My 3rd Movie: 300 Years of Good

I’ve just spent the past month working on 300 Years of Good, a compilation of stories by women religious (a.k.a. nuns) from around North Carolina & South Carolina. I interviewed 15 sisters, 9 of whom are in this movie. There are 64 sisters in the Raleigh Diocese, 100 in the South Carolina Diocese and I’m not sure how many in my own Diocese but I’d guess around 100. I’d like to share some details of what this journey entailed and about what happened along the way.

In December, I was informed that I would receive a $1000 grant from National Catholic Sisters Week to show a documentary during this week in March. Not only is the money covering popcorn (for 80 people), soda (for 60 people) and a rented cooler ($20), but it also covered the cost of the making of the documentary. I did not receive any payment for my work. I have spent a few hundred hours planning, interviewing, traveling and editing but my time has been my own contribution to the project, a labor of love. Although this has been a very solitary experience, especially these past few weeks spent in our guest room/home office editing until well after midnight most nights, I have not been completely alone  and all sorts of people came out to help me along the way. I met Rachel at a filmmaker’s meetup in Charlotte in January. She sat down with me to help me figure out which days I could travel during February and in the past couple of weeks of editing, checked in on me. Friends like Courtney, Caitlin, Cathy & Sr. Eileen put on their thinking caps when I asked about sisters they knew in NC and SC. If not for those four people, none of these interviews would have taken place. Wow. I realize just now how important they were to the making of this. In the credits, I give thanks to two men: my own husband who supported this project wholeheartedly and Jim, who helped me learn a lot about South Carolina and bought me lunch while in Charleston.

In the Company of Women

I traveled to Cary, NC, staying at my friend Betsy’s house for the night with her cute animals and lively conversation.  I stayed in a hotel in Sumter, SC on my way to the very remote Kingstree, SC which did not seem to have any chain hotels nearby when I booked in Sumter (almost an hour away). I enjoyed 2 nights with the Poor Clare sisters in Traveler’s Rest, SC, enjoying the foods they stocked in the small guest apartment where I stayed. I enjoyed a delicious pot roast in Kingstree and lunch with the gentle and lovely fellowship of the Felician sisters there.  In Belmont, I got to meet several sisters who were archivist and a woman in her 30s who is a professional archivist as well. Their explanations of their work helped me find words for my own as I am also seeking to capture, preserve and share stories of women religious. I enjoyed breakfast and lunch in the main kitchen at the Belmont Mercy’s place, running into some sisters I’ve known from my 42 years, most of which have been spent in the Diocese of Charlotte.  In Cary, Sister Anne took me out for delicious burritos at a place with dozens of hot sauces (which I love) and treated me to interesting conversation and warm hospitality.

Three Movies

With delight, when I sat down after interviews to sort through the footage, I realized I actually have three movies sitting in front of me! This became clearer to me as I went along. Over the next few months, I will be putting together a separate movie for the Poor Clares and for the Felicians. Since I got to spend so much time with them and to film so much outside of our sit down interviews, I know these will be very colorful portraits, or rather, snapshots of what I saw when with them. Both happen to be Franciscan communities, so I might have to work a little harder and really think about how to incorporate some of Francis & Clare’s writings (my specialty) into the films.

What I’ve learned

Precepts I try to follow when making a movie include a.)don’t be preachy and b.)don’t try to teach someone a lesson through it. So, I will share what I learned and I believe that the stories are different enough that they will touch people in various ways. What I learned is that these women have drawn from a well within themselves that others do not have or have not found. I believe that well is kept filled by God by way of their community life, ministry, liturgical and sacramental life and especially by their own personal prayer lives.  They had so many stories that I had to leave out ones like how one person helped get a man off death row or how another one worked in AIDS care back when people with AIDS were treated as lepers. So many stories.  I know that not everyone is going to like this movie. That’s fine. I will be glad to teach anyone who wants a different movie what I have taught myself in the past 16 months so that they can go out and make the movies they want to watch.  My questions were focused on what these women have done and who they have met along the way. Those are the stories which appear in the movie.  I do not preach or teach in this movie but I do hope people are motivated to think about what they can personally do to reach out to others as these sisters have done.

