A joyfully Franciscan view of Catholic life, inspired by St. Clare (Santa Chiara) of Assisi!

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Chiara Offreduccio (St. Clare) was born in 1194. It is said that when her mother had Chiara in her womb, an angel appeared to her and said, "your child will be a light that will illuminate the world!" Hence, her mother named the child Chiara, which means "light. As G.K. Chesterton put it, St. Clare was a romantic figure just like Juliet was. However, instead of running away from her family in order to be with an earthly man, Clare gave up everything and ran away from her family for the love of her Savior!

Saturday, September 30, 2006

St. Francis Countdown: Bonaventure on St. Francis

When he was about four years old, St. Bonaventure became so dangerously ill that the doctors thought he might die. His mother brought him to St. Francis and begged the Saint to restore her child's health. Because the boy was cured, St. Francis exclaimed,"O Bona Venturo"(O,good fortune) and he was thereafter known by that name. Below is an excerpt from St. Bonaventure's Life of St. Francis.

"The grace of God our Saviour hath appeared in these our latter days in His faithful and devout servant Francis, and hath been manifested through him to all those who are truly humble and lovers of holy poverty; who honouring and devoutly adoring the superabundance of the divine mercy, which was so bountifully poured froth upon him, have been taught by his example to forsake all impiety and worldly desires, to conform their lives to the life of Christ, and with intense and burning desire to thirst after the hope of heavenly beatitude. For so graciously did God look upon this truly poor and contrite man, that He not only raised the poor and needy from the vile dust of worldly conversation, but also set him to be a light to the faithful, making him to become a true professor, leader, and herald of evangelical perfection, that, bearing witness to the light, he might prepare before the Lord a way of light and peace in the hearts of the faithful. For, shining like a morning star in the midst of a dark cloud, he enlightened by the bright rays of his pure doctrine and holy life those who lay in darkness and in the shadow of death, and thus guided them onwards by his bright shining to the perfect day. And like the glorious rainbow set in the darkness of the clouds, he came forth as the angel of true peace and the sign of the covenant between God and man, bringing glad tidings of peace and salvation: being sent by God, like the Precursor of Christ, to prepare in the desert of this world the highway of holy poverty, and by word and example to preach penance to men. Thus prevented by the gifts of heavenly grace, enriched with the merits of invincible virtue, filled with the spirit of prophecy, and ordained to the angelic office of declaring good tidings, burning with seraphic fire, and raised above all human things in the fiery chariot of divine love, it may be reasonably affirmed from the clear testimony of His whole life that he came in the spirit and powers of Elias.
We may also say that he was truly shadowed forth by that other friend of Christ, the Apostle and Evangelist St. John, under the similitude of the angel whom he saw ascending from the east with the sign of the living God. Under this figure we may assuredly discern Francis, the servant, herald, and messenger of God, the beloved of Christ, the pattern for our imitation, the wonder of the world, if we carefully observe and mark the excellency of his marvellous sanctity, by which, during his life, he imitated the purity of the Angels, so that he may be set forth as an example to all the perfect followers of Christ."

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

St. Francis Countdown: Dante's Song of St. Francis

In preparation for the Feast of Holy Father Francis next week, I'm going to make posts primarily about him.

The following is an excerpt from Canto XI of Dante's Paradiso. When Dante arrives in Heaven, he encounters both St. Bonaventure and St. Thomas Aquinas. The most beautiful part about this encounter is that Thomas Aquinas (a Dominican) sings the praises of St. Francis, whereas Bonaventure (a Franciscan) extols St. Dominic, the founder of the Dominicans- it illustrates the special bond that exists between the Dominican Order and the Franciscan Order. The featured picture was drawn by my friend Matt....he gave a copy of Chesterton's Saint Francis of Assisi to me for Christmas 2002 and drew the picture on the inside cover of the book.

Below is the excerpt from Dante's Paradiso. This particular excerpt about St. Francis is told by St. Thomas Aquinas:

Between Tupino and the stream that falls Down from the hill elect of blessed Ubald, A fertile slope of lofty mountain hangs,

From which Perugia feels the cold and heat Through Porta Sole, and behind it weep Gualdo and Nocera their grievous yoke.

From out that slope, there where it breaketh most Its steepness, rose upon the world a sun As this one does sometimes from out the Ganges;

Therefore let him who speaketh of that place, Say not Ascesi, for he would say little, But Orient, if he properly would speak.

