Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Living with Contradictions

Today is the feast of St Augustine - who often gets a poor press these days.  But he was a man whose life's journey forced him to look at the contractions within himself, and to finally live in peace with the profound paradox that is every human person. 
God has endless patience for the confused messiness that makes up our lives - but we have to learn, often the hard way, that compassion for self and others is the core of the Gospel and the path to serenity.
Richard Rohr, OFM, offers a reflection for this feast day that speaks to this spiritual dynamic.
"Jesus is giving us a win-win worldview (which is why it is called Good News!), but what the ego invariably does with the Gospel is make it into a win-lose game. That’s the only way the dualistic mind can think. You’re either in or you’re out. It defines itself largely by what it is not. The mystical or non-dual mind is alone capable of win-win.
Yet we don’t know how to include, how to forgive, how to pour mercy and compassion and patience upon events as God apparently does. Augustine of Hippo, a man filled with contradictions, was a master at holding those contradictions within himself and before God. He describes the power and simultaneously the deep powerlessness of true God experience. 
Faith absolutely knows and yet it does not know at all—and is content with this! Thus true believers are very humble and yet quietly confident in the same moment."

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

A Family Gathering

Last Sunday over 200 hundred members of the Franciscan Family in Ireland gathered in the ancient (founded 1268) and beautiful friary at Multyfarnham, Co Westmeath. Friars of all sorts, Poor Clares, Franciscan Sisters and Secular Franciscans came together to celebrate the life and charism of  St Clare as the Year of St Clare draws to a close.

On the night of Palm Sunday in 1212 a young, courageous woman left her parents' home in Assisi and walked through woods to reach the little chapel of Our Lady of the Angels where Francis and his brothers awaited her. There she consecrated her life totally to God in her desire to follow Christ poor and crucified. Her act of faith and love was the seed that flowered, by God's Spirit, into the Poor Clare Order.

On Sunday it was a joy to celebrate this Gospel woman. We were refreshed and encouraged in our own personal vocations as we shared her story and vision.

But what stands out for me was the deep sense of happiness in our being together. The chat and laughter, the sharing of stories and food, our very ease together - all spoke of family. 

Family implies belonging, acceptance, common roots, and shared identity. 

There is but one Gospel, one Spirit who calls all, one faith we cling to - this is true for the whole community of believers. But within that wide community there are families formed by a particular charism, a specific perspective on the mystery of Christ, a common story and spirit.

Francis exhorts us: "Where ever they meet let them show that they are members of one family" 

On Sunday I experienced anew the gift of belonging to the Franciscan Family.