Friday, June 29, 2007

Bring Me Your Tired, Your Poor, Your Breast

There are not many things in my life that I have undertaken with absolute certainty. I am not a risk taker, but not many choices we make in life are risk free or absolute certainties. We go to college intending to be one thing; we do our best to accomplish that goal, though often we find ourselves down the road doing something completely different. We make commitments to partners hoping it will be for a lifetime , but that is not for certain. And so on . . .

The only decision that I have made in my life that I can say, with absolute certainty, I was 100% sure of, was my decision to lead my life as a Franciscan. The example that Brother Francis gives me is everything that I need in this life. Francis was a real person who had real human emotions and made real human mistakes. But ultimately, his love for all of creation and his commitment to God set him apart. I see glimpses of myself in almost every story from Francis' life - from the rebellious teenager singing and partying in the streets of Assisi to the naked man who lay dying on the dirt floor of a cave. His was a life marked by love, humility, and joy It is a life, that through the grace of God, I am striving to follow.

The brothers who were speaking on the Franciscan source documents concluded their presentation this morning. They gave an insightful discussion about how to read the Franciscan Rule of 1223 in 2007. Their suggestions are really applicable to reading almost any historical document (like the Bible) whose words are to be followed in modern times. For example, the original Franciscan rule says that no friar shall ride a horse. Why are horses forbidden?, you ask. Does that mean that none of us can ride a horse? Absolutely not. One must ask oneself why horses were off limits in 1223. The answer is because they were a sign of violence and wealth. So horses themselves are not a problem, but to Francis, violence and wealth were. For us reading, interpreting, and attempting to follow the spirit of this rule, it is necessary to ask ourselves, "What in our society represents violence and wealth?" However you answer this question determines what you insert in place of "horse" in this section of the rule. We all decided that Hummers take this place of horses in 2007. But, you should answer the question for yourselves.

The other part of today's discussion centered on the miracles of St. Francis. Recording and verification of miracles are necessary for a saint to be canonized. I must admit, that I have not done much reading on the miracles that Francis performed. I discovered today that this is probably a good thing. Had I known about the miracle I am about to tell you about, I might have had to reconsider my belief that my decision to take vows in TSSF was without any feeling of uncertainty.

There was an 80 year old woman. She had the mind of an 80 year old, the body of an 80 year old, and the family of an 80 year old. As the story goes, this woman's doughier gave birth to a son. The infant refused to nurse. Over a period of several days, the baby grew weaker and weaker. Being pained by the demise of her grandson, the elderly woman took over the care of the baby. She prayed to Francis that health be restored to the ailing child. The grandmother then placed the baby at her own breast. Almost instantly, her breasts were filled with milk and the child began to nurse. According to the story, some men were mocking the old lady; she turned and aimed her milk-filled breast at them and soaked them all. The infant returned to health.

I am not sure I want Francis in my life if there is any way in the world that I could be lactating at age 80! I did not even breast feed my own children. What a story. I have never considered a milk-filled breast as a weapon, (maybe breasts should be used in place of horses above) but it seems to have worked for grandma.

I suppose that if God called me to feed the hungry and this were the way to do it, I would do so. Do you think God provides those pads that go in your bra? Do you think that those old lady boobs perked up? I should not worry about these things; I have 35 years before this scenario is a possibility. (The 80 years old is the important part, right?)

I come to you humbly Brother Francis asking that you please, please, please, find another way for me.