He was not yet far distant from his rising Before he had begun to make the earth Some comfort from his mighty virtue feel.

For he in youth his father's wrath incurred For certain Dame, to whom, as unto death, The gate of pleasure no one doth unlock;

And was before his spiritual court 'Et coram patre' unto her united; Then day by day more fervently he loved her.

She, reft of her first husband, scorned, obscure, One thousand and one hundred years and more, Waited without a suitor till he came.

Naught it availed to hear, that with Amyclas Found her unmoved at sounding of his voice He who struck terror into all the world;

Naught it availed being constant and undaunted, So that, when Mary still remained below, She mounted up with Christ upon the cross.

But that too darkly I may not proceed, Francis and Poverty for these two lovers Take thou henceforward in my speech diffuse.

Their concord and their joyous semblances, The love, the wonder, and the sweet regard, They made to be the cause of holy thoughts;

So much so that the venerable Bernard First bared his feet, and after so great peace Ran, and, in running, thought himself too slow.

O wealth unknown! O veritable good! Giles bares his feet, and bares his feet Sylvester Behind the bridegroom, so doth please the bride!

Then goes his way that father and that master, He and his Lady and that family Which now was girding on the humble cord;

Nor cowardice of heart weighed down his brow At being son of Peter Bernardone, Nor for appearing marvellously scorned;

But regally his hard determination To Innocent he opened, and from him Received the primal seal upon his Order.

After the people mendicant increased Behind this man, whose admirable life Better in glory of the heavens were sung,

Incoronated with a second crown Was through Honorius by the Eternal Spirit The holy purpose of this Archimandrite.

And when he had, through thirst of martyrdom, In the proud presence of the Sultan preached Christ and the others who came after him,

And, finding for conversion too unripe The folk, and not to tarry there in vain, Returned to fruit of the Italic grass,

On the rude rock 'twixt Tiber and the Arno From Christ did he receive the final seal, Which during two whole years his members bore.

When He, who chose him unto so much good, Was pleased to draw him up to the reward That he had merited by being lowly,

Unto his friars, as to the rightful heirs, His most dear Lady did he recommend, And bade that they should love her faithfully;

And from her bosom the illustrious soul Wished to depart, returning to its realm, And for its body wished no other bier.

Think now what man was he, who was a fit Companion over the high seas to keep The bark of Peter to its proper bearings.

And this man was our Patriarch; hence whoever Doth follow him as he commands can see That he is laden with good merchandise.

Friday, September 22, 2006

The Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity

I'm helping the Poor Clares here in Virginia design a vocation retreat brochure....Since I've never done anything like that before, I needed some inspirational ideas. I got ahold of a "Vision" magazine, and was for the most part dissapointed....until I saw a rivetting advertisement that read like this:

"The world needs you. God calls you. We invite you."

I was even happier to discover that the creators of these three catchy sentences were Franciscans- the Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity in Wisconsin. In researching this beautiful community further, I was throughly impressed. Not only are they wonderful at fulfilling their charism, but they are brilliant when it comes to public relations.

I've finally caught "YouTube" fever, and the Franciscan Sisters have a really nice video on that website. The jumpers that the two sisters coming down the stairs are wearing are incredibly cute!

The Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity's website is one of the best ones I've seen for womens' communities. I could make a point by point list about everything I love about this website, but I suggest checking it out for yourself. Be sure to look at the "Franciscanized World" section! They have discussion boards, a blog, "images of the month," downloadable praise-and-worship songs (good ones), and even a ringtone!

You can access their website here.

From a spiritual perspective, it seems as though these sisters have managed to achieve the golden mean of being an active part of the world and managing to retain a distinct Catholic and Franciscan identity. As an illustration, the following is taken from their website:

  • Some of the ways our vows free us:
    *to let go of everything except God's word: "I have done what is mine to do. May Christ teach you what is yours."
    *to interiorize and preserve the words of Jesus, the words of God, within the heart that demand a commitment of service to others as shown in the Gospel.
    *to live in simplicity, by being counter cultural e.g. putting aside the things needed to have status, power, prestige.
    *to be happy to live among the outcast and despised, among the poor, the weak, the sick, the unwanted, the oppressed and the destitute.
    *to clothe oneself in a habit that is simple, poor and becoming, as a sign of conversion and Gospel consecration.
    *to trust God to fulfill every need.
    *to become aware of one's own weakness and to grow increasingly sensitive to others in their weakness.
    *to go wherever needed.
    *to live with whomever God calls in community; no ties of blood or choice.
    *to fill oneself with a loving tenderness for all God's creation and thankful joy.

