Saturday, December 20, 2008

Saint Francis of Assisi

Push really is getting to shove.
I remember some years ago jotting down at the top of the day's journal entry the name of Saint Thomas Aquinas and having my hand shake as I did so. When I tapped in the title for today's blogspot it was my chest that took the hit. The mystic's body is a veritable road map full of mine fields for tangible reactions to the Spirit's overflow.
It's always nice to have the little troubadour and wolf tamer around, of course, because not only does he carry an enormous clout on his own behalf, but he's more likely than not to bring some of the old original team with him. Giles, Bernard, Cupertino the flying cook, Clare and her little sister, just to name a few of the first round of the insightful, and then if you tack on some of the later gang, Anthony of Lisbon and Padua, Bonaventure, and from our own time, Padre Pio, the roster puts you in mind of some of the sports teams of all times, like the Yankees or the old Montreal Canadians, allowing for the significant contempt for money in the case of the Franciscans.
But I'm not here to talk about my relation with the heavenly head of the world's largest religious order.
Marianne is the item of the day. She's had a vision of Saint Francis.
One of the unique and most telling features of the qualities of our newish bishop is our freedom to attend more church functions than the obligatory weekend Mass. We have been able to go to daily mass if the bishop is in town to say it, and the month of Advent itself got off to a very graceful start with two Corriveau appearances, with Bishop John calling a meeting to tell us he was not going to move the bishop's chair from our cathedral to the admittedly much more populous Okanagan Valley and the city of Kelowna, and then a few days later speaking at a prayer breakfast. (Kelowna had got itself quite psyched up with its hopes for a loftier status, and Nelson had been worried.)Both of these episcopal appearances brought some very pleasant graces. There was an especially nice light from heaven while he was preaching at the mass before the parish meeting.
The location of Marianne's vision was again the cathedral, on Tuesday evening when the bishop was presiding and preaching at the annual penance celebration. There were a number of other priests present to hear the confessions that followed, and one of these was a Capuchin recently appointed as acting pastor at the church in Castlegar, where Marianne and I took refuge for four solid years with the great Herman Engberink, SMA. Well, refuge for her. For me it was the only way to avoid getting loud and possibly violent with the pastor of the day, and as our absence was nothing but noticeable to the parish public it was a much more effective punishment than a good drubbing.
On Sundays we always sit in the gallery, at the back and above the lower floor. In the silly season after the beginning of 1988, this meant we could put down the kneelers when all about us the rebellious and easily misled sheep were refusing to use theirs. Prior to 88, when certain Canadian bishops and priests were playing the fool with the ancient custom of kneeling during the consecration, the habitual household pews were to be found close to the front, on the congregation's left-hand side of the cathedral. This was also my favoured location for a private visit and chat with the resident saints and their Maker. In recent months, for other than Sunday service, we have returned to the front pews, under the crucifix above and to the left, and the Sacred Heart and the tabernacle in front. In our church, Mary is at the front, above the bishop's chair.
Saint Clare is the patron of television, so I have read, because once when she was sick and could not attend the Christmas midnight mass, Christ gave her a running vision of it anyway.
Marianne wasn't sick. She'd better not be. Too many preparations for Christmas, for one thing, and I can still get into trouble with the computer and need my tech. But she was finding the so-called examination of conscience in the penance pamphlet rather tedious, so Francis took pity on her and showed up kneeling on the carpeted steps below the tabernacle. He had his back to her, she says, but he stayed for the rest of the service and apparently has hung around since.
To keep the ecclesiastical record straight, I should mention that he had shown up earlier in the house, twice during the past year since the announcement of our Capuchin appointment, but there did not seem to be any promise of permanency on those occasions.
I should also point out that the vision was not of the material and external kind, like the apparitions of Mary to children, but of the brand that comes to mature contemplatives and their interior life. This means it is something seen with the image-making faculties of the soul, but not created by the imagination.
Pseudo-psychiatrists tempted to try to second guess this information should realize that one of the first authors I read in the autumn of 1956, after leaving law school for the first time, was Sigmund Freud. He remains a thinker who inevitably gets mixed reviews from this writer. On occasions like this one he's hilarious.
As the Lord himself once said to me, "Before psychiatry, I am." Is there a modern bishop, anywhere in the world, who can understand the full force of such a statement in our times? If so, I'd like to meet him.

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