Category Archives: spiritual

SARA(H)

Such a beautiful song made even more relevant by powerful Saturn returns (around age 30 and again around 60) . A time of change. A time of dreams.

 

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WELCOME BACK FRANCIS!

With Pope Francis visiting the US, it’s time again to reflect on his namesake. This is a reblogged post, so some might remember it.

St. Francis, 13th Century

St. Francis, 13th Century

A couple of years ago I listened to one of those Great Courses lectures on St. Francis of Assisi. I patiently waited through all the talk about his early beginnings, his military experience, his illness, his rejection of society, and his eventual creation of a new order. Most of it was dry and rather matter-of-fact. Where was the meat? Where was the mystical Francis I’d heard about? Where were the stories, the hagiography, that made Francis one of the most loved and recognized saints of all time? I walked away from the lectures shaking my head in disappointment. It wasn’t until later that my reading caught up with the reality. I had been very naïve believing a history and art professor would ever broach the subject of mystical experience. It wasn’t done; even an academic degreed in comparative religion would shy away from this discussion. How sad because isn’t that what many of us hunger for?

Francis has whispered to me from time to time. A statue in someone’s garden, the visit of the Pope this fall to Assisi, a well-known spiritual teacher planning a workshop there, St. Francis hospital visible from my new house. Then recently, Pope Francis was proclaimed Time’s Man of the Year. Francis is present in ways he hasn’t been in a long time. What can a twelfth century saint have to say to the modern world? Maybe a lot.

St. Francis in Ecstasy Caravaggio, 1594

St. Francis in Ecstasy
Caravaggio, 1594

Let’s dispense with the relevant historical details (and don’t worry it won’t take twelve lectures) to seek out a deeper meaning for Francis in our time. Francis was born Giovanni di Pietro di Bernadone around 1181. Born into a wealthy merchant family, he enjoyed all the advantages of his station and even went off to war fighting for Assisi. Some kind of vision compelled him to return home where he subsequently lost his zeal for the kind of life he’d been previously living and he began to reject it. He left his father’s silk business, took to serving the poor and lepers, and gained a following. Francis eventually went on to found the Order of the Friars Minor, the Order of St. Clare, and the Third Order of St. Francis.

It was in San Damiano that Francis had a powerful mystical experience which was to frame his life’s work. While praying before an icon, he had a vision of Jesus who spoke to him and said, “…go and repair My house which, as you can see is falling into ruins.”  Francis’ interpretation resulted in him raising money to repair the physical church he was in. Of course, Francis’ mission was not a literal one and called him instead, to restore the institution of the Church.

Stigmatization of St. Francis Matthias Kargen, 1664

Stigmatization of St. Francis
Matthias Kargen, 1664

Although never ordained, Francis’ calling was manifested in a simple life of poverty emulating the life of Christ. His followers were “To follow the teaching of our Lord Jesus Christ and walk in his footsteps.” He was devoted to his spiritual practice and at times would withdraw from life to develop it. He had guiding visions throughout his life, was seen levitating, and was the first recorded person to receive the wounds of Christ (stigmata). Francis was a mystic, but he was also a mystic who brought back what he learned and shared it.

St. Francis leads the wolf of Gubbio. HJ Ford, 1912

St. Francis leads the wolf of Gubbio.
HJ Ford, 1912

Two of the most widely known miracles told about Francis involve his ability to work with animals. In the town of Gubbio, a wolf threatened the townsfolk. Francis intervened and made a pact with the wolf. Thereafter, the wolf remained peacefully near the village and the people fed it. The other story concerns an incident where Francis was trying to preach over the noisy chatter of swallows. He asked the birds to be silent and to the amazement of the crowd, they did. That famous story is the reason why Francis statues and art depictions often have a bird. Francis is the patron saint of animals and the environment.

As we draw near to Christmas and many churches display a nativity scene (Francis is credited with creating the first nativity scene), I hope you will remember a simple saint who lived an exemplary life devoted to poverty and service. His mystical connection to the Universe (God, if you prefer) was the powerhouse of his practice.

For More:

Canticle of the Sun: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canticle_of_the_Sun

St. Francis Peace Prayer: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prayer_of_Saint_Francis

Book: The Life and Prayers of St. Francis

http://www.amazon.com/Life-Prayers-Saint-Francis-Assisi/dp/1484938984/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1387403109&sr=1-1&keywords=st+francis

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The Sublime Transformation of Vera Wright by Rea Nolan Martin

 Vera

What if your neighbor was a saint? This was the question Rea Nolan Martin asked herself in creating this masterpiece of visionary fiction. Her main character, Vera Wright, qualifies for the senior discount, but is still working as a beautician. She has a grown daughter and a teddy bear of a husband, living a normal life. Then one day, her parish priest asks the congregation to invite God into their lives. Vera does and that’s when everything starts to change.

I was fully caught up in Vera’s reluctant spiritual journey. More than once I wondered how I’d react if some of the things that Vera experienced happened to me. Remember in the stories of saints, the path to enlightenment is not an easy one. Vera is continuously challenged on her road to God. Unexpected twists and turns occur. Vera navigates some of them beautifully and some not. She is after all, human. Vera’s job is to awaken to her inner divinity and that awakening has her question the role of the feminine in Catholicism.

The story of Vera’s transformation might be heavy except that the author has interjected copious amounts of humor into the mix. Vera is the saint next door and we are no longer free to relegate holiness to the past. Might we not come across a saint in our own lives? Who is that waiting on us at the Post Office? Who is that old man feeding the ducks at the pond? The child reaching for the cookie? This book is a mind-opening adventure. Don’t miss it!

http://www.amazon.com/Sublime-Transformation-Vera-Wright-ebook/dp/B009NNHP9O/ref=sr_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1438279529&sr=1-3&keywords=Rea+Nolan+Martin#customerReviews

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Filed under Book Review, spiritual, Spiritual/Mysticism