wrote back: “thanks for this bit of Navajo wisdom. When I put our struggles up against the threats to Navajo culture in the 19th Century (and maybe even today), our troubles seem to deflate a bit...But we are definitely at a crossroads and we need to find that inner spiritual anchor. It seems fortuitous, or actually just grace-full, that today is the Feast of St.
Francis and we read about him, think about his life and struggles, and remember his spiritual anchor was radical poverty/letting go, and a desire always to follow the Spirit's lead, wherever it would take him. I had a dream last night I was being carved up alive by a sushi chef and served to a crowd of folks. I definitely have some work to do!
I think my spiritual anchor is the Franciscan ideal along with a feeling that my vows are for "better or worse." In AA they say God hasn't brought me this far just to drop me on my ass. But I definitely feel winded. I went running today and could hardly do it: it turned into walk/run, walk/run, bend over pant, pant, pant. Repeat. But I take encouragement from the fact I didn't give up and call a cab. I know my mental state affects my physical one, and also, objectively, the lack of exercise this past week is part of the reason for today's struggle. But what I see about myself in this experience is that I don't give up, and I can find lots of beautiful things to look at and think about. Also a memory from my novitiate: I want to grow into one of those old oaks that are all gnarled and seared yet have wide spreading branches--what we all think of as beautiful old oaks...
Nothing makes the Bible seem more topical and on target than real life set-backs! For St. Francis Day, the Morning Prayer Gospel reading was from Matthew: don't be anxious about earthly things...consider the lilies of the field etc. Wow! One way or another we will right ourselves and the wind will fill the sails. Whatever decisions we make no matter if they are "right" or "wrong" I pray God will use them to make it possible for us to live our vocations with joy and gratitude. The fact that the future seems very opaque is okay. I've been here before--I am a recovering alcoholic, for heaven's sake! The worst thing ever has become one of the greatest blessings of my life. I can't pin it down to any one moment when I began to feel that way, except I gradually realized God was in fact doing for me what I could not do for myself. I believe that God will do for us...”
Perhaps our greatest strengths are being revealed. Certainly there is no question in my mind Who the anchor is. As we say every morning: “We adore you O Christ, and we bless you, because by your holy Cross you have redeemed the world.”
Happy St. Francis Day to us all!