Celebrating National Catholic Sisters Week

I got to show the film on Wednesday night to the campus ministry students of Winthrop University. My parents came up for it, Rachel and her mom came and several students and others .It was great to sit in the back row and gauge their reactions. After that showing, I put in another 20+ hours to bend and mold it and tweak it and cut off some excess so that it is the best movie my current abilities allow me to make. I am happy with it. In the coming weeks, I would like to find composer to create an original score. I need to continue to consider doing a voiceover narration, something I have eschewed so far since I feel it would be invasive and my whole point is to let people tell their own stories, as Francis would say, “without gloss” (summary and commentary).  I believe that 2017 will be a time for me to travel with the film to some convents, schools, campus ministries, parishes and film festivals. My respect for these women and what they have done is evident. I had zero agenda except to showcase some stories of women religious and am proud of the decisions I’ve made while traveling, interviewing and editing which have kept that priority at the forefront. I hope you’ll get to see it sometime. Invite me to your town to show it and we can watch it together!

 

 

 

 

 

9/11 Scared the Shit out of Us

I teach English as a Second Language.

Well, that’s not actually true.

Yeah, that’s not entirely true. It is not just me. There are several of us who go every week: Raul who is 84 and might just be the Dos Equis “World’s Most Interesting Man” who has been part of English Conversation Hour for 17 years. There’s also my friend Mijin who volunteers alongside us. She’s a professional English teacher in her own country and she recently aced an English competency exam. There’s also Lisa, a housewife from Louisiana who is there most weeks.

I don’t teach it-it is a conversation hour so we sit in a circle and talk about different stuff from week to week. Sometimes one person dominates, sometimes we break up into small groups, sometimes we pair up and sometimes everybody takes a turn to talk.

It is not a second language. Most of the participants grew up speaking one language at home, another language in school and maybe even some additional ones before taking on English. My own grandma grew up speaking only German at home. She didn’t learn English until she went to kindergarten. Eventually, everybody hated Germans so she squished the language far down & to this day does not remember a word of it. What about your grandparents? Or theirs? Who hated them when they first got to the U.S. If your ancestors are Catholic, that’s an easy one-I can give you a whole list of everyone who hated ’em.

This past week at English Conversation Hour, I looked around the room and there were people who once lived in Iran, Dominican Republic, Columbia, California and Saudi Arabia. Now, we all find ourselves in Charlotte, NC either by choice or circumstance. I did not choose to live here but my husband’s job has brought us here. I share that in common with several people in the room.  We talked about our upcoming weekends, our families and methods we’ve found useful for taking on new languages (my personal fave is to use the free app DuoLingo. I learned Italian in 8 months last year, inspired by the progress I’ve seen in English learners).

Like a lot of my fellow Americans, certain images come to mind when I hear the word “Iran” or when I see a woman with a hijab (headscarf). Similar images come to mind when I heard the word “Beirut” or hear Arabic spoken. 9/11 scared the shit out of us. I’m going to say that plain and simple. I was a campus minster at the time and so grateful we had daily Mass that day on campus. It was packed. The priest read from the liturgy meant to be read “In times of national crisis.” He cried during it and the floodgates opened with lots of scared people crying our eyes out. I spent the night next door to my house, sleeping in the chapel of the Franciscan and SSJ sisters who lived next to me. I literally showed up with my sleeping bag and pillow, not wanting to sleep alone in my apartment that night.  We’d never thought much about Islam at that point. But, since 9/11 scared all of us, it has been hard to separate 9/11 from Islam and Islam from 9/11-like the red and white components of a candy cane, they seem twinned in our minds.

