Dear friends of "Canticle of Chiara".....yesterday was supposedly Vocation Sunday, and as a gift to you all and also to all of my contemplative nuns around the world, I wrote this fairy tale (which is actually based off of a story that I drafted last summer) that is supposed to show the meaning of what it is to be a Bride of Christ, and more generally, what it means to give yourself entirely to Him in love. I hope that you enjoy it, and don' be afraid to give feedback!
By Chiara Offreduccio
This story is in particular dedicated to the Poor Clare Colettines of Barhamsville, VA
And also dedicated to all the contemplative nuns, the Brides-of-Christ, in the world
Once upon a time, in a kingdom not so far away, there lived a King who loved the people that he ruled very deeply. Years earlier, an evil prince had laid siege on the kingdom and threatened to kill the people of the land…..but the King could not bear to see his beloved people suffer, so he offered to be taken prisoner as a ransom for their lives. Indeed, his people were not killed, and after several years of imprisonment, the King returned to his kingdom and resumed the throne.
Years had gone by since the King had offered himself as a ransom for his own people’s lives, yet he continually showed his love for the kingdom by means of his just rule and great acts of kindness towards the people. However, many people of the kingdom forgot about these great acts of love, and seemed to forget about their King entirely. They simply went about their own affairs, claiming that their lives were far too complicated and hurried to even think about people like the King.
In a village not too far from the King’s castle, there lived a young woman who, like those many others in the kingdom, never bothered herself with thoughts about the King. She was neither rich nor poor- she lived and worked with her father, who was the village miller. This young woman wasn’t ugly or particularly beautiful. She was of average intelligence, having had a proper education, but she did not have any special talents of which to speak. Had a person been walking on the street, he or she could easily have passed by her without taking any notice of this young woman.
As she grew older, the young woman faced the prospect of marrying. Indeed, she had been infatuated with various young men, who subsequently spurned her in favor of worthier women. However, deep within her heart, the young woman had a feeling that none of these men were meant for her. She had a strange, unfounded feeling that there was a greater kind of love in store for her. Meanwhile, the young people of the village married each other and the young woman became one of the only “leaves left on the tree.” Many people wondered why marriage didn’t come her way, but the young woman bore these speculations with courage, having faith that she would truly fall in love at some point.
Eventually, the young woman did fall in love, but much to her chagrin, the person whom she loved was highly unattainable. The incident occurred on the first Sunday afternoon that the young woman sold flour and bread with her father in the market outside the King’s castle. She heard majestic trumpets begin to blow, which beckoned a fleet of riders on white horses to enter the square. At the front of the fleet rode the most glorious man that the young woman had ever seen. The very sight of the man caused the young woman to drop the bread that she was holding …..all she could do at that moment was gaze upon his glorious face.
“That’s the King,” said the young woman’s father. “Do you remember the story about how he saved us all from death years ago?”
“I vaguely remember that, Father,” said the young woman, still captivated by the presence of the King.
When she arrived back home, the young woman discovered that her father had a book that was written by the King. Desiring to learn as much as she could about the man, the young woman stayed up the entire night and read the book cover to cover. Through reading the book, the young woman learned that the King wanted his faithful subjects to follow his commandments. In telling his readers about his life, the King’s book also expressed his great love for his subjects. Indeed, the reading of the book only confirmed what the young woman had felt that afternoon- she had developed a true love for her King.
A few months later, the young woman was surprised to find a royal messenger at her door.
“The King requests your presence at His royal ball at the palace in a fortnight,” the royal messenger declared.
“Me?!” exclaimed the young woman. “Why would the King want someone as lowly as me at such a grand event?”
“My lady, you took the question right out of my mouth,” snorted the royal messenger as he galloped away.
“So the King wants me at his royal ball,” said the young woman to herself as she was sewing. “How long I have waited for the chance to finally meet him….to finally express to him how much I love him, but what do I have with which to show that love? What do I have to give? I do not have a voice with which to sing his praises, I do not have an artists’ hand with which to paint his glorious face, I do not have beauty so that I may be worthy of his glorious presence, nor wit or charm with which to keep him engaged in conversation. Perhaps I shouldn’t even go to the ball at all….what’s the use when I have nothing to give to him!”
“Excuse me,” said a voice that came from the door. The young woman dropped her sewing basket, startled. She turned around to see a beautiful lady dressed in blue at the door.
“Excuse me,” said the lady in blue, “but I couldn’t help but overhear you. Could it be that you have been invited to go to the King’s royal ball?”
“Yes, madam, I have been invited,” replied the young woman.
“Indeed, I have heard that at his balls if you want to even get the King’s attention at all, you must be extraordinarily beautiful,” said the lady in blue. “You must also be able to have something very important to give to him.”