Even though "Canticle of Chiara" has monstly highlighted the contemplative life, the call to the active religious life is equally as important! The great thing about the Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity is that they allow you dedicate your life to a wide variety of ways of serving others. Not only will you be giving your life to Christ, but you'll also look incredibly cute in your brown jumper and veil!

Saturday, September 16, 2006

"Saints Behaving Badly": St. Margaret of Cortona

I received a proof edition of a book titled Saints Behaving Badly. The book gives brief overviews of the lives of Saints who used to live sinful lives but were called to extraordinary holiness. Not only did it provide a synopsis of Holy Father Francis' life, but also helped me to meet other beautiful, albeit lesser-known, Franciscan Saints!

One of those lovely Saints is Saint Margaret of Cortona. Her life is especially applicable to us today.....she managed to extricate herself from a life of lust and fully embrace the joy of a chaste life in union with Christ. Through her intercession, may we also rise above the sexually-charged mores of our society and experience love as God intended it.

You can find an overview of St. Margaret of Cortona's life here.

Pax et Bonum!

Friday, September 08, 2006

Dominican Nuns of Our Lady of Grace Monastery

So we've just finished celebrating the Feast of St. Clare and we're about to head into prepping for the Feast of Holy Father Francis on October 4th. It's time to squeeze in some non-Franciscan posts. Even so, I think that Holy Father Francis would be happy that I'm making a Dominican post, since the two Orders are very close to each other.

During my brief stint up in CT, I had the pleasure of venturing into the countryside to visit Our Lady of Grace Monastery of Dominican Nuns in North Guilford, CT. After driving around in circles for an hour-and-a-half in the middle-of-nowhere, I finally found the Dominicans' monastery. The monastery is nestled in the hills of the exquisite CT countryside, which seems as if its out of a storybook- babbling streams, rolling hills, rickety wooden bridges, etc. Their public chapel is absolutely gorgeous. It was built in the 20s and is very gothic in style, with lovely stained glass windows and the entire edifice made of stone. Nonetheless, the monastery's real beauty is attributed to the beautiful women that inhabit the place.

The first day that I came to the monastery, I didn't run into any nuns. Before I could stay in order to find out if there was anyone there, I developed a migraine and had to return home. The next day, I decided to go the mall....but as I pulled into the mall parking lot, I asked myself "why the heck am I here, instead of at that monastery?!" Some force was drawing me back to that rural haven, so I pulled out of the mall parking lot and made the hour-long drive down to North Guilford. I had been in communication via e-mail with one of the nuns there (she will remain nameless), so when I arrived at the monastery I decided to try and see if I could chat with her. When I finally reached her, I told her that what I just did was "very Franciscan" of me- just dropping by randomly like that. However, she was more than pleased to chat with me!

We talked about life at the monastery, the Dominican charism, vocation, and the kinds of people who are drawn to the monastery. Now prior to this conversation, I had a false preconception that in order to be a Dominican, there is a prerequisite to be very pious and super traditional. Sister burst this bubble of mine as soon as she could....she told me that there are a variety of women who are drawn to the Dominican contemplative life and there is no one "type." One girl, for example, had been a professional dancer. Others are former atheists and the like. The one thing that unites them is the call to give themselves truly for Jesus in a life of prayer, penance, and study. I also expected that Dominican Nuns were going to be bookwormish, but after meeting that vibrant, effervescent woman, I knew that they are truly full of joy! Hence, after my visit to Our Lady of Grace Monastery, I found a new love for the Dominican Order....but don't worry, I won't be changing my blog's name to "Canticle of Catarina" anytime soon.

The bottom line is that we should realize that we don't have to be a certain type in order to be Holy....nor do we have to be a certain type to join a certain Order or other church organization, so long as God calls you to that particular life. God will give us the grace to use our gifts and talents and express our personalities in an environment where He thinks best.

Anyhow, please check out the Dominican Nuns' website at http://www.op-stjoseph.org/nuns/olgrace/. If you're in the area, make sure you stop by their public chapel and gift shop. The sound of the nuns' praying and singing is absolutely ehtereal! You'll leave the monastery having been filled with a sense of overriding peace and joy. I definitely did!

Contemplata Aliis Tradere!

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