Also twinned in our minds are images of Muslims and terrorists. The point of terrorism is to terrorize people and their hope is to have ramifications beyond the individual actions that they do. When the fear/terror of terrorism begins to be invoked by our own leaders to terrorize us, the bad guys have won. Their point has been made. Their branding has taken hold and now they sit back and relax while others continually scare us. I’ve read that more people are accidentally killed by toddlers than terrorists in the U.S. in a given year, yet we’re all paranoid now, aren’t we?

Just sitting around a room together in Charlotte, talking about simple things like family and travel and days off, we realize we have more in common than we have differences. We worry about the same categories of stuff, we like good food, music has a place in our lives, we want what is best for our loved ones. If you wonder where immigrants come from, sometimes it is as easy as looking at some recent history of the U.S. being involved in something in their home country. Do you know anyone who emigrated from Vietnam in the 70s, 80s or 90s? Or from Iraq in the 90s or 2000s?  If so, guess what, they were most likely “on our side” during whatever was going on over there at the time. That’s why they have the preferential status of refugee.

I’m taking a basic filmmaking class at the local community college this semester. Our instructor was teaching us about lenses and filters, f stop settings, glare and reflections tr-1when he told us that the widest range of skin tone from the lightest to the darkest skin is really just a few shades apart in the grand scheme of the color wheel and its zillions of colors. I’ve seen photos on facebook of Franciscan friends holding a quote from Jesus, “I was a stranger…” I know that not everyone is as fortunate as I am to sit in a room of adults who all have a common goal of working on a new language together. I’ve also been able to experience being a stranger in many countries over the course of my travels (to 23 countries) where I was one of few Christians or few Catholics (heck, that’s the place I grew up in the NC mountains), few white people, few Americans, few English speakers, etc. I just ask you to remember that once upon a time, your grandparents or great grandparents were reviled. Businesses had signs up to warn Irish or Italians not to bother coming in. I’m going to continue going back to spend an hour a week with English conversation hour and I hope people continue to come, from all over the world to sit in a circle and talk about simple things. Sometimes we have little pot lucks and get to sample chocolate from Italy or a casserole from Columbia. Although I may have been inundated with negativity associated with the word “Iran” or with negativity about a woman who wears a headscarf, when I actually sit next to someone from Iran or someone with that head covering, we talk and listen, remembering that just like, in the grand scheme of the colorwheel, where our skin tones are not that different, neither are the things we hold dear: our husbands, our families, their well-being, our friendships and even stuff like whether the app called Mango really is better than the one called DuoLingo when it comes to learning another language. (I recommend DuoLing0.)

God bless America.

Come with me to Assisi, Italy

How you can be a part of this trip:

When I walked the pilgrimage route in Spain in 2002,  I carried index cards with crowdassisi4the intentions of my friends and family written on them. I will be carrying intentions on this trip as well. If you have a special prayer request, please send it to me and I will travel with it into the holiest Franciscan sites in Assisi, remembering you and your family in prayer while I am there.

Perhaps you’d like to purchase the book I worked on. Buy one through PayPal (cheaper than using Amazon) and I can put that money toward some of these expenses.

Stay tuned to the Franciscan Passages facebook page where I will be sharing pictures from Assisi. You can participate long distance that way.

Think about 2017. Do you want to go to Assisi with me in 2017? Let’s make it happen if so.

Some logistics of traveling to Assisi, Italy

In September, I will take an 8 hour flight to Rome. From there, I will board a train to Assisi, walk a few blocks, take an outdoor escalator up a hillside, then walk a few more blocks uphill toward the guesthouse. Within about 15 hours of closing my St. Francis Booth at the Charlotte, NC Eucharistic Congress, I will be in my room at an Assisi guesthouse.

