In Thanksgiving

In Thanksgiving

by Br. Micheal, ofm

Each day is a new beginning,

an opportunity for us to encounter God’s amazing and steadfast love.

Each breath we breathe,

a reminder that our God is that close to us again and again.

Each step we take,

an opportunity for us to show forth love, kindness, respect

and the common good for all humanity.

Each task or job we do,

a reminder that we have unique abilities, skills and talents to share.

Each meal we share,

a moment of thanksgiving for our daily bread and the Bread of Life.

Each night,

a moment to be aware of the fullness of life, the demands and blessings

of the journey and to offer a hymn of grateful praise.

 

With grateful hearts let us remember we are a people of hope

today, tomorrow and forever. Amen.

 

Letter to St. Francis

October 4, 2020

My Dear Brother Francis,

Here we are at the great festival marking your place in the company of saints. This day full of joy and celebration is also a day of looking inwardly mindful of your words: “I have done what is mine to do, may Christ teach you what is yours to do.” You indeed did do what was yours to do and eight centuries later we are still contemplating your actions, words and you simply being.  What you did still impacts us: the friars, the church, and people of good will the world over.

You remind me of relationship. As I ponder your life I learn again and again the importance of our relationships with each other and with creation. The idea of being sibling with one another continues to challenge me to present to the other and be a good brother. It has also challenged me to be aware of my relationship with creation and my possessions. How do I enter into a caring relationship not only with fellow humans but with creation? How do I view and use the possessions that have been entrusted to me for this journey? You remind me that all relationship is about an encounter with Christ. Christ my brother is that close and yet I seem to forget. Continue to awaken me to relationship.

You remind me of simplicity. Our world continually tries to rob me and everyone of this gift. It lures us into things, into busyness, into distractions so that we become complicated and busy. You know the power of letting it all go and encountering Christ in the stillness, peace and solitude. As I reflect on your life I am again to simplify and be present. When I do so I know I encounter Christ our brother; humble and simple. Continue to awaken me to simplicity.

You remind me of poverty. On so many levels you remind me of poverty. I must be aware of those who live in poverty and are seen as outcasts in our world again. How am I in relationship with them? How do I embrace them as sibling? As Christ? Like you did the leper. I must be aware of my poverty and how this calls me to surrender into Christ again and again. I must be aware of the poverty of Christ. In his poverty he emptied himself into the great love of God and knew great freedom. This is how you came to know your freedom again and again and I am called to do the same. Continue to awaken me to the vow poverty.

You remind me of peace and goodness. These fruits of the Spirit are gifts to fill my heart for the journey for they are not only for a few, rather they are gifts for all of each of us. Peace which can transform me and my heart. Goodness which gives me a taste of God’s abundance. Oh, how I try in complicate their message and lose them in the demands I think life is showing me. Yet I know as you do that peace and goodness which reside in my heart were made known to me and all people by Christ in the crib, the cross and gifting of the Holy Spirit. Pure gifts. Peace and goodness do dwell within, I must allow them to consume me so I can be the best brother doing what Christ calls me to do. Continue to awaken me to peace and goodness.

The other day I read that “your life was totally permeated by love; a life filled with love.” This really struck me. This truly was you. Not only your dream and desire, but your journey and way were all permeated by love. Your very life transformed was indeed permeated by love. Your life filled with love is the expression of Christ in your life, God at work in you and the Holy Spirit filling you. It is beautiful because it is depth and it is freedom. It is what attracts so many people to you still today. In truth it is what attracted me to you and this Franciscan way of life. When I began to discover the depth of you, I discovered this love also permeated my life. This love – Christ himself has been at work in me and makes me ponder and discern my living, dreams, desires and journey.

In you I have found a companion, whose ordinary life speaks to my own. Whose encounter with Christ has made me pay more attention to Christ in my life. Whose poverty has challenged me to live simply and be more aware. Whose preaching and living have caused me to consider my words and actions and if they radiate Christ. Whose life of penance has continually guided my rediscovery of reconciliation and peace which has orientated my heart to the fullness of life. The fact is dear brother that you stirred all that up in me years ago and you still do today.

