Your First Rosary

Exactly one hour later, to the exact second that you slid into sleep, your father comes up to check on the kids, and he sees you with the rosary tangled in your fingers, and he silently goes downstairs and gets your mother, whose hands are soapy as she turns toward him questioningly from the sink, but she knows him, and she rinses her hands and dries them on that old blue towel, and she comes upstairs too, and they stand over your bed for a few minutes, in the moonlight. Neither of them says a word, but they never forget those few moments, and even now sometimes, for no reason at all, all these years later, one of them remembers, and says something quietly to the other, and they both smile and feel a pang of joy and glory and sorrow. As it was in the beginning is now, and ever shall be, world without end, amen.

—From the book Eight Whopping Lies and Other Stories of Bruised Grace

Black and Catholic

“What does it mean to be black and Catholic? It means that I come to my church fully functioning. I bring myself, my black self, all that I am, all that I have, all that I hope to become. I bring my whole history, my traditions, my experience, my culture, my African-American song and dance and gesture and movement and teaching and preaching and healing and responsibility as gift to the Church.”

—Sr. Thea Bowman, as quoted in the book The Franciscan Saints

Because It's Hard

I was in a monastery the other day and got to talking to a monk who, when I asked him why he was a monk, why he volunteered for a job liable to loneliness, a commitment to an idea no one can ever prove or document, a task that entails years of labor in the belief that somehow washing dishes and cutting grass and listening to pain and chanting in chapel matters in the long scheme of things, said, because it’s hard.

—from the book Eight Whopping Lies and Other Stories of Bruised Grace

Finding God in His Creation

While both Clare and Francis left the world to pursue God insofar as they abandoned their status, wealth and security, never did they renounce the world for the sake of God. Rather, they realized that the created world was the world embraced by God; thus God could not be found apart from the world. The world, not the monastery, was the true cloister.

—from the book Clare of Assisi: A Heart Full of Love

Joy at the Heart of the Franciscan Alleluia

I believe the joy that is at the heart of the Franciscan alleluia proceeds from this inner realization, which descends upon us at ever deeper levels as we walk our faith journey. This deepening is the only real goal of Christian contemplation, and is the heart of the Perennial Tradition of wisdom. This is how Francis and Clare, and all contemplatives, “know” things: “The soul itself is an image of God, to which God is so present that the soul can actually grasp God, and ‘is capable of possessing God and of being a partaker in God” (Saint Bonaventure). With that we can move forward. In fact, we can move far and wide and confidently forward.

–from the book Eager to Love: The Alternative Way of Francis of Assisi

A Pilgrim Prays by Walking

That is very simply what a pilgrim does: walk. And it is the way the pilgrim prays, with his or her feet. And the feet walk through dark clouds to illumination to the light that is holy action. Through dark, cloud-filled days to a hint of subtle lightening to the sun breaking through, the feet taking us where we least thought we’d go, where before we had thought darkness dwelt, and finding there instead, in bright sunlight, the broken, the poor, the marginal, those made ugly or disfigured by abuse and oppression and woundedness. We are changed simply by walking, rain or shine, toward and back from whatever shrine we had thought contained our hope and longing. We walk back toward what was there all along that we could not see.

–from the book Enter Assisi: An Invitation to Franciscan Spirituality

The Hiding Place for God’s Spirit

Our outer world and its inner significance must come together for there to be any wholeness—and holiness. The result is both deep joy and a resounding sense of coherent beauty. What was personified in the body of Jesus was a manifestation of this one universal truth: Matter is, and has always been, the hiding place for Spirit, forever offering itself to be discovered anew.

Francis and Clare carried this mystery to its full and lovely conclusions. Or, more rightly, they were fully carried by it. They somehow knew that the beyond was not really beyond, but in the depths of here.

–from the book Eager to Love: The Alternative Way of Francis of Assisi

The Gospel Calls Us to Live Simply

When you agree to live simply, you can understand what Francis meant when he said, “A brother has not given up all things if he holds onto the purse of his own opinions.” Most of us find out that this purse is far more dangerous and disguised than a money purse, and we seldom let go of it.

–from the book Eager to Love: The Alternative Way of Francis of Assisi

The Wall within Our Own Hearts

Always, it seems, there is the “enemy” beyond the walls, which may be of our own making, who wants to sneak in and take over our city, appropriating as his or her own the property and goods and people within. And those of us within know and fear this threat to our lives and, in turn, wall ourselves in for protection, even though the “enemy” may already be inside our walls, may in fact reside within our own walled-in hearts.

–from the book Enter Assisi: An Invitation to Franciscan Spirituality

Meeting God in the Upper Room