Why I’m going there

If you ask me why I am going to Assisi for 2 weeks, I will tell you that I am going thertrash 1e for language school and to get to know Assisi so well that I can draw a map of it from memory, able to  describe to you what you will find on every street within the city. However, I know that there are things that will happen that I cannot even imagine right now: wonderful things. Since I reserved my rooms, it has been announced that the Pope is going to Assisi while I’m there, accompanied by the world leaders of world religions. It will be an especially interesting time to be there.

Language Study in Assisi, Italy

I have been studying the Italian language since January. I first enrolled in a weekly small group class in my town for 12 weeks. This was a good introduction to the language and the instructor was skillful. Next, I met an Italian woman with whom I did an English-Italian exchange a few times. Since then, I’ve been using a free App on my phone for 20 minutes-1 hour per day for the past 3 months. According to the App, I’ve been working with about 1200 Italian words at this point.  I believe that vocabulary is the most important component of learning a language. [Pro Tip: A good way to avoid having to conjugate verbs a million ways is to learn how to structure sentences so you only have to use the infinitive of the verb]. Before I decided to study Italian in Assisi,  I spent a few weeks figuring out how I could cobble together an immersive Italian language experience in the U.S. During my search, I found a school in Vermont (summers-only) and plenty of language schools (which meet once per week in various cities) but could not find exactly what I was looking for. I teach ESL and I know that full immersion is an efficient way to learn a language so I decided to go to a place where I could be immersed in it. to attend a language school in Italy. I’ve enrolled in a reputable language school in Assisi where I will be taking small group classes every morning for two weeks, followed by one-on-one lessons every afternoon. I’m using the internet to find some women in Assisi who are interested in an English-Italian exchange with me. I want to avoid speaking English while I’m there, with the exception of daily calls home. I also want to post daily photos to Youtube so people can follow along virtually.

Why I’m learning Italian now

I teach ESL. One year ago, we befriended a family I met through ESL. The husband spoke little English at the time but now, he could be a translator for the United Nations! Okay, that might not be a good idea yet, but I am inspired by how much he has learned in a year. trHe’s also in his 40s so I thought that maybe I had it in me to learn their language, too. I am not someone who picks up hobbies here and there. I’m not really someone who gets really into one thing for a while then drops it, so this interest I have in Italian is unique to me. I am very enthusiastic about studying it every day. I know that I am supposed to learn Italian right now. I can honestly say that I feel compelled to learn it. I’ve dedicated a lot of time to studying it this year and it has paid off. I think that I will be able to use my Italian skills to help people experience St. Francis and St. Clare in a meaningful way. I don’t know what this means yet, but I know it will reveal itself in due time. Also, Italian is a useful, modern language with immediate applications but it will also help me feel my way around the Latin in the early writings pertaining to Saints Francis and Clare. No, I don’t  know medieval Latin (yet) but at this time, I think there is more use for Italian (supplemented by my current Spanish skills). The bottom line is that I believe I am meant to learn Italian right now so that I can put it to the service of others, teaching them about Saints Francis and Clare of Assisi.

Finding Accommodation while in Assisi for Language School

I’m using a website which serves as the middle man between the customer and monasteries/religious houses which rent out rooms. It takes a few days to get each booking confirmed. I indicate my top several choices since my first choice might not be available. Despite these delays, it is a great service and enables me to find housing where I could not have arranged it on my own. For one week, I will be staying at a guesthouse recommended to me by many people I know. I chose this one because I knew it would be comfortable and I wanted to be able to jump right in to my studies that first week rather than worrying about any problems with accommodation. For my second week, I will be staying at a monastery of French Franciscan nuns. I hope that I am forced to use Italian (or my 50 words of French) to get by there.  I chose to find my own accommodations rather than set them up through the language school since that is the cheaper option. Plus, I have lived with my fair share of roommates over the course of my life and am no longer interested in adapting to the idiosyncrasies of strangers. I look forward to waking up in these guest houses, with their stone floors and views of the countryside, typical Italian breakfasts and strong coffee. It will be a good experience

