Those High A's
Behold Him! Consider Him! Contemplate Him, desiring to imitate Him! When St. Clare of Assisi confided to St. Agnes of Prague the secret of her prayer life, little did she know that she was giving the entire Franciscan family an enduring pattern of prayer and a challenging program of life. Behold Him! Consider Him! Contemplate Him, desiring to imitate Him! This is how Clare "learned" Christ from St. Francis — and this is how the Seraphic parents desire all their followers to learn and follow the Son of God who has become for us the Way (TESTAMENT OF ST. CLARE) Having beheld Christ in His mysteries with the eyes of faith, we are invited to Consider Him. The Latin root of the word "consider" gives the key to this next step in the Clarian/Franciscan program. Con + sidera means literally "with the stars." We are to look to Christ in the same way as sailors look at the stars in order to keep their ships on course through the night. Francis and Clare studied, at length and intently, the Great Star who is Christ, ordering their life's course by the light of the virtues which shone forth from Him. In this series we shall join our Seraphic parents in their "Star-Gazing" and discover, as they did, a veritable alphabet of virtues.
The evangelical alphabet of St. Francis and St. Clare begins with two "High A" virtues: APPROACHABILITY and ATTENTIVENESS. Even a cursory reading of the Gospels reveals to us how eminently APPROACHABLE Jesus was. His teaching was imbued with authority. The power which came out of Him inspired awe and admiration. And yet, the Son of God was the most approachable of the sons of men. From the disciples at dawn to Nicodemus at night, and every time in between, Jesus was always gracious, welcoming, APPROACHABLE. Cripples and tax collectors, the sick seeking healing and mothers seeking a blessing for their bales were never turned away, sometimes to the dismay of those closest to Him who, hard pressed by the crowds, had time neither to eat nor rest. This APPROACHABILITY deeply impressed the Saints of Assisi. It was something they put into practice, daily and nightly. St. Clare even specified in her Testament that the abbess should be so kind and courteous that [the Sisters] can confidently make known their needs and trustingly have recourse to her at any hour as it will seem to them profitable to do. Perhaps she was remembering that famous night when a young friar, unaccustomed to the rigors of fasting, woke St. Francis up with the pitiful cry, "I am starving!" and received, not a reprimand, but a fraternal midnight snack. Our Seraphic parents were also impressed by Jesus' ATTENTIVENESS to human need. Jesus was moved with pity for the bedraggled crowd. After raising the daughter of Jairus from the dead, He admonished the astounded parents to give their little girl something to eat. Dying on the Cross, He made provision for His widowed Mother by entrusting her to St. John. And so we find St. Francis, attentive to the needs of the robbers, the beggars, the lepers who crossed his path. St. Clare was always on the watch for the needs of her Sisters — in the cold of night, in the vulnerability of sickness, in times of weariness and temptation. We learn from our Lord and from the Saints of Assisi that life presents us with myriad opportunities to cultivate what some might consider the "little virtues" of APPROACHABILITY and ATTENTIVENESS. In reality, both call for large measures of self-denial and self-sacrifice and both reap the large reward of becoming a little more like our infinitely approachable and attentive God.