Go forth in peace, for you have followed the good road. Go forth without fear, for he who created you has made you holy, has always protected you, and loves you as a mother. Blessed be you, my God, for having created me.
~St. Clare of Assisi
Today is the Feast Day of St. Clare of Assisi, Francis’ friend and associate. By now many of you know my “Clare” story. I cannot seem to find any of my photos of her chapel in Assisi so use Francis’ cathedral which also holds a certain significance for me. In 2014, I traveled to Assisi as part of a 3-week pilgrimage to Paris (the Miraculous Medal Chapel), Taize (which I will always love as a sacred space), Rome, and Assisi (the spot so many people told me I would adore). I immediately fell in love with the lighting and the mysticism of this charming town. God would speak to me through the lives of both Francis and Clare.
I went to Clare’s basilica one morning to pray. I sat for a long time in front of the cross of San Damiano, praying, listening for a word from my Beloved, but I heard nothing. Eventually, I switched to a long list of intercessory prayers that I had come with. At the end of that, I sat silent again, longing for some sort of image or phrase that would give me peace vocationally. Nothing came.
I went down to the tomb of St. Clare. The line was not long but as I approached I began to weep uncontrollably, much to my surprise. I would connect the dots later, as I became sicker. God was not giving me a clear vocation because I would not be able to accept the answer yet. Death was in my near future and within six months that became crystal clear. I have returned to that image often over these past two years. The steps along the way have been daunting a procedure to kill off one part of my liver while growing another, a risky surgery and a long recovery, followed by six months of chemo. The cancer continues to grow. I am amazed by the fact that I am still here but trust that God has been using me–since that was part of the earnest prayer I said that day: Use me as you desire so that I may bring you glory. Not knowing what you are praying for is sometimes helpful. I guess I cannot really say at this point, I take it back!
I have not always gone forth without fear on this grand adventure. Some nights while waiting for results and surgery, I have pulled out my iPad and played a Christian song or two until I have found peace or fallen asleep. I have started to cry in the CT scanner because of scanxiety. Feelings of being overwhelmed have crashed through the door to my heart and ransacked its neat quarters. I have tripped while attempting to go forth without fear.
God who has created me holy knows that I do not always feel that way. The other day someone said to me that I did not know my sin. She would not have called it that but that is what it is. I disagreed. That particular sin is always before me and I feel horrible that I make so little progress on reducing it in my life. I am hardly holy but I know that God made me that way. Despite trying to stay on the good road, I digress from time to time. The Examen puts this reality in front of me all the time as I reflect back on my actions during each day. Falling short of holy happens to the best of us humans and it is a wretched fact that we are creatures who are in constant need of the Creator’s mercy. God is a loving parent…the kind that lifts you up and is your number one fan, even if you mess up. I cannot tell you how awesome it is to be loved by such a God if you have never experienced this for yourself.
St. Catherine of Labouré, like St. Clare, also asserts that the protection of God is always there. It became my mantra after seeing those words in Rue du Bac at the Miraculous Medal Chapel in Paris on that same trip. I had not noticed them on my two previous visits. God has always protected me. Somehow, I learned early in life that this was a core Truth for me. This mantra of mine does not mean that nothing bad happens to me–it does. I have known tremendous heartache over the decades and yet, I have chosen, yes, chosen mindfully, to move forward with joy down that good road. As I continue to follow the good road, I long to hold faithfully to this mantra. What it promises is not an easy road. The way will be steep and winding, with sheer drop offs, I am sure. What I know is that God will be with me as I follow and I will never be alone. This God who created me will give me what I need, even when the road becomes grueling.
Do you believe you are protected by God?
Have you ever had a profound moment in prayer that needed to be lived into?
Creator, thank you for creating me. May I follow with courage the good road and trust in your protection as to where it will eventually lead. You who made me holy know I desire to be holy in all that I do so that I may bring you glory. Forgive me when I fall short of that attempt. May your love and protection buoy me when I need it. Amen.