Natus in Via
Born on the Way
Sept. 3, 2020
St. Gregory the Great
[Francis’] words seemed to her
to be on fire
and [his] deeds were seen
to be beyond the human.
Legend of Clare 5.4
A fruitful adventure in historical imagination would be trekked by those who – holding dear Francis & Clare and most dear Our Lord & Our Lady – gaze upon the marvelous wonder that is the unexpected. It is very possible that the most adventurous souls expect the unexpected, for it is truly a source of wonder. This happy outlook is hidden within what we call trust, confidence.
The young Chiara di Assisi knew well that her decision to “sell all” would not be looked upon favorably by her family. It was a certainty that they would seek her out; find an explanation. We forget that, as far as we can tell, the immediate family has no foreknowledge. Her cousin, Rufino, already a Friar, almost certainly knew.
Clare’s companion who would go with her to speak to Saint Francis, Lady Bona of Guelfuccio, was “conveniently” out of town, she had gone to Rome for Lent (cf. Process of Canonization XVII). Yet, sometime before Holy Week, Clare went once more to visit Francis. Perhaps it was before Lent altogether, or it was Rufino who helped, or a certain Brother Philip mentioned by Bona. In any case… we continue with the story:
The father Francis had told her that on the day of the feast, she should go, dressed and adorned, together with the crowd of people, to [receive] a palm, and, on the following night, leaving the camp she should turn her worldly joy into mourning the Lord’s passion. (LegCl 7.3).
She did. And the continuing of the story, what that night was like, is for many other posts. A foundation, again, is the happiest of unexpectations. Normally, the best things that happen to us are unexpected. Laughter, for example, is greatest and most buoyant when the punch line, or turn of events, is totally unforeseen. It sheds new light, reveals what was hidden. Most of all, it reminds us of the greater fullness which is found in Joy.
As G.K. Chesterton put it, laughter “makes men forget themselves in the presence of something greater than themselves.” Bigger somethings include thoughts, expressions, experiences, the human community, “natural” community, and ultimately the Divine Community (I am tempted to write The Divine Comedy). All of us are filled, whether we like it or not, with expectations. Each and every one of these are for better or for worse. It is not that we are to be unrealistic, but that hope itself give buoyancy to our steps.
Above all, the totally unexpected expression of loving goodness, of a Presence greater than ourselves, yet humbled to be also totally united with our nature, is the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus, the Most Holy Eucharist. Who would have ever thought God would be so humble, greatly small and hidden. Here we can absolutely trust that, should we love and remain in His Love, we will come to the fullness of Joy (cf. Ps 16).
Fr. Paschal Mary, MFVA