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Archive for August 12th, 2011

Father Francis and his companions were making a trip through the Spoleto Valley near the town of Bevagna. Suddenly, Francis spotted a great number of birds of all varieties. There were doves, crows and all sorts of birds. Swept up in the moment, Francis left his friends in the road and ran after the birds, who patiently waited for him. He greeted them in his usual way, expecting them to scurry off into the air as he spoke. But they moved not.

Filled with awe, he asked them if they would stay awhile and listen to the Word of God. He said to them: “My brother and sister birds, you should praise your Creator and always love him: He gave you feathers for clothes, wings to fly and all other things that you need. It is God who made you noble among all creatures, making your home in thin, pure air. Without sowing or reaping, you receive God’s guidance and protection.”

At this the birds began to spread their wings, stretch their necks and gaze at Francis, rejoicing and praising God in a wonderful way according to their nature. Francis then walked right through the middle of them, turned around and came back, touching their heads and bodies with his tunic.

Then he gave them his blessing, making the sign of the cross over them. At that they flew off and Francis, rejoicing and giving thanks to God, went on his way.

Later, Francis wondered aloud to his companions why he had never preached to birds before. And from that day on, Francis made it his habit to solicitously invoke all birds, all animals and reptiles to praise and love their Creator. And many times during Francis’ life there were remarkable events of Francis speaking to the animals. There was even a time when St. Francis quieted a flock of noisy birds that were interrupting a religious ceremony! Much to the wonder of all present, the birds remained quiet until Francis’ sermon was complete.

From the Little Flowers of St Francis                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Art by Bolton Morris

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This is so Fine

That I am just going to post the whole thing.  From Terry Nelson, at Abbey Roads:

FRIDAY, AUGUST 12, 2011

Terry’s totally wondrous mystical adventure at the opthamologist’s office on the feast of St. Clare.

So much to tell…
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First of all, I thought it was significant that my appointment fell on the feast of St. Clare of Assisi, my favorite of the saints who embraced poverty so generously.  Her name means ‘clear and bright’ – two important attributes for good vision and sight – indicating light – since sight is light, or facilitated by it.  St. Clare’s is clear and bright – get it?
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So anyway – there was good news and bad news for me.  Good news, glaucoma is in it’s very early stages, bad news isn’t really bad at all – I just have to have surgery for cataracts.  I protested, “But doctor, I’m so young, I just turned 35 on May 16th!”  I didn’t mention what year of course.  C’est dommage.  Unfortunately I have more tests next week – but I’ll offer it up.
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My encounter with Islam.
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My real adventure took place in the waiting room.  I spoke with two heavily veiled Muslim women from Somalia.  I was very surprised they would speak with me – whenever I’ve encountered Muslim women in stores or on the street they seem rather aloof and distant, and I have never had the chance to speak with them – and I wasn’t sure I was allowed to do so.  These ladies were very friendly and nice once I initiated the conversation.  I started out by expressing concern and sympathy for their people suffering from famine.
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Naturally I had to bring up their fast for Ramadan and they told me all about it.  I marveled and told them how much I admire their austerity and devotion.  The one lady laughed and said, “But you Catholics spend 40 days doing the same, don’t you.”
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“No, no, no – not at all like that.”  I then went on to explain how we fast from candy and abstain from meat on Friday and have only 2 required fast days on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday – otherwise we don’t do much unless one lives in a monastery of cloistered nuns.  Then I told what happens if St. Patrick’s day falls on a Friday and how we can be dispensed from fasting and even get drunk – it was then she reminded me that they do not drink alcohol in Islam.  But my new friend seemed not to believe me since she went on to tell me that while she lived in Italy everyone seemed to be fasting during Lent.  (I know!  I didn’t think the Italians still did stuff like that either.)
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I laughed again and assured her that even in Italy no one fasts like they do in Islam.  I then wondered to myself if perhaps the increase of Islamic immigrants into the once Christian west wasn’t on some deeper level meant to awaken Christians to a more fervent practice of our Christian faith?  The fidelity of Muslims to their faith is admirable and for the most part, puts many of us Christians to shame.
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These ladies were so pleasant and kind, and so respectful, I was very much impressed.  I recalled how highly regarded Blessed Charles de Foucauld held the Muslims in whose midst he lived, and I felt I understood something of the great love and respect the Trappist martyrs of Atlas had for the Muslims they lived amongst.
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One on one – if everyone could know one another and would love one another and respect one another.  I want to try to live as devoutly as a Muslim does – I want to try to be a better Catholic, a better man.
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The doctor from Punjab
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My other mystical encounter was with my doctor, who is from India – and he is a Hindu.  I asked if I could ask him a personal question – he obliged me and answered, “I am a Hindu.”  Then we talked about Hinduism, the gods, the shrines, the saints, and the iconography, prompting him to ask, “How do you know so much about Hinduism?”  After jokingly telling him I was a big Beatles fan, I explained I had once worked with a Hindu man and that I was fascinated by the various cults and art and how  much of it paralleled the Roman Catholic veneration of the saints, and so on.  He seemed quite pleased.
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I too was pleased.  It struck me on the way home that it is only the extremist factions within political- religious groups who stir up the passions and incite hatred for anyone outside their respective cult – otherwise, the ordinary people accept one another as they are.  There is a bad zeal which always threatens religious groups, it is a temptation to fundamentalism that always needs to be tempered and resisted, otherwise it becomes fanaticism and extremism, which is based in hate, and never love.

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