31 October 2016

Return from Retreat with Brother Mickey McGrath OSFS: An Introduction to Sister Thea Bowman

This weekend I was privileged to be able to attend a retreat themed "Wise and Holy Women" given by Brother Mickey McGrath, OSFS at San Damiano. (My pastor, also an Oblate of Saint Francis de Sales, and my parish picked up the tab for this terrific surprise; it was simply wonderful and I am hoping to share more of it here in time.) As a discrete and additional piece of the weekend, however, a separate but related session, Brother Mickey presented the story of Franciscan Sister Thea Bowman (FSPA) organized around a series of paintings he had done. They include some of those illustrations placed throughout this blog piece.

In the course of this presentation Brother Mickey told the story of Sister Thea's speech at the USCCB in 1989. Sister Thea, dying of breast cancer which had metastasized to her bones, had agreed to do the talk while in remission from significant pain. Then, the morning she was scheduled to leave for the talk her pain returned. She decided to proceed anyway since she had promised to be there and to contribute to a presentation on the reality and experience of Black Catholics in the Universal Church. Sister, a PhD in English Literature and Linguistics, was in a wheel chair; she was too fragile to stand, was in agonizing pain whenever she was touched, and, because the place she was to give her speech was not accessible to those with disabilities, had to be lifted in a chair to the stage.

She began her presentation characterizing her own feelings about being an African American Catholic by singing, Sometimes I feel like a motherless Child. From that moment on one knows one is in the presence of someone alive with the grace and holiness of God. It is an electrifying moment, especially considering her physical condition, and the speech itself is electrifying and inspiring beyond describing. The Bishops themselves (well, most of them) clearly felt similarly. I have included a copy of the video below. If you have not seen it before you simply must do so. To see an educated, articulate, and faith-filled woman Religious calling, chiding, chivvying (gently and with humor) and encouraging brother Catholics and Bishops to be the shepherds of the genuinely Universal Church they are called to be, as well as to see them responding with joy and tears is incredibly powerful. (Only in some cases was serious incomprehension and even resistance also evident!) The video included below is not as good as one available on You Tube (you will need to bear with a kind of fragmented beginning or begin about 5 minutes in) but it is more complete and therefore in some ways more powerful. It includes Sister Thea's introductory song and gives glimpses of the process of getting her to the stage. I hope you enjoy it and are inspired by it as much as I was.


Sr. Thea Bowman, Speech to US Catholic Bishops, 1989.

By the way, Brother Mickey has published a book on Sister Thea which includes the series of paintings referred to above. It is called This Little Light and reflects on the life lessons taught by Thea Bowman. (While it is available on Kindle I would personally suggest one consider instead the hardcover version because an ordinary kindle cannot do justice to the wonderful art which is so central to the book. A Kindle Fire on the other hand might be an excellent way to go though.)

N.B: For those interested in Brother Mickey's paintings, prints, cards, etc., please check with Clear Faith publishing and Embraced By God.org. For those interested in a print-on-demand solution to something you might have seen of Brother Mickey's, please check with Trinity Stores.com. They will do various kinds and sizes of framed prints (including Giclee and prints on wood panels) and also will print on ceramic, clothes, etc.

26 October 2016

On Hermits and "Going it Alone"

 [[Dear Sister,
      I have always had the impression that hermits "go it alone" with God and don't need the assistance of others in day to day matters. I mean I guess they need doctors and things but for other kinds of healing need to turn to God alone. But you seemed to say that you turned to your director and not to God over the past few months. Isn't this contrary to your vocation? Shouldn't you have been able to dwell with God alone to find the healing you needed?]]

Thanks for your questions. I think they represent a somewhat stereotypical idea of eremitical life that may be quite common. I suspect that this idea is common among some hermits even. I am not sure of that. I will say that your impression represents a temptation for me sometimes, the temptation to "go it alone" and to convince myself that doing so means doing it with God in isolation when in fact God is calling me to get the assistance I need (including the assistance God desires to give me) from others who are a significant part of this ecclesial vocation. What I mean is this: God comes to us all, hermits and non hermits, in many different ways. God comes to us in solitary prayer of course, but also in liturgical prayer, the Sacraments, the daily readings, lectio divina, interactions with others, the privileged time with our spiritual directors, the directions of legitimate superiors, conversations with good friends, a simple hug from a fellow parishioner or our pastor, etc, etc. All of these point to the profound and paradoxical relatedness which characterizes eremitical solitude as codified in Church (canon) law.