If you as you laid dying and suffering could give praise to God, trust in peace, pray and be aware of the fraternal relationships (that are sometimes ragged), and see the beauty in the “siblingness” of relationship and creation, I too must fix my gaze on the heart of Christ. This love which fills my life. For through the grace and mercy of God my life is also permeated by love. I ask myself: “Am I open to receive the fullness of this gift?” Can I learn from you and surrender my all into love? I place my trust in our awesome God, as I pray:

God, you who are love, you are ever present to, for, with and in me.

            Your love permeates my life, as it did St. Francis. May I in turn radiate

this love out to the world by doing what is mine to do in the name of

Christ your son. Amen.

St. Francis – pray for me, pray for us.

Your brother,

Michael

Letter to St. Francis

October 4, 2020

My Dear Brother Francis,

Here we are at the great festival marking your place in the company of saints. This day full of joy and celebration is also a day of looking inwardly mindful of your words: “I have done what is mine to do, may Christ teach you what is yours to do.” You indeed did do what was yours to do and eight centuries later we are still contemplating your actions, words and you simply being.  What you did still impacts us: the friars, the church, and people of good will the world over.

You remind me of relationship. As I ponder your life I learn again and again the importance of our relationships with each other and with creation. The idea of being sibling with one another continues to challenge me to present to the other and be a good brother. It has also challenged me to be aware of my relationship with creation and my possessions. How do I enter into a caring relationship not only with fellow humans but with creation? How do I view and use the possessions that have been entrusted to me for this journey? You remind me that all relationship is about an encounter with Christ. Christ my brother is that close and yet I seem to forget. Continue to awaken me to relationship.

You remind me of simplicity. Our world continually tries to rob me and everyone of this gift. It lures us into things, into busyness, into distractions so that we become complicated and busy. You know the power of letting it all go and encountering Christ in the stillness, peace and solitude. As I reflect on your life I am again to simplify and be present. When I do so I know I encounter Christ our brother; humble and simple. Continue to awaken me to simplicity.

You remind me of poverty. On so many levels you remind me of poverty. I must be aware of those who live in poverty and are seen as outcasts in our world again. How am I in relationship with them? How do I embrace them as sibling? As Christ? Like you did the leper. I must be aware of my poverty and how this calls me to surrender into Christ again and again. I must be aware of the poverty of Christ. In his poverty he emptied himself into the great love of God and knew great freedom. This is how you came to know your freedom again and again and I am called to do the same. Continue to awaken me to the vow poverty.

You remind me of peace and goodness. These fruits of the Spirit are gifts to fill my heart for the journey for they are not only for a few, rather they are gifts for all of each of us. Peace which can transform me and my heart. Goodness which gives me a taste of God’s abundance. Oh, how I try in complicate their message and lose them in the demands I think life is showing me. Yet I know as you do that peace and goodness which reside in my heart were made known to me and all people by Christ in the crib, the cross and gifting of the Holy Spirit. Pure gifts. Peace and goodness do dwell within, I must allow them to consume me so I can be the best brother doing what Christ calls me to do. Continue to awaken me to peace and goodness.

The other day I read that “your life was totally permeated by love; a life filled with love.” This really struck me. This truly was you. Not only your dream and desire, but your journey and way were all permeated by love. Your very life transformed was indeed permeated by love. Your life filled with love is the expression of Christ in your life, God at work in you and the Holy Spirit filling you. It is beautiful because it is depth and it is freedom. It is what attracts so many people to you still today. In truth it is what attracted me to you and this Franciscan way of life. When I began to discover the depth of you, I discovered this love also permeated my life. This love – Christ himself has been at work in me and makes me ponder and discern my living, dreams, desires and journey.

In you I have found a companion, whose ordinary life speaks to my own. Whose encounter with Christ has made me pay more attention to Christ in my life. Whose poverty has challenged me to live simply and be more aware. Whose preaching and living have caused me to consider my words and actions and if they radiate Christ. Whose life of penance has continually guided my rediscovery of reconciliation and peace which has orientated my heart to the fullness of life. The fact is dear brother that you stirred all that up in me years ago and you still do today.

If you as you laid dying and suffering could give praise to God, trust in peace, pray and be aware of the fraternal relationships (that are sometimes ragged), and see the beauty in the “siblingness” of relationship and creation, I too must fix my gaze on the heart of Christ. This love which fills my life. For through the grace and mercy of God my life is also permeated by love. I ask myself: “Am I open to receive the fullness of this gift?” Can I learn from you and surrender my all into love? I place my trust in our awesome God, as I pray:

God, you who are love, you are ever present to, for, with and in me.

            Your love permeates my life, as it did St. Francis. May I in turn radiate

this love out to the world by doing what is mine to do in the name of

Christ your son. Amen.

St. Francis – pray for me, pray for us.

Your brother,

Michael

Psalm 145: The Abounding Greatness of God’s Love

Psalm 145: The Abounding Greatness of God’s Love                      

– Br. Michael, ofm

As the season of autumn was welcomed this week, I have been in awe of the splendour of the transition this year. I always appreciate the changing of the seasons but this year I seem to be seeing with new eyes. Maybe I am learning to appreciate the pausing more, or maybe it comes with age, regardless it has been a needed gift. I find autumn is a magnificent time to ponder and appreciate God’s creation and how close to us is our God.

This past week a dear friend of mine led a prayer reflecting on Psalm 145. I was taken by the word abounding in the psalm and in his reflection. The idea of abounding being plentiful, many and multifarious not only speaks to the changing of the seasons but to the depth of God’s great love. It is also a reminder of how we are called to care for our sister Mother Earth and for our brothers and sisters. Abounding has captured my attention in new ways as I hear it proclaimed and see it on display in creation. I have tried to capture the brilliance of both this psalm and the autumn transition in the words that are filling my heart and through photos of the autumn beauty which surrounds me. I offer this as a reflection as we enter more deeply into this autumn season.

May your autumn be filled with deepening peace, restoring comfort and renewing strength.

I will extol you, my God and King,
and bless your name for ever and ever.

In the changing of the seasons, in the seasons of my life,

God, you are ever with me.

Every day I will bless you,
and praise your name for ever and ever.

On the days that are straight paths,

on the days that have more twists and turns.

Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised;
God’s greatness is unsearchable.

 

From the simplest detail in creation,

to the grand majesty which is on display.

One generation shall laud your works to another,
and shall declare your mighty acts.

 

Those who have walked this share of the sacred earth before me,

those who will walk this way after me will indeed declare your goodness.

On the glorious splendour of your majesty,
and on your wondrous works, I will meditate.

 

In the quiet with the morning star, or walking a tree covered path,

sitting by the gushing water, or gazing at the magnificent mountains.

The might of your awesome deeds shall be proclaimed,
and I will declare your greatness.

 

Your love consumes me, your gentleness caresses me,

your truth liberates me, your peace fills me, your greatness is present.

They shall celebrate the fame of your abundant goodness,
and shall sing aloud of your righteousness.

 

In the golden leaf, in scripture proclaimed,

in the melody of a song, in the prayers lifted up, your goodness is here.

 

The Lord is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.

 

As I walk this autumn path,

your mercy, endless love and graces are made known to me.

The Lord is good to all,
and his compassion is over all that he has made.

 

This autumn time awakens me again to how close you are,

and that your love is infused in creation and humanity (even when we miss it).

All your works shall give thanks to you, O Lord,

and all your faithful shall bless you.

 

With joy in my heart, gratitude on my lips and peace in my soul

I raise up my praise to you, O God, for your good and great abounding love.

 

Annual Blessing of Pets

October 4 is the Feast of Saint Francis of Assisi,

the Patron Saint of Animals and Ecology

 

All trails lead to Mount Saint Francis

for pets of all religious backgrounds and their owners

for the Annual Blessing of Pets

by the Franciscan Friars

Sunday, October 4

3:30 p.m.

 

Come and visit the grounds beginning at 3:00 p.m.

Pets must be leashed or in a crate.

The blessing will take place on West side of Retreat Centre near the Statue of Saint Francis.

 

More details: 403-932-2012 or mtfrancis@shaw.ca

41160 Retreat Road, Cochrane, AB

Actions of Solidarity: Ideal Generosity

Actions of Solidarity: Ideal Generosity                   – Br. Michael, OFM

“Morning!” I called out as jogged past the man walking his dog in the dawn moments of the day. “Morning.” came the deep reply as his dog followed my every move. Several strides later a city worker emerged from his truck near my path and shouted, “Morning!” I replied the same. I continued my jog back to the Friary as the day began to unfold under new light.

Later in the morning an employee helped me with a small project and another generously helped me with task. Shorty after lunch a friend kindly gifted me with a food item I was struggling to find and I returned his gesture with some tea I was hoping for him to try. Simple actions and words that made me think “oh, this is how the world should be!” It also made me think of the line, “Are you envious because I am generous?” from the parable about the landowner in Matthew 20.

Life is full of generous moments. Even something as simple as a greeting can be a gesture of generosity and kindness. There are moments of generosity that we never notice and others that happen to help us simply function. Generosity is often linked to deeds and actions, an outward sign of the position of our heart. If our heart was envious it would not be in a position to be generous, for the giving would come across as stifled or fraudulent. It would echo the labourers from the parable in Matthew 20 who grumbled about the generosity of the landowner.

Our God is indeed a generous God. God endlessly shares an abundance of freedoms, opportunities, and moments to encounter the splendour of creation and the depth of relationship not only with God but with each other. Our God never lacks in generosity even if we think otherwise or misconstrue God’s ways with our limited ways and understanding.

The generosity of God and our life has me thinking about a post I wrote in early June as protests continued across North America and around the world, heightening our awareness of Black Lives Matter. In that post I committed to learn more about racism and about poverty. I also made a solidarity statement of listening and allyship. Over the weeks that have passed I have been paying attention to my actions, my lack of action, what I am hearing and what society and I choose to let fall on deaf ears.

Generosity is not a race issue. Generosity whether given or received, whether divine or human is for all people. How we are a human race together speaks of generosity. How we support each other or not speaks about generosity. How we rise up to the occasion to break down the barriers we use as safety nets speaks about generosity. If it does not it leaves us with the envious labourers from the parable.

Over the past several weeks I have been trying to read and listen to people’s stories. Stories I have read, interviews I have heard that speak of the brokenness that Black Lives Matters and the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls movements are calling to our attention. Where are our generous hearts? Are they stuck in comfortable ways and easy donations? Are they willing to move beyond this and truly be generous, to be the generous that our God continually shows us as the true way?

“God became flesh not because the world is full of sin but in order to transform the world into a communion of love centered in Christ. But as Albert Einstein warned, “The world will not be destroyed by those who do evil, but by those who watch them without doing anything”” (Patrick Carolan, St. Anthony Messenger, August 2020). It is up to us to continue to delight in God’s generosity, to be caught up in this communion of love. This is the depth of relationship and the beauty of the simple ideal world I encountered earlier in the day. How can we simply stand by and watch and not do anything? This does not speak of generosity. Rather it speaks to a closed heart unwilling to let the movement of the Spirit transform us.

Adele Halliday, a black Canadian in her perspective piece in September’s Broadview magazine says, “Undoing the legacy of racism is long-term work; please persevere long after this particular display of anti-Black racism fades from the news cycle. I need you to partner with God in actively doing this work… I believe God’s Spirit is also moving among the privileged and is disrupting, prodding and urging. God’s Spirit is also moving among the wounded and is soothing, comforting and encouraging. The work of racial justice is ours to do with God.” Ms. Halliday points to the generosity of our God and forces us to look at how this generosity is awakening us (or should be) to the work of the Spirit. God’s Spirit of love which is infused in us, which we are reminded of in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, “is not envious, boastful or jealous” (12.31-13.8). It does not allow us to watch “without doing anything.”

I know I have a longways to go on this journey of being anti-racist. I am however grateful for the gifts of generosity in my day that have once again reminded me that the God’s Spirit is indeed inviting me to partner with God to do my part in rebuilding the world as it should be. How about you? What is generosity and God’s Spirit stirring up in you as we try to heal our hurting human family? What can we do, so that it is not said of us, they watched and did nothing?

My Heart Is Ready – A Reflection on Year One by Br. Michael, ofm

My Heart Is Ready – A Reflection on Year One

I have had profiles written on me, interviews done and photo shoots. I began a new ministry, extended my ministry and had to put a lot of my ministry on hold due to a pandemic. I have completed a program, been on line more than I can keep track and have begun a new adventure in the spiritual journey. Yet to truly know what year one has looked like for me, you must look into my heart. I’ll try to give you a glimpse.