My previous times in Italy

I have been to Italy 2 times before. One time, I went as a participant in Youth toward Assisi, an international gathering sponsored by the Conventual Franciscan Friars. The

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Windswept, this photo of Alison More and me appeared on a South African’s blog after we met her in Assisi.

men I served with as a campus minister for 11 years are Conventual Franciscans. At Youth toward Assisi (which occurs every few years), there were about 500 of us there from all over the world. For 5-6 days, We listened to speakers, got to go behind the scenes at a lot of holy sites and camped in a beautiful, cheap huge campground just up the hill from Assisi.  Youth toward Assisi is geared toward youth (18-25) . I was there to accompany our students and was 31 at the time. When I myself was a youth (18-25), I had many wonderful experiences hanging out with other young people from all over the world.  My first job out of college was to work at an International hostel, then I visited Taize (which is a gathering place for youth in France) at age 25, I knew that those days were behind me. I could tell that something had shifted in me as I was no longer needing to stay up at all hours of the night getting to know the other 499 people there. We were only in Assisi for a few days and I wanted to make the most of my time there. So, on the morning of my 32nd birthday, I discerned that my day would be better spent exploring Assisi rather than joining the bumbling crowd on 30 slow buses on a field trip that day. I got up after my tent mates left, literally just started walking and ended up, much to my delight, at the Carceri atop Mount Subasio. This is a friary/church built on the side of the mountain where the caves are. St. Francis of Assisi went to these caves to be in solitude, to pray and discern his next steps along the way. As I walked up the road, I joined up with an elderly French lady who was walking it as well. Neither of us spoke the other language, but we managed it [Pro Tip: most words that end in -ation in English are the same in Romance languages] so we had a conversation for the entire trip up the hill to the Carceri. I loved having time to be in those woods, chat with other people and to enjoy my birthday lunch of salami and bread while in the woods St. Francis loved so much. In 2012, I went to Italy again, at Easterto meet up with Dr. Alison More, my master’s thesis advisor and my roommates from graduate school. Alison was living in the Netherlands at the time. Her own PhD advisor joined us from Germany and the Felician sisters from New Mexico who were my roommates at St. Bonaventure University were there with their novices. Together, we were 4 generations of women, all within a few years’ of each other. What I mean by four generations is that one had taught the other who had taught the 3 of us who taught others so that makes for four generations of women teaching women.  It was cool to be with such smart women in Assisi. Highlights include being in a small crowd of about 40 people, just feet away from the lighting of the Easter candle outside St. Mary of the Angels, where it was freezing cold outside but strangers pressing together helped preserve enough warmth. Another highlight of that trip was processing through the darkened streets of Assisi with candles in a tradition older than St.  Francis himself. Another day, Alison and I took an unexpected walk (in too-cute boots) through an unexpected rain for several miles from San Damiano to St. Mary of the Angels. It was that night, uncomfortable and wet, that I discovered truffles for the first time. They are native to the area and affordable in pasta dishes. They are like mushrooms, pungent and earthy, times 1000.  Yum. I had never eaten anything so good in my life. They are prohibitively expensive here so the best I can do once in a while is get truffle oil which is basic olive oil infused with truffle oil. Still yummy and pungent but not as good as the real deal. If you are reading this and find yourself getting jealous, assuming this trip cost thousands of dollars and thinking this is way beyond your reach, you should call me right now. The trip cost hundreds, not thousands of dollars (the flight was the biggest expense) and it is a heck of a lot cheaper than what you paid for cable TV last year.

Previous times in Rome

I’ve been to Rome on four separate overnights, to and from Assisi. Coincidentally, my various hosts took me to the same church each time so I’ve seen one church multiple times. On one trip, we stayed at an AirB&B apartment which was safe, clean and cheap. Of course, I have visited the Vatican as well. St. Peter’s is a sight to behold. The variety of languages and ethnicities of people in the square is awesome.  francis tattoot. I hope Rome reveals some delights on this trip. One of my favorite parts about visiting the Vatican was the worldwide swath of humanity represented among the other people poking around the square, touching St. Peter’s foot (statue), marveling at the sights, praying, looking and whispering. I have been given this experience in many parts of the world, where I get to look around and see that all of these people, with their varying skin tones, linguistic tones, moods, hats, shoes, education levels, attitudes, disabilities and families, were also Catholic Christians. It is truly the most universal gathering on earth.