The Hermit as Ecclesiola:

A hermit lives in the silence of solitude, of course. The work and prayer she does is solitary --- a matter of living from and for her relationship with God (in communion with God) in physical solitude. But even within this overarching and definitive context, one must also discern when God (him)self wills the hermit to turn more directly to others so that the life God summons her to can be embraced more fully and truly. This is another dimension of having an ecclesial vocation --- a vocation which is part of the Church's own patrimony --- and living a solitude which is embedded within a faith community, is integral to and lives from and for that community.

One of the things I have written about a number of times is that the hermit is not simply a lone person. S/he is an "ecclesiola" --- a "little church" to use Peter Damian's term, a paradigm, that is, of the praying Church. The canonical hermit especially is not simply a lone person trying to "go it alone" while spending time saying prayers or doing pious things. Of course she will do these things, but on a much deeper level the hermit lives a desert spirituality in Christ,  a spirituality dependent upon God alone within the Body of Christ in whose name she has been called and consecrated. Thus she will draw from the Church's life sacramentally, intellectually, emotionally and psychologically, and she will do this through the privileged mediatory channels the Church requires her to build into her solitary eremitical life: parish and diocesan life, Rule and spiritual direction, and the supervision of legitimate superiors (Bishop, Vicars, and delegate).

Spiritual Direction as Incarnational:

Bearing that in mind it is important that I correct one statement you made, namely, that I turned to my director and not to God in the past five months. Nothing could be further from the truth. Turning to my director as I did this last Summer on June 1st was a way of turning to God, a way of allowing the wounded parts of my heart to be opened to God and effectively transformed and healed by God through the mediation of a human heart and intellect, a divinized (that is, a profoundly humanized) presence expressed and realized in truly human hearing, address, love, and touch. In this work my director used her professional expertise and competence of course, and above all, she worked with me in light of her own relationship with God in all the ways God lives in and through her.

The work was therefore profoundly incarnational; in the person of my director, God assumed flesh --- just as is meant to be the case with any Christian who has responded faithfully to the call to truly embody Christ. This is not hyperbole. It is the very meaning of Christian existence. Let me be as clear on that as I possibly can. The relationship with my director is, as in all authentic direction relationships, a sacramental one; over the past few months, however, that became more subjectively true than ever. In these five months I poured out my heart to God (and to Sister Marietta!) --- more profoundly than I had ever managed before; I clung in growing and deepening trust and faith to God in the person of my director and through her (in addition to the ordinary and more solitary ways God comes to me) God effected a healing I truly could not have imagined. My very capacity to be this open was a sign of healing and growth --- not because I had purposely withheld myself from the work of direction (much less of prayer!), but because dimensions of my heart were not even accessible to me and could not be made so vulnerable in the past. Please understand that such vulnerability is itself the fruit of Divine Love and thus, a grace of God --- as is any person who loves us in a way which empowers such vulnerability, openness and trust.

Choose LIFE!

My vocation to eremitical solitude, as I mentioned a couple of months ago, is not in question, but what I am also even clearer about is the importance of making sure hermits have truly competent directors and that they make their commitments to the silence of solitude as decidedly ecclesial vocations. Hermits are part of the Body of Christ and while their lives differ from those of most people in embracing a solitary desert spirituality, the basic decision is for life within the Body --- not for the isolation of death. The transition from more contact with and dependence upon my director to more usual eremitical solitude once again is something she and I will both assume responsibility for just as we both assumed responsibility for a more intense and extensive contact in the first place.

So let me also be clear in the matter of this distinction. It is a call to LIFE, to ABUNDANT LIFE I am meant to live as a hermit; I am not called to a kind of half-life of external or physical solitude which is merely labeled "eremitical" --- heroic as that may seem to others. When life itself requires the mediation of God's presence through the assistance of others the hermit will reach out and accept that assistance and mediation --- though she will do so in a way which protects the essential solitude of her vocation more generally. "God alone" never means an exaggerated dependence on what is often mistakenly taken to be the direct or immediate presence of God without regard to the fruit of this dependence. That way lies narcissism and delusion. Instead hermits, like anyone else, choose LIFE and the God of Life in Christ; moreover they do so by paying attention to the fruit of the choices they make, both in the short and long term.