Last year on August 23 gathered with Friars, family and friends I made my Solemn Vows as a Franciscan Friar. To say the day was amazing and a gift is an understatement. It was beautiful on so many levels and truly was a launching into the fullness of religious life. It is as I reflect back on that day and the year which has unfolded that I realize that my heart has been caught up in a continual surrendering and transformation.

In a poem I wrote while on pilgrimage before my vows I penned these words:

My heart is ready, O God

to be awakened to your ways

to be stirred to life

to be raised up in truth.

These words seem to capture the surrendering and transformation which this past year has been. To let go of ego and let true self arise, to let go of plans so as to be ready for God’s plans, to let go of false expectations and a constant society driven need for achievement has indeed awakened, stirred and raised up my heart. Trying to find words to describe insights gained from sitting in the stillness or soul-stirring conversations or patterns of service is difficult to do. What I can say is that when surrender becomes part of a positive vocabulary, one’s heart is now in the posture of being ready. I would like to think I knew this when I made my first vows five years ago and my Solemn Vows last August. I do believe that I am understanding this better a year later and look forward to how it will unfold in my life as a religious brother. This is the beautiful part of a ready heart, maybe a bit terrifying too, but more beautiful.

In the moments of preparation for my Solemn Vows, in the prostrating before the altar, in the placing of my hands into the hands of the Provincial Minister and professing my life to the Franciscan way of life there was a deep calm and a true peace. This calm and this peace have sustained me this past year in dealing with changes, in moments of frustration, in heartache and hurt but also in the moments of great joy, of celebrating with others and in moments of prayer which led me into service. As I reflect back on the year and even as I look ahead, these gifts are invaluable for my ready heart as I continue to live out my vocation as a Franciscan Brother.

The poem continues:

My heart is ready, O God

called to be a vessel of your love

called to be a living and holy tabernacle and icon

called to be a brother for the world.

If you were to see my heart, you would see that there is always a flame flickering at the center of it. This flame has always been and has been fanned at times and at other times has been purifying. My ready heart desires nothing more than to be a vessel for this flame, so that my heart may continually be transformed so as to be a living witness to Christ. St. Francis of Assisi desired nothing more than to be conformed to Christ. As someone who professes to follow the way of St. Francis, I too desire nothing more than to be conformed to Christ. This is how I try to be a living and holy tabernacle and icon by being able to preach the gospel in word and deed, to be present for others, to encounter the Triune God in all of creation and in all people and to be a vessel of love. This is the challenge I took up with my vows which continues to fan the flame in my heart.

Being a brother is wrapped up in the flame that keeps burning and it has challenged me to see surrender in the positive sense. Being a brother often means being attentive and listening deeply; my heart has learned these qualities in new ways. Being a brother has meant finding a balance between self and other, between doing and being; my heart has wrestled with these characteristics. Being a brother is about relationship whether that is blood, fraternal or friendship; my heart has learned tenderness through this reality. Being a brother (something I have written on in previous posts) has been a gift for my life so far and I know it will continue to transform my heart and make it ready for what is next.

As I reflect back on the year since my Solemn Vows I am in awe. I am in awe of how much my heart has grown. I am in awe of what breaks my heart, what inspires my heart and who knows my heart. I am in awe of how the gift of calm and peace which filled my heart as I professed my life continues to be present in the living of life.

My heart is ready O God, my heart is ready for I know you are ever present, guiding me in the ways of surrendering to everlasting life and goodness. You are transforming me and my heart to embrace the fullness of being conformed to your beloved Son.

St. Francis, my dear brother… you captured my heart oh so many years ago (I found more proof of this summer as I was purging some childhood notes) and you continue to capture my heart. I believe you captured it because you point to Christ and even in your weaknesses your heart was ready. Your heart was ready for the adventure to which the Spirit was stirring in you and how God’s love was being made known in you through your transformed relationship with Christ. My ready and captured heart, professed in the way of life you shaped, is ready for the continual surrendering and transformation which God will guide through year two of my Solemn Vows.

St. Francis, my brother… pray for me.

To all who read this post, thank you for your continued support, encouragement and prayers – I am grateful. God’s richest blessings to continually fill your heart – no matter how ready it may seem.

St. Francis, our brother… pray for us.

Open Heart and Soul: Reflections on the Depth of Vocation by Br. Michael, ofm

Open Heart and Soul

I open my heart

to love

to holiness

to life

these trinitarian gifts entwine

through my heart and soul…

beat – beat

heartbeat

each beat.

I open my heart

to the oxygen of love

to the oxygen of holiness

to the oxygen of life

giving breath to the very core of my heart,

to the very depth of my soul…

beat – beat

heartbeat

each beat.

I open my heart

to the sacredness of love

to the discovery of holiness

to the awareness of life

these nutrients strengthen my heart

for daily living and for the work of my soul…

beat – beat

heartbeat

each beat.

I open my heart

to God’s love

to Christ’s holiness

to the Spirit’s life

with each beat Trinitarian goodness and hope

engulfs me, filling my heart and soul…

beat – beat

heartbeat

each beat.

I open my heart,

I open my soul,

I open my all

to and for you my God.

I am open.

 

August 2020

The past couple of weeks have been full. Full not in the usual sense of how we use that word – as in there is way too much on the plate. Our lives will always be that type of full and yes, my days past have indeed been full in that sense, however I speaking of the fullness which moves beyond the surface to our very core. The depth of our heart and soul requires a different fullness, rather they move us to a different fullness. This is the fullness that has filled my last weeks.

It has been in lingering conversations, in quiet moments in the garden, in periods of prayerful stillness, in reading and in creating that this fullness has surfaced. This fullness which is speaking to me and my vocation. The vocation that we each live out is about fullness. This fullness is that which our God desires to lavish us with and the fullness which is part of our inherent goodness. We are given a glimpse of this fullness and the beautiful effects through the gift of the sacraments. How we are claimed as beloved in baptism is just the beginning of the richness of these gifts.

The gift of my baptism is never far removed from my vocation as a Religious Brother. It was in my baptism and confirmation that my heart and soul was open to be a vessel for the indwelling of God and divine love. My baptism is probably one of the greatest gifts I ever received, anointed as child of God my heart and soul have continually been opened since that day. It is in the Ephphetha (Aramaic: be open) blessing where the priest touches the ears and the mouth of the child that this opening is made evident. The blessing prays: The Lord Jesus made the deaf hear and the dumb speak. May he soon touch your ears to receive his word and your mouth to proclaim his faith, to the praise and glory of God the Father.  Yes! How beautiful is that? What a beautiful gift to be anointed to have an open heart and soul because of an opened ears and mouth. With an open heart and soul, I have been able to declare my faith and give glory to God. When I have doubted or stumbled along, I just have to come back to this blessing to be reminded that the lasting effects of my baptism infuse my life over and over again.

It is here that I turn to my life as a Religious Brother and my vows. My vows are an extension of my baptism and are how I am still receptive to the Ephphetha blessing. As my opening poem reflects, I open my heart time and again for God to work not only in my heart but through my heart. To be an open vessel for God to dwell. My vows of nothing of my own (poverty), chastity and obedience speak to the receptivity I must have to live my vows well. My vows are indeed about openness and if I live into them well the fullness I experience is not only full but also life-changing. Each day I must listen for the voice of Christ Jesus for often my ears are deaf and my mouth is trapped. Each day Christ Jesus touches my ears and my mouth so my words and actions, my heart and soul are filled with praise and in turn fullness; true fullness. This is the depth of my vocation as a Religious Brother and speaks to its fullness and beauty. I hope that no matter what your vocation, you too may see the true fullness of your life and continue to open your heart and soul.

May the summer week ahead offer you space to be in the fullness of God’s love and for your ears, eyes, mouth and heart to be opened.

Abiding in Christ: Feast Day of St. Clare 2020, August 11 by Br. Michael, ofm

 

“Abide in me as I abide in you.” “Abide in my love” (John 15.4-10)

What does it mean to abide?

The dictionary definition is to “accept or act in accordance with…” In other words: to observe, to follow, to uphold, to heed.