Connection between Strength & Bravery

This past weekend, I got to represent one of my two documentaries at a film festival 10 hours from home. After the awards ceremony (my short documentary was beat out by an interesting one about the Loch Ness Monster of the Finger Lakes. If I have to lose, I like to lose to sea monsters!) I had a short conversation with a guy in a Yankees cap about creating movies and his response was so enthusiastic that I thought I ought to record the gist of it here so I can come back to it. Maybe it will speak to you. I know I am talking to myself as I give this advice.

The guy in the Yankees cap was there because his friend (a breakdancer!) had a film in the film festival.He told me there are two documentaries he has always wanted to make. He wants to make one about his cousin who lost his sight when someone shot him with a gun. He wants to make another movie about the people in his neighborhood who have to eat,

sleep, raise their kids, commute to work, walk their pets and do their shopping while surrounded by gangs and gang violence. Both of these subjects he knows and is close to in a way that many people are not. He told me he was afraid to make the film about his cousin because there are people who would do it better. I told him that he’s the only one who can make those movies. He may not have $10,000 worth of equipment and a $100,000 film school education (or a $1,000,000 film budget which, unbelievably, some independent films have) but, as someone in my film Energy of Nuns says, “They aren’t there.” Sometimes we are the only ones who can do something. In this case, “they” aren’t interested or able to make these films. This guy is.  He nodded and saw that maybe this is a calling. In my own experience of 42 years on earth, many of them spent listening to other people, I believe that a calling can be identified when it is something (truly good and beautiful) that we feel drawn to do while the vast majority of people would not go near it with a 10 foot pole (for example: do you want to be a social worker in the field of pediatric hospice?). He liked what I said and called that advice “a win.” He told me that little nudge of encouragement makes him recognize he has the capability of doing these projects and most importantly, the desire to do them. That is bravery right there. Bravery is NOTHING more than recognizing our strength. Sure,  we like to conjure up these mythical creatures we refer to as “they” as in “they would make a better film than me” or “they might not think this is good enough” but most of the time, there is no “they,” there is only you.

tr latin 2I learned recently that in Latin, the word for “brave” is the same for the word for “strong”- fortis.  The reason I know this now is that my husband, who is so encouraging and supportive of me, knows that I often let myself be stymied by fear when it comes to taking on new projects through Franciscan Passages. I suggested we come up with a little phrase or word to come back to so we can “name it and claim it.” I looked up the words for strength and for bravery since it seems like what I lack at times is bravery and my husband assures me I already possess the strength I need. When  I saw that “fortis” can mean either strength or bravery, I saw their connection. As my encouraging husband reminds me, I am strong. I have varied life experience, travel and education to draw from. I have good people around me, the love and support, a good track record and plenty of references after six years of giving presentations, putting together a book, putting together two movies and other projects through Franciscan Passages. So to be trbrave is simply to recognize strength that is already present. Pope John Paul II reminded us thousands of times that we should not be afraid. That advice resurfaces throughout the Old and the New Testaments. God knows we are full of fear. But he also made us so he knows our strength. Fear can be replaced by bravery and bravery gives us the confidence to go ahead and start something. For me, this means taking on new projects, looking at things that have been done by others and figuring out how to make them more accessible to more people. I can make a long list of things I am not and excuses for why I want to procrastinate on starting something but all of that comes from fear, not bravery. For some people, perfectionism serves as the perfect disguise for their fear. They pretend that they will take on this project or that project sometime way in the future when they have all the right tools or when the timing is just right or when the weather is right. So, perfectionism is the enemy of creativity and bravery can overcome even perfectionism…if you let it.

