Embracing Compassion

Many good folks have been asking about my taking vows this past Friday in the Franciscan Community of Compassion. So I will share a bit about that arrival point and the road there.

The Community was founded just a few years ago in the Episcopal Diocese of Long Island. It is an ecumenical community, open to men and women, married and unmarried, from any branch of Christianity. The community is dispersed, that is non-residential, with vowed members living in their own homes in various locations, presently in several states.* The Community includes some ordained persons and many whose path to this commitment flows out of the grace of their baptism. (Hopefully the same is true of us members who have also been ordained).

The vows taken are the traditional ones of poverty, chastity, and obedience. Those who have learned of the life and love of Francis of Assisi at all will know that the first of these, Poverty, was of central and life-giving importance for him.

Members are clothed in a Franciscan habit, as the three of us received last Friday evening at Saint Luke’s Church at Forest Hill, Queens, New York were. This simple robing is an ongoing sign of the inner commitment made to the living of the Gospel of Jesus in the Spirit of Saints Francis and Clare of Assisi and of the many many thousands of women and men who have lived the Franciscan charism (grace) since their day. I plan on letting that sign of the habit be seen and speak its word and invitation to the people of our 21st century. I wore it at Saint Matthew’s, the church which I serve, this past Sunday morning for the first time.

I have been considering in mind and heart what those three vows mean to me.

To live vowed poverty is to choose to live life with open hands, clinging to nothing and accepting all that comes as gift of God and invitation to an ever-deepening relationship with God, now in this world and in hope of the ultimate future. Poverty is absolute openness to life as it comes, firmly believing that in ways sometimes beautifully obvious and sometimes darkly hidden, all that comes my way and all that I am asked to live, at times by seemingly random circumstance, comes from the hand and heart of the God whose only motivation is God’s very essence: Love.

Chastity is to value every person whose path I cross as a reminder of God’s proven intention in Christ to be present and to be revealed in human persons, even in those where God seems (to my weak eyes) most well-disguised. Chastity is a promise not to seek to possess or to dominate another human being, anywhere, at any time, in any kind of relationship. It means to hold sacred the freedom and the uniqueness of all whom I am blessed to meet and to know. It means in valuing each of them as icons of God’s presence to find myself constantly blessed to be looking into the eyes of Christ, hearing the voice of Christ, holding the hands of Christ.

Obedience is the willingness to be a lifelong listener. Obedience is to listen with reverence to the voices of sisters and brothers, to the sounds of nature, to the music of life each day with confidence that in openness to what is heard I will be guided by the Creator and Redeemer, by the ever-present Spirit, in the way that I should go, in the next step I am called to take. In that listening, I am confident, will be found the strength to say yes to what is heard with the heart.

Am I going to mess up along the way? (Excuse me, have we met?!) Of course! But as Benedictine friends have reminded me in a manner that is a blessing: every day we begin again.

I will continue to think about all this, and to share what may seem worthwhile. Thank you for your interest, and for your moving and loving support.

Francis with the Leper.

The story of Saint Francis and the Leper:


Heaven’s Wet Kiss

Remaining still

To listen to the rain

The first in so long

A torrent

It falls heavy, with abundant joