Excerpt from The Love Letters, a fictional account of what the revered Saint Francis and Saint Clare of Assisi may have written to each other upon learning of Pope Francis’ rise to leader of the Church.
Words: Letter from Clare to Francis
These words that we share are God in flesh. Love is God in flesh. Every time you open your heart and your words pour forth, I feel like I am coming home. To have a home and someone to share this home with, this is so beautiful, such a blessing. Thank you Francis for bringing me home to God. Thank you for bringing me home to everything which is good. May our hearts burn in a great flame so everyone will find the light we find, enjoy the tenderness and strength we know. May everyone celebrate each day as you do, Francis. Despite your pains and trials you celebrate. And I celebrate with you!
Speaking of words, I have more news from the new Bishop of Rome. His words are spreading across the valley. People who normally are not listening are listening. People who normally turn their heads away are asking, “What is he saying?”
I heard he speaks each day in his homily like a true brother of Francis. He speaks what’s on his heart, in his heart. It is said sometimes he cries! Recently he made a very striking declaration, “To the pastors of the Church, bishops and priests, you must take on ‘the odor of the sheep.’”
Imagine he tells the Church elders they should smell like the odor of sheep! Yes, we are all sheep following our Lord as He protects and takes care of each of us. With His staff, he leads the way. Do you think the Church elders will take off their perfume and live side by side with the people in the streets? Do you think the Church bishops will be common sheep like the rest of us?
Francis, our new Bishop of Rome is a fool for God just like you! How wonderful! Like you, may he also be a mirror of God. May he be an instrument of God as you, my dear Francis. May our new bishop truly find my brother Francis in his heart and in his every word!
I will never forget when I found you Francis. You were in the square at San Rufino Church in Assisi. You spoke and my heart leaped. I never thought I would hear such words. I knew in that moment I had found you and that I would follow you wherever the Lord took you. You were in my heart fixed from the beginning. I pray that our new bishop will be such a magnet and many will fix their heart to him.
I was told just today our new bishop called out “the great ideologists who want to interpret Jesus in a purely human vein.” He called them “intellectuals without talent, ethicists without goodness. And of beauty he will not speak because they do not understand…” My God, our new bishop is only in his office a short while and already he is calling out the intellectuals to come out of their towers and come down to Earth. He is calling them to come down and be with the great love. He is calling them to witness life’s beauty, of which there is no debate.
If words can change the Church, our new bishop will change the Church. I heard he recently said, “We are all part of a love story, a story that began long ago. We, the women and men of the Church, we are in the middle of a love story: each of us is a link in this chain of love.”
Francis, when I heard this from our new Bishop of Rome, I thought it was you talking! Our bishop in his humility has found your heart, your words. Imagine if he keeps your heart and words, travels the world, and tells everyone about our Lord, about this love story that is not complete until every heart is included?
Today, I sit in my garden reading over and over again the sayings of our new bishop. Words can be God’s flesh when they are true. These words are God’s love touching the world. Words, dear Francis, thank you so much for your letters, your words. You lift my God high in my heart in a world that does not believe. Your words and I remember. You lift my love and I say, “Yes, yes, yes!”
Silence: Letter to Clare from Francis
It is good to hear our new bishop in Rome is finding the right words. The people need to hear they are not alone. They need to hear they are not wrong. Priests and lay people, bishops and lepers, we all are doing the best we can. We are all reaching to God’s light in the many forests of this world.
I have moved on. I am now resting on another mountain peak, breathing the vista of the Rieti Valley stretching out below. Everything is quiet. I hear only stillness outside and within. I rest in holy silence. Sister Wind comes by once in a while and keeps me company. Her gentle chatter is just enough to touch my loneliness. Each day, at least once, sometimes twice, I see Brother Hawk as he swoops down and climbs high above me. He reminds me where to direct my thoughts.
My thoughts are in the silence. There is a great silence within. When the world is not knocking on my door, there is another door. God is on the other side. Slowly this door opens inside and there He is! Every day, every time He is different. Our Lord has a face of silence. Endless silence is His smile. His eyes glow of peace. Such peace, it is difficult to look at Him directly. I wait anxiously watching his mouth. It does not move. There is not a word spoken. In the emptiness of the quiet, the silence shapes and forms my mind. I let go of expectation. Why do I expect so much instead of enjoying what is? Silence. I let go of disappointment. Why do I judge myself? Why do I see sin? Silence. When I look in the eyes of my Lord, there is no sin. Yes, there is no sin. Love, only love, a special love dressed in peace is overwhelming present.
I have learned that even though my heart is small, so human, once I go inside this doesn’t matter. In the silence of my heart, God extends forever. During the night, my bones rattle. The pains in my chest come and go. But I am free, Clare. Freedom is in the silence.
The silence washes my soul. Every part of me is washed. My Lord is washing my hands, my feet, my face. Peace is washing all of me. In the silence, I don’t carry anything. I don’t carry any thought. I just try to be. There is so much God!
Clare on the mountain, minutes are hours which pass into days. Words disappear. This world melts away. There is a Heaven, Clare. Yes, there is a great Heaven. I find the silence unveiling a greater silence which can only be described as Heaven.
Read more about Pope Francis and Saint Francis of Assisi in HEARTFULLY PRESENT: Pope Francis reminds us of St. Francis and the heart of spirituality>>
|Bruce Davis, Ph.D., is the author of The Love Letters: Saint Francis and Saint Clare of Assisi Meet Pope Francis. Davis, a globally respected psychologist, has spent the last three decades promoting the inner peace that was the cornerstone of these two saints’ lives. He and his wife Ruth began leading retreats in 1983, and eventually came to open the Assisi Retreat Centre in Assisi, Italy, which was called one of the world’s 10 best by both Travel and Leisure Magazine and CNN. Today, they operate Silent Stay, a new retreat center on a stunning hillside near Napa, California, where many come to turn off their electronic tethers for meditation, quiet and inner exploration.|