 

What does this have to do with St. Francis of Assisi?

At the end of his life, as his brothers were anxious about St. Francis’ dying, knowing they would miss his advice and guidance and leadership, he told them “The Lord has shown me what is mine to do and may he show you what is yours to do.” What freedom he gave them! He did not instruct them to carefully follow his every footstep, to emulate him or try to be a copy of him.  He knew that each person, in their uniqueness (remember, God loves us individually, in our uniqueness, not just as humans in aggregate) has something to offer to others.So, quit making excuses, and go do what is yours to do.

 

Waiting for Test Results (and Marshmallows)

You know that feeling of waiting for something?  Think about when you or a loved one was waiting to find out how someone did on an SAT, a blood test or the Bar Exam. It can be awful, can’t it?  In that strange time span of hours, weeks or months, you wonder what has happened. The funny thing is that the facts and reality are already there and have been in place for some amount of time. The test is over, finito, done.  It is like celebrating your 50th birthday. Friend, at your 50th birthday party, you’ve already just spent a year working toward being 50!

49 year olds may want to take a short break here while they realize they are already in their 50th year.

In the case of waiting to hear the results of something, what you are waiting for is the information to be interpreted and shared with you. In the case of medical test results, The Funny Business is already at work, networking, getting business cards and making itself known (to your cells, organs, bloodstream or what have you). Or, maybe The Funny Business is chilling and laying or low or maybe has “left the building” altogether. You are among the last to know as the lab techs who tested it, P.A. who interpreted it and nurse who calls you all know these facts before you do. If they get them too close to 4:55pm and traffic can be nuts outside their building, forget about it, you’re not finding out until tomorrow.

Waiting in times like this can be hard, even for people of faith. When we claim to be people of faith, we like to toss about keywords like trust and hope.  We can whip out a ttgreeting card to a troubled friend quicker than you can say “where are the stamps, honey?” We can post memes on Facebook with the cheesiest platitudes that we wouldn’t dare use in real life but there’s a kitten and it sounds positive and our friend (or facebook friend) is hurting so we go for it. The hard part about being a person of faith is when you actually have to live it out and the rubber meets the road. The hardest part of chastity is when you encounter someone and have actually fallen head over heels in love with them. The hardest part of serving the poor is when there’s one right in front of you and she annoys you, makes bad decisions, approaches you the wrong way or is rude to you. These ideas of trust and hope (and everything else we claim to hold dear) have to be real to us in these absolutely real moments of our lives otherwise, we are just poking our sticks in the fire without taking the risk of putting a marshmallow on one. Yeah, most marshmallows come ttout burnt and taste utterly disgusting but if we’re too afraid of how they might come out to risk it, we will just spend the evening fruitlessly poking at coals and yes, maybe accepting a square off the Hershey’s bar and a few squares of Graham crackers but WHO ARE YOU KIDDING? Those cold, timid things (cold squares of chocolate and graham crackerness) are no match for the sugary goodness of a hot, dangerous, messy s’more. Let’s back up here. The point is that real life happens sometimes, even when it seems like we are doing all the right things and living the right way and when these moments hit us, we get to see for ourselves how much we believe in these otherwise transcendent, elusive concepts like faith and trust and hope. If you failed the driver’s test, then what? You’ll schedule another 4 hour day at the DMV to go again. If you find out you failed the Bar Exam, then what? You’ll sell all your law school books on ebay and do what you always wanted to do-go on walkabout for a year ( I’m guessing here). If you fail the blood test, then what? Well, first come the stages of grief, each coupled with a microbrew of your choice, and with the awesome part where you find out what faith, hope and trust mean when its time for you to actually rely on them.

What does this have to do with St. Clare of Assisi?

