15 July 2008

Happy Feast of Saint Bonaventure!!!

To all my Franciscan Sisters and Brothers, a very happy feast day! For me it is a bit bittersweet. Last week on retreat we celebrated the solemnity of St Benedict big time, and I remarked to one person that I began the retreat feeling decidedly Franciscan. Today on the Feast of St Bonaventure I am feeling decidedly Benedictine and Camaldolese Benedictine at that --- whatever those two statements actually mean! Being formed in one spiritual tradition and changing to another can leave one feeling a bit off balance and as though one doesn't "quite fit" in either. And yet, I am also aware that this is very much my own personal hangup because at bottom in all the really great spiritual traditions there is a commonality which cannot be gainsayed --- and that is especially true in the contemplative strands or dimensions of these traditions. Of course it is also the case that the individual is a living embodiment of the tradtions, not a sterile image of a particular vision of it, and so, brings individual characteristics, breadth and richness which will then enrich the tradition as the tradition in turn forms the individual.

This is one of the things I most appreciate about Camaldolese Benedictines, who often have been formed in other spiritual traditions and then come to eremitical (and specifically Romualdian eremitical) life later. Camaldolese Benedictinism has an appreciation of other contemplative and mystical traditions, including those which are non-Christian despite never losing a Christocentric emphasis or focus. As the person I commented to noted, "Once you are a Franciscan, I don't think you ever stop being a Franciscan!" --- and she is correct. And yet, the simplicity and joy which are characteristic of Franciscanism are very much Benedictine qualities as well, and how could that not be? They are both Christian, having taken on the life of Christ whose yoke is easy, and whose burden light! So, from a "Franciscan-Camaldolese-Benedictine" to all who celebrate today as their special feast, my love and very best wishes!!

Perhaps just in writing this, I have come to the realization that today is not bittersweet at all (except maybe for an overly influential ego-self that is!), but remarkably joyful because of the amazing ways in which God works in our lives, and in the stages of each. It is not a matter of being Franciscan OR Camaldolese Benedictine afterall, but of being MYSELF who is formed in the heart of both traditions and embodies (and bridges) them uniquely even while claiming one as my primary affiliation and place of truest "stability!" Alleluia!