From the Chaplain: "Lord purge our eyes to see"
Within the seed a tree
Within the glowing egg a bird
Within the shroud a butterfly
Till taught by such we see
Beyond all creatures thee
If I had to sum up the single most important spiritual lesson I have been taught, and, I confess, continue to try and remember, it is to pay attention! We say that to our children as a principal in learning, but we forget it as we grow older. Or, we learn to pay attention to distractions and worldly matters, dazzled by the "shiny things."
Francis and Clare knew how to pay attention. One only needs to read the Canticle of Brother Sun and Sister Moon (Canticle of the Creatures) to realize what a deeply Franciscan modus operandi it is. Francis, in his zealous pursuit of Christ, saw God in everything. I don't mean he saw a flower and concluded, "God made that flower." It was much more than that. We look at pretty things, amazing, breathtaking beauty and write poetry about the majesty of mountains and the joy of butterflies and easily agree that GOD is there. Francis looked at everything around him, and stopped to really take notice.
How many of us see God in the leper? In the person we avoid the most at Church? In the coal mines, the streets at night, dingy motels, and refugee camps? How often do we notice the personal pain and injury in all the angry voices in our world right now? If God is everywhere, God is everywhere, we don't get to choose where to place the Holy One. But, sometimes, it is difficult to really see, one has to pay attention. It is as if we are playing a game of "I Spy!"
Georgia O'Keefe, a famous painter in the Southwest US, claims that we don't even really see a flower.
Nobody sees a flower, really, it is so small. We haven't time - and to see takes time like to have a friend takes time.
It takes time to see, to pay attention. And time is what we do not give to ourselves, our Spirit, our God. Francis spent time with Creation, Clare spent time in the cloister, both spent time in the interior Chambers with Christ--who became their Light and Love above all things.
This Francistide, Sisters and Brothers, and beyond, let us pay attention to one another. Perhaps the newness has worn off the personalities you first met and they have become (gasp) human. Perhaps the tediousness of Morning Prayer has made you rather listless. Perhaps the obedience of reporting on your Rule of Life (or, and I am guilty here, too, of responding to the Report!) has made you kick at the dirt and say, "I don't wanna!"
I encourage you then, to pay attention. Spend some time to really see, to really hear, too really notice--a sister or brother in the OEF you've not spoken to in a while, to read or sing aloud part of your Morning Prayer and stay with the words that strike your mind and heart; chew it over. Re-read your Rule and take notice--does it fit you? Is it realistic? Have you been doing this for so many years now it's become a regurgitated policy manual or merely a suggestion?
Where is God around you? When has Christ walked up to you and you looked, really looked, into the eyes of a stranger? What beauty in the Morning Prayer (or Evening for us night owls) have you missed lately? What time have you given to really see, like spending time with a friend, taking notice of what is around you--looking past the stress, the chaos, the busyness. Just pause as you read this letter, and breathe in deeply the prayer of your sisters and brothers who lift you up each day; breathe in the stranger's eyes when you stop and say "hello"; breathe in Brother Sun and Sister Moon, Brother Fire and Sister Water; read your Rule in rhythm with your breath and offer it as a sacrifice to God; breathe in the fragrance of a holy life.
May you be blessed beyond measure this Francistide.
Peace and All Things Good,
Sr. Magdalena, Chaplain