There are times when we all need the God Who is mediated to us in relationships with other human beings. We need the God mediated in bread and wine and oil, in the proclaimed Word celebrated in human voice and broken open in human thought, or even in a kiss of peace, for instance, which sanctifies (or better maybe, expresses the sanctity of) human touch; in other words we each need the people required to realize all of these and so many more instances of God's sacramental presence. The hermit embraces a vocation which is ecclesial in this sense as well: her call is mediated to her by the Church in one way and another on a daily basis and she responds similarly as is appropriate for one committed to choosing life not death. I find canon 603 to be beautifully written in this sense as well as others I have mentioned in the past: that is, it demands the hermit be living an ecclesial life in every sense both despite and because of  the accent on "stricter separation from the world" and "the silence of solitude". It provides for an approved Rule, for profession governed by the life and canons of the Church, for the supervision of legitimate superiors and (implicitly) spiritual director, for a local (diocesan) Church context and for the sacramental mediation of God's presence all of these provide and allow. Remember that in the Church's wisdom even vocations to actual reclusion require structures and relationships which underscore the mediated and ecclesial character of the recluse hermit's vocational call and response. These allow one to live a healthy anachoresis or "withdrawal" instead of an unhealthy isolation.

The Contemplative Life: Dealing with What IS:

One final word on your last question, "Shouldn't I have been able to "dwell with God alone" and find the healing needed?" Contemplative life is about dealing with reality. I cannot say whether I "should have been" able or not. The fact was I was NOT able to "achieve" the healing necessary without this very specific and intense assistance at this time. I was being called to greater or more abundant life in Christ and that meant working with my director in the way we have for the past five months. We both discerned the truth and necessity of this work. We both paid attention to signs of healing, greater life, shifts in prayer, signs of increased spontaneity, creativity, wholeness, recovered gifts, etc as we engaged in this work. We both understood and were committed (in differing ways) to my eremitical vocation and were clear that paradoxically it was the authenticity of this vocation which made this work possible and even necessary at this time. And, at those many difficult times when I was simply so immersed in the pain and even terror of the work itself and could not hold a wider perspective, I counted on my director (and my delegate, by the way) to do that for me --- and for the Church who has entrusted this vocation to me and to our work together. 

 Again, this is part of the giftedness an ecclesial vocation involves. While this may be a surprise to some, it means I and other canonical hermits are called and empowered to respond to God in the unexpected but very real way God comes to us and less to some more abstract notion of what "should" be the case. The structures and relationships codified in canon law (c 603 etc) are established to serve love and the choice of life by the solitary hermit. It does so by empowering the ability of diocesan hermits to live in the present moment and to avoid significant mistakes in discernment which occur in the absence of competent direction or religious leadership and supervision as we attempt instead and misguidedly to "Go it alone".

I hope this is helpful.

22 October 2016

Oakland Civic Orchestra 23. October.2016



One of the things I have looked freshly at over the past few months is the place of music in my experiences of the Transcendent throughout my life. From the fourth grade on, but especially from 6th grade through high school, music was the principle way in which God's unceasing presence was mediated to me. Music was a sustaining and empowering reality, a source of coherence, order, beauty, and personal, spiritual, and intellectual growth.

Last year I didn't play with Oakland Civic Orchestra at all, not only because an injury made walking almost impossible at times, but (and more importantly) because of various concerns re eremitical life and some work I needed to do with regard to eremitical solitude. It was a good choice and in some ways I think that work in the Fall and Spring eventuated in the inner work undertaken over the past 4.5-5 months. It has been a challenging, painful, and also wonderful number of months and though there is probably more work to be done, the essential healing seems to be completed. (My injury too is almost entirely healed so that is also pretty cool.) So this year I am back with OCO and our first concert is tomorrow afternoon.

It seems one of those amazing bits of timing I associate with this period that, just a week after completing  a very significant chunk of essential healing, life should be marked by a concert with long-time friends and colleagues. God, of course, is immensely --- infinitely--- good and gracious. And in my life the ability to play orchestral and chamber music with others from diverse backgrounds is most often a kind of eighth Sacrament which nourishes and sustains me and my prayer in the silence of solitude. I am looking forward to the concert and the season as a whole (not least because in the final set we will do Beethoven's 5th symphony once again after a number of years) though I must say I am only just getting back up to speed in terms of playing.

The program this set includes Rimsky-Korsakov's Scheherazade and A Life for the Czar Overture by Glinka as well as a set of "Five Fragments" by Shostakovich --- which, it seems to me. were never meant for public consumption and should have been left in whatever cupboard in which they were found! (Just saying!) I am not ordinarily much of a fan of contemporary music and this piece is one of my least favorite ever. But the Glinka and Scheherazade are terrific --- typically Russian pieces folks will relate to! Meanwhile, the video of Finlandia above is from last season's "Sibelius set". Some of the video, especially of the right side of the orchestra, is quite dark but persevere --- it is a backdrop for the light that is also present.