It is being caught up in, wrapped up, knowing the closeness of another, the intimacy that comes with being that close to someone. When Jesus gives to his disciples this message of abiding in him and being connected to the true vine, he is inviting them into the depths of his relationship with God. He is encouraging them to stay connected and focused on him and his message. In other words, to follow him into the passion and through to the resurrection. While they stumble along with their focus and determination in this charge, they do abide with him. Even when they deny, doubt or despair still they abide. They are drawn back time and again to remain connected to the true vine. It is the depth of the love of Christ in which they abide and which in turn they carry with them. The same is true for us.

The same can indeed be said of St. Francis and St. Clare. St. Francis so caught up in abiding in Christ that it was contagious and soon his followers were caught up in this abiding love. His abiding in Christ fuelled Clare’s desire to leave her comfortable life and abide in the depth of this love and let it shape her way of life. St. Clare’s desire to abide in Christ and in his love peppered her correspondence. In a letter to Agnes of Prague, she wrote: “What a great and praiseworthy exchange: to leave the things of time for those of eternity, to choose the things of heaven for the goods of the earth, to receive the hundred-fold in place of one, and to possess a blessed eternal life.” Clare’s vision, her gaze on Christ was beyond the surface and time constraints in which she lived. They were the depth of her heart, they guided her actions and strengthened her resolve to abide in Christ, her groom, no matter what.

In Hosea (2.16,17, 21-22) we read: “I will espouse you in love, mercy and fidelity, and you shall know the Lord.” This is how St. Clare abided in Christ. She trusted in his love, mercy and fidelity to her. When she felt she was being denied the dignity that was hers she turned to her Beloved who was also denied the dignity which was his. When she doubted, she returned to her Beloved’s gaze once again. When she was filled with despair she went within to the place of true light and her Beloved’s fidelity once again strengthened her branch on the true vine.

Last year when I was in Assisi, I was taken by a few places and thanks to inquiries was able to narrow it down to a top five. Two of those top five were San Damiano where St. Clare lived and the Basilica of St. Clare built in her honor.

The Basilica houses the original San Damiano Cross and the remains of St. Clare. Being in this space gave me a true sense of abiding. To gaze, contemplate and consider that cross the same way that Clare and Francis did is indeed an accepting or acting in accordance with the life of our Savior. I was in awe of how captivated this image held me, a sense of being connected to the true branch.

San Damiano, when you can visit without a lot of tourists, allows for deep peace to consume you. To simply be instead of seek, to simply be instead of perform, to simply be instead of defend. As you make your way up the stairs of the cloister and come to the sleeping quarters, one’s breath is taken away as you touch the floor upon which our holy Sister Clare slept and breathed her last breath. This truly is abiding, to give one’s all, one’s whole life to abide in the love of Divine Love.

 

Dear Sister Clare,

your spirit has been

stirring among us,

touching our hearts,

reminding us to go deeper,

to not get stuck

focusing on the object

rather to focus on Christ

seeing him present

in the places,

the time,

the moments,

the vistas,

the stones,

the relics

to see beyond the man made-ness

and see that all speaks of

Christ calling us to life.

 

Sister Clare,

you who trusted,

who persevered,

who had vision,

who knew depth of heart,

awaken in us these gifts

so that with you

we may be caught up

in the heart of Christ,

our brother and savior.

Amen.                                    

 

Sister Clare, pray for us.

Summer Prayer by Br. Michael, ofm

Summer Prayer by Br. Michael, ofm’

God of the Summer,
of sunshine and bright skies,
of warm breezes and cool refreshing night air,
of gardens blooming and flowers delighting,
of slow days and holidays,
of birds chirping and cats sun bathing,
You are here,
You are present.

In words spoken and words heard,
in whispers in the wind,
in silence while sipping a cool drink,
in laughter at barbeques,
in stories told at bonfires,
in snuggles in the tent,
You are here,
You are present.

For those who need rest,
for those who work more this season,
for those who travel,
for those who remain at home,
for those who seek renewal,
for those who appreciate creation,
You are here,
You are present.

God of the Summer,
bless us this season,
awaken us this season,
revive us this season,
for the good of all
and the good of our souls,
You are here,
You are present.

Amen.