St. Clare’s big thing is that she insisted on living in a way that meant her monastery did not have the usual failsafe measures in place. She insisted on living out poverty not for its own sake but because it meant relying on God to see them through. Of course, one of the ways God works is by moving the hearts of regular people like you and me to give people like St. Clare and her sisters food, blankets and elbow grease when the roof starts to leak. She didn’t set up a fund with a cool logo, she didn’t accept dowries from those who joined her and she insisted that the monastery have only enough land to grow food for themselves rather than owning lots of land and becoming landladies to the local people who would then farm the land. Her mettle was tested every day and she wanted it that way. Oh, mettle, that’s a cool word. Here are some synonyms: spirit, fortitude, strength of character, moral fiber, steel, determination, resolve, resolution, backbone, grit, true grit, courage, courageousness, bravery, valor, fearlessness, daring and spunk. If you’re afraid of your marshmallow turning out bad and that keeps you from roasting one, you’re missing your spunk, kid. Get it back.

Resentment is like a Kidney Stone

I had been having a hard time with _______ for a while. Toward the end of my hour long prayer shift at the chapel this morning, I finally relented and decided to “deal with it.”
I sat there and thought about the hard time I’d had with _______. I wondetra1red why the slightest interaction with _______ bothered me and why I took umbrage at ______ remarks. This really had been a mystery to me for quite some time. As I sat there, finally willing to bring this mystery to God in prayer, it occurred to me that it is because of resentment.

I’ve talked about resentment a-plenty in retreat settings. Heck, I could give a pretty good talk on it right this instant if you called me (5 minute, 10 minute and 20 minute options). I can even recommend to you a great song that addresses it and helps you see that forgiving another does not require that they act first (apologize) but that it is its own thing that frees you, who have unknowingly been its prisoner. I’m just showing off now. Back to my story…

The first line of St. Francis’ “Prayer before the Crucifix” pleads that God will “Enlighten the darkness of my heart.” As I sat there, newly aware of this resentment, I prayed/thought about that line.
The metaphor for resentment that came to me this morning involves [last chance to turn back and go to another blog post] kidney stones. tra1Resentment is like a kidney stone. What was I really asking when I asked God to “Enlighten the darkness of my heart”? I began to picture this resentment toward _____ as something like a kidney stone. I saw it as a calcified, mummified, gray stone. It doesn’t make its home in my kidney, but in my heart. It occurred to me that resentment is not the same as brand new, fresh hurt and anger, which is a living, breathing thing. Resentment is this unprocessed, un-dealt-with mass of old hurt and anger.
By asking God to “Enlighten the darkness of my heart”, I let all the spot lights, motion detector lights, laser beams and compact tra1fluorescents bathe the inside of my heart with light, even to bathe this stony thing with light. There it sat. I could see it as plain as day. It had been there for a long time. I thought it was my little secret which I could keep hidden. Well, these things don’t remain completely hidden since we don’t actually control them. It is obvious to others there’s something there that has not been dealt with. Now that it was exposed, for me to see and acknowledge and recognize, I felt something like relief. The mystery had been revealed!
tra1Next, I thought about the promise to have a heart made of flesh, not of stone. (The googler just told me that is from Ezekiel 36:26.) My entire heart is not made of stone but this one resentment is a stony thing that occupied space in my heart, for sure.
This morning, before the rooster crowed and somebody’s dogs scratched at the door, I made the decision to take that stone and hand it over to the Lord. I’m tired of it. I’m tired of reacting. I’m tired of dreading my inevitable interactions with ________. I do feel a little different now, five hours later.  There are more steps to take from here, though. That place in my heart where that ugly mass of old hurt and anger resided needs healing. If it is not healed, the thing might reappear in the same spot. That healing will happen through prayer. I know this can happen. Many years ago, I shared an apartment with someone who was hard to livtra1e with. A wise friar advised me to pray for her. I was able to get over myself and over my resentment when I prayed for her. I began to see her differently and even felt compassion for her. That’s what I must do now.