In the words of Dag Hammarskjöld, "For all that has been, thanks. For all that will be, YES!" (Markings)

12 October 2016

Religious Profession: Challenges to one vow are a Challenge to all of Them

[[Dear Sister O'Neal, I saw your vows from the first part of last month. Could I ask you which of these is the most difficult to live?]]

Thanks for your question. I am honestly not sure which single vow is most difficult because I rarely think of them as entirely separate from one another. You see, they overlap substantially and in fact, the way they are written is meant to create a single profession in which they build on and contribute to one another in a way which allows me to give my whole self. What I would like to do is indicate how this is so and provide an example of how personal challenges make ANY vow difficult from time to time. Please note that my focus in not on external elements so much as it is on the elements of my inner life that may distort the way I use or turn to those things outside myself whether these are material possessions (poverty) or involve the distortion of relationships (obedience and chastity).

Religious poverty:

I recognize and accept the radical poverty to which I am called in allowing God to be the sole source of strength and validation in my life. The poverty to which my brokenness, fragility, and weakness attest, reveal that precisely in my fragility I am given the gift of God’s grace, and in accepting my insignificance apart from God, my life acquires the infinite significance of one who knows she has been regarded by Him. I affirm that my entire life has been given to me as gift and that it is demanded of me in service, and I vow Poverty, to live this life reverently as one acknowledging both poverty and giftedness in all things, whether these reveal themselves in strength or weakness, in resiliency or fragility, in wholeness or in brokenness.

There are definitely times when this vow is the most difficult. It is ALWAYS the most fundamental one for me though I see consecrated celibacy as the vow which defines the goal and purpose of my life. Poverty demands a way of approaching and seeing reality which is counter intuitive; it is a sacramental way of seeing reality even when it is painful, terrifying, dark, distorted, and destructive. You see, it demands I truly trust in the God who comes to us in both brokenness and wholeness, the God who is with us precisely when we are experiencing those things which are terrifying, dark, distorted, and even potentially destructive as well as when we are experiencing their opposite.  It is easy (or at least it is easier I think) to close up or shut down at these times, easy to make ourselves less vulnerable, less stripped of those personal defenses which close our hearts and smother the pain or stifle the fear or terror we might otherwise experience.

It is easier to turn to things which distract and in some ways numb or deflect attention from  the pain and therefore from the challenging act of faith and the commitment to God I am called to make in such moments. (I think that is true for all of us. At these times especially I can understand why some people become shopaholics, watch TV 10 hours a day, immerse themselves in mystery novels or computer games, or even turn to drugs, etc.) Thus, while it is true that poverty requires letting go of many things and while it is true most folks think of poverty primarily in these terms I see the letting go of things or distractions as a means to an end (a faithful vulnerability) and I see the vow primarily in terms of that end more than I do the means.

In all of this my vow of poverty also overlaps significantly with a commitment to obedience. I am vowed to allow God to be the sole source of strength and validation in order to be a gift to others so while that means letting myself stand with a kind of nakedness psychologically or emotionally as well as materially it also demands an openness to the One who is the ground of existence and meaning (this openness is the very essence of obedience). Still, in order to hear and to orient my life around the commitment to seek God, to listen to and for God in the silence of solitude, to embrace God's call in the myriad ways it comes to me every day and to see everything as a sacramental source or mediator of grace, a certain personal, material, and emotional or psychological poverty, stripping, or breaking open is required. 

In this context, vulnerability is another word for the poverty I am vowed to embrace. Whether the value is cast in terms of simplicity, poverty, or any of the other contemporary formulations which are common today the real heart of the vow is vulnerability. This means vulnerability on a number of levels: to my inner life and to my personal history, vulnerability to the work it takes to move through any pain or trauma associated with this history and each present moment as well --- whether this is done alone or with assistance --- vulnerability to the even deeper and richer truth I carry within myself which may have gone unrecognized and undeveloped, and at all times a vulnerability to the God who summons me to more and more abundant life and wholeness in union with him. Sometimes I don't think I am capable of it, sometimes I do find it really terrifying and demanding of more courage, trust, energy and persistence than I believe I can muster. At  these times poverty (and the faith which it requires, calls for, and in some ways makes possible) is the most challenging counsel for me.