The young woman grew even sadder by these remarks. “In that case, my lady, I ought not to go to the ball. I am not beautiful and I would have nothing to give to my beloved King. Oh how I want to let him know how much I love him!”
“You really do, don’t you?” whispered the lady in blue. “Don’t fret, my dear. I have a way of making you the most beautiful woman at the ball. But if you want to express your love for the King, you must love those whom he loves. Thus, for the next two weeks, you must perform acts of love towards everyone you encounter. For every act of love that you perform, you will find a rose in your garden. In the night of the ball, you must gather the roses and weave them into a wreath……it is then that they will be turned into rubies, and there will also be a diamond. Therein you will be the most resplendent woman in the palace.
The young woman fell to her knees and kissed the lady in blue’s hands. “Even if there was not one single ruby,” said the young woman, “I would still perform acts of love for the sake of my beloved King and his subjects.”
“My, you are tending to your garden quite well,” said the young woman’s father. “Look at all of these lovely roses!”
Indeed, the garden of roses grew quickly throughout the fortnight as the young woman performed what the lady in blue had called “acts of love.” She began to rise an hour earlier each morning so her father would not have to do as much housework, she smiled and said ‘hello’ to those who chided her on the street for being a “spinster,” she prayed for the repentance of a man in her village who was being tried for murder, and performed many other things that she didn’t even realize merited roses. None of these things came easily- the young woman was very tired in the mornings, felt like screaming at those who scorned her, and at times felt as if the man being tried for murder deserved her punishment. However, any suffering that came with doing these things she offered up as a sacrifice for the love of her King. Moreover, she realized that in helping the King’s subjects, perhaps she was indirectly showing love for the King.
After hours of sewing until her fingers turned blue, the young woman finally finished the white gown that she intended to wear to the ball. On the night of the ball, the gathered up the many beautiful roses that had been growing in her garden and wove them into a wreath for her head, with the hope that they would be magically changed into a crown of rubies with a diamond. However, after waiting for quite a while, no change took place. Not wanting to be late for the ball, and hoping that the roses would change on her way there, the young woman made her way to the palace.
When she arrived at the palace, the young woman never saw so many beautiful and talented women in her life….and she had never felt so lowly. As the King entered the room, the young woman dropped to the floor- partly because she was in awe of his splendor and partly because she was so humbled by his presence.
As the King was introduced, each lady presented their gift to him.
“I have the gift of a beautiful voice, so I present to you this song in your praise.”
“I have the gift of art, so I present to you this portrait of Your Royal Highness.”
“I have the gift of the mind, so I present to you this intellectual treatise on your works.”
“I have the gift of poetry, so I present to you this book of poems in your praise….”
….and so on and so forth.
The young woman was shaking in fright by the time the King reached her. What could she say? She decided to simply tell him the truth….
“My Lord,” she said quietly, while still looking down at the floor, “I have nothing to give….nothing to bring to you tonight except myself and my love. I have no material gifts to present to you….the only thing I must present to you is the simple fact that I love you immeasurably.”
The young woman felt a warm and gentle hand touch her chin….it was a touch like she had never felt before. The King slowly lifted her head to look at him, and he took her by the hand and lifted the young woman to her feet.
“Beloved,” he said softly. “In bringing nothing but yourself and your love, you have given me everything- because you are the only thing that I desire. Why look so forlorn because you have nothing to give? You have given me the greatest gift of all, which is the gift of loving me wholeheartedly. Do not compare yourself with these other women, whose gifts to me are pleasing to me in their own right. However, I do not plan for them what I have in store for you…”
“And what plan is that, my Lord?” asked the young woman.
“My beloved, for longer than you can remember, you have been the apple of my eye. You see, in looking for a bride, I do not need a woman who can draw or sing….but a woman who loves me with her entire being. And you, my dear, have proven that gift of love. If you accept, I wish for you to become my most cherished bride,” said the King.
“My Lord, ever since I first gazed upon you, all of my actions have been done out of love for you,” the young woman said, as she removed the wreath of roses from her head and handed it to him. “Even these roses were, in a way, grown out of love for you! With my whole heart, I shall be your bride!”
Promptly, the young woman saw a familiar face in front of her- it was the lady in blue, now dressed in a beautiful satin gown. The King introduced her to the young woman as his mother.
“I told you that you would be the most beautiful woman here,” said the King’s mother as she kissed her future daughter. She then placed a crown of shimmering rubies upon the head of the young woman.
“It was just like I said,” said the King’s mother. “I would replace the roses with rubies,” and, she said, placing her hands on the shoulders of the bride-to-be, “there would be a diamond.”