Notes on Chapter 9: Learning More about St Francis and Creation

Eager to loveChapter nine, “The Legacy of Clare: Living the Life at Depth

Quote from page 138-139

Clare’s letters and writings are so consistently upbeat, positive, hopeful, encouraging to others, and lovingly visionary that we can only conclude that she faced her demons down, dove into the negativity that all of us avoid in ourselves and in the world, and came out the other side as clear light or Chiara. Clare allowed herself no place to run or hide, and lived for forty years in one little spot of earth, outside the walls of Assisi, called San Damiano. She was both a master and mistress of letting go of all that was unnecessary or unimportant. She went inside instead of outside, and subsequently discovered the outside  to be a perfect mirror for the grace she had already found within – and vice versa. Clare went deep instead of far, low instead of high – and thus redefined both high and low. Breaking all records, the formal process for her canonization began only two months after she died.

Conversation Question

  • “Clare went deep instead of far, low instead of high.” What does this quote mean to you?

Quote from page 141-142

Clare experientially understood prayer as an actual transformation of the self, a reflected glory, even daring to speak of “allowing your entire being to be transformed into the image of the Godhead itself.” This was surely not common Catholic language in the Western Church at that time and would have seemed presumptuous or even heretical to many (as it may even seem today).

Clare directly expresses what the Eastern Church held onto under the name of divinization (theosis). Theosis was understood as a true, objective sharing and growing in our divine nature, which was then reflected and received in humans as in a mirror. All we can really do is polish our own mirror to reflect the gift of this Godself more perfectly. Thus the objectively given “image” at our conception becomes subjective “likeness” over time, building on the foundational metaphors that we were created in both the image and the likeness of God (Genesis 1:26).

Conversation Question

  • How would you describe your being created in the image and likeness of God?

Quote from page 145-146

The contemplative mind, which is really prayer itself, is not subject to a mere passing on of objective information. It must be practiced and learned, just like playing the piano or shooting basketballs. I do suspect that the Poor Clares’ overwhelming emphasis on poverty and letting go gave them a head start in understanding prayer as a surrendering more than an accomplishment, an acquisition, or a performance that pleased God.  They were already experts in self-emptying (kenosis) and letting go. In other words, poverty is first of all for the sake of prayer, and not totally an end in itself.

Conversation Question

  • How could you incorporate the statement that “poverty is first of all for the sake of prayer, and not totally an end in itself” into your life?