Religious Obedience:
 
I acknowledge and accept that God is the author of my life and that through his Word, spoken in Jesus Christ, I have been called by name to be. I affirm that in this Word, a singular identity has been conferred upon me, a specifically ecclesial identity which I accept and for which I am forever accountable. Under the authority of the Bishop of the Diocese of Oakland, I vow to be obedient: to be attentive and responsible to Him who is the foundation of my being, to his solitary Word of whom I am called to be an expression, and to the whole of His People to whom it is my privilege to belong and serve.

While poverty is challenging at times obedience is so closely related to poverty that it tends to  become challenging at the same times. Poverty means saying no to those things which keep us buffered, shielded, or otherwise protected from the demands of reality and especially from the call to life which comes to us from within as well as without. But poverty is something we embrace for the sake of obedience, that is, so that we might be truly open and responsive to God and God's call. We say no to some things and live that no in a general way so that we can say and live out a yes to the One who is far more important and in fact is (or is meant to be) the center of our lives. We allow ourselves to become and remain vulnerable in order to hear and to commit ourselves to the God who is the source of all life and meaning. Unfortunately, (or at least it seems unfortunate at times) our God's primary language is silence and additionally (he) often dwells in darkness --- or a light which is so bright as to seem as darkness to us. To embrace the vulnerability of poverty for the sake of obedience (responsiveness) in the silence of solitude can be painful, and thus terribly challenging as we desire something or someone to comfort us in more usual ways --- with a word or a touch or at least a gesture of recognition and affection. Obedience to God does not always allow this.

In my own life, obedience means learning to listen and respond to the God who speaks primarily in the silence of solitude and I find that especially difficult when I am challenged by vulnerability or am, for whatever reason, frightened by the circumstances of my life. The exact same things that I may sometimes use to distract myself from poverty are the things which can shield me from obedience: things --- especially new (neos) things which give the immediate but very temporary and sometimes false  sense of a newness (kainete) which only God can give (here books, which are often a means of genuine obedience, are instead an important culprit), activities which are meant to fill the silence or blunt the solitude rather than to be part of an environment which truly leads to recreation in Christ. Similarly, it seems to me that obedience per se is not a problem unless poverty in the sense noted above (poverty as vulnerability) is also problematical. At the same time obedience overlaps substantially with chastity (consecrated celibacy) because it is the fundamental attitude of one who is open to truly loving God and others.

Consecrated Celibacy or Chastity:

Acknowledging that I have been called to obedient service in and of the Word of God, and acknowledging that Jesus’ gift of self to me is clearly nuptial in character, I affirm as well that I am called to be receptive and responsive to this compassionate and singular redemptive intimacy as a consecrated celibate. I do therefore vow chastity, this last definitive aspect of my vocation with care and fidelity, forsaking all else for the completion that is mine in Christ, and claiming as mine to cherish all that is cherished by Him.

I think it is clear from the first sentence of this vow that I see consecrated celibacy as building on both poverty and obedience. The capacity to love as this vow calls me (or anyone else) to is predicated on the capacity to let myself be vulnerable, open to, and responsive to God. Likewise it is grounded in God's love sufficiently to meet others with that same love. For me the vulnerability and responsiveness called for and empowered by religious poverty and obedience are matched by a vulnerability rooted in a personal security one knows only because she is loved with an everlasting love by God. It is a bit of an irony: a creative vulnerability is possible only because of this transcendently grounded security. This security is the fruit of being loved and held securely by God which is only known in faith. In light of this it is possible to see that celibate love is the compassionate love made possible by all that poverty and obedience opens us to. Similarly it can and often will be hampered by the same things that hamper either poverty or obedience.

If the vulnerability which characterizes true poverty is difficult for me for some reason  I will generally be far less able to be present and truly responsive to others --- beginning with God. Even more, that failure in responsiveness will lead to and represent a failure to love generously and selflessly. It might well cause (or at least tempt) me to withdraw in ways which are unhealthy rather than being expressions of eremitical anachoresis. In each vow then there are symptoms of a more serious dis-ease and disorder. With poverty the most common symptom of underlying dis-ease or disorder is an unhealthy attachment to things which numb and distract as they claim (or maybe consume is the better word) our capacities for giving ourselves in love; I find the same tends to be true of obedience though willfulness or an insistence on controlling reality are also common symptoms of a disorder here. As just noted with consecrated celibacy the most common symptom (for me anyway) is an unhealthy withdrawal though the distortions of healthy relatedness, sexuality, and intimacy may also occur and are what we usually think of as violations of chastity or consecrated celibacy.

I hope this is helpful for you. I realize I can't simply say one of these vows is more difficult for me because of the way I understand them. I can say that they are each expressions of faith. For that reason any significant challenge to faith, any challenge, that is, to my capacity to be vulnerable or trust and thus too to be open, or to love generously and selflessly is a challenge to my vows and may affect my ability to live each and all of them in the same way pulling a single thread affects other threads and, in fact, the integrity of the entire fabric.

05 October 2016

You Raise Me Up



My director sent this on to me today. The talent of these two children is astounding and inspiring. The song itself is particularly appropriate because of some writing I have been doing on the vows and the vulnerability they cultivate (I'll be posting about this in the next couple of days). Additionally they are apropos of inner work I am continuing to do which involves getting in touch with and embracing the deeper levels of both vulnerability and faith called for and specifically shaped by the evangelical counsels. Every day men and women Religious embrace this same vulnerability and affirm this faith afresh.

Similarly, I think all of us can identify with the lyrics here and the commitment to vulnerability and faith they call us to. As the daily readings move through Luke's teaching on prayer and as we each sit in the various silences we experience while opening our hearts to God, we know the importance of entrusting ourselves to the One who raises us to authentic humanity as he empowers courage and persistence in faithfully seeking and witnessing to this. We praise God when we allow him to raise us up so we can stand on mountains and walk on stormy seas. We praise God when we allow God to make us more than we can even dream of being by ourselves alone.

04 October 2016

Feast of St Francis (reprise)

All good wishes to my Franciscan friends, brothers and sisters. The first two pictures here are taken of one of the small side chapel niches at Old Mission Santa Barbara. The first one shows the entire sculpture setting with statues of St Francis and St Clare along with the San Damiano Cross in the background. The second is a close up of a portion of this setting which I have used before; it was a gift given to me on this Feast Day three years ago and is my favorite statue of St Francis. The third stands in the (private) covenant courtyard of the Mission and is another contemporary rendering through which a Father worked out his grief over the loss of his son.

Today St Francis' popularity and influence (inspiration!) is more striking than it has been in a very long time. We see it animating a relatively new Pope to transform the Church in light of Vatican II and to live a simple Gospel-centered life just as Francis of Assisi was inspired by God to do. We see it in the renewed emphasis of the Church on evangelization and ecumenism where the One God who stands behind all true religious impulses is honored while he is proclaimed most fully and revealed with the most perfect transparency in the crucified Christ. We see it in a renewed sense of the cosmic Christ and in a growing sensitivity to the sacredness and interconnectedness of all creation. 

Saint Francis lived the truth of the Gospel with an honesty, transparency (poverty), and integrity which captures the imagination of everyone who meets him in some significant way -- something that happens for so many in Pope Francis --- his papal namesake. This saint inspires a hope and joy that only the God who overcomes death and brings eternal life through an unconditional mercy and love that does justice could do. He renews our hope in Christ that our own Church and world might well reveal the glory of this God as they are meant to do. Saint Francis is a gift to the Church in ways which are hard to overstate.

On this Feast Day of Saint Francis of Assisi I feel privileged to celebrate this great man (saint) and all those who go by the name of Franciscan . In particular I celebrate friends and Sisters like Ilia Delio whose book, Making All Things New . . . I highly recommend! [It is as readable as her books on Saint Clare, Franciscan Prayer, or The Humility of God  and explores some of the theological implications of an unfinished universe and the "new cosmology. What is "new" here is that she does so with regard to classic topics more typically associated with the whole history systematic or dogmatic theology (e.g., the nature of Catholicity and the Church, the last things, putting on the Mind of Christ, etc).]  I also especially [continue to] give thanks for Pope Francis, a shepherd so clearly inspired by Saint Francis and the Crucified Christ. . . . Our world is simply a better place with a more truly Christian presence, sensibility, and spirit because of Saint Francis and those who seek to live his way. Peace and all Good!

P.S., While I am recommending good reads associated with Saint Francis in some way I should mention Daniel Horan, OFM's book from 2014 The Franciscan Heart of Thomas Merton and also (for some, and certainly for Franciscans) Ilia Delio, OSF's much older book in the Studies in Franciscanism series, Crucified Love, Bonaventure's Mysticism of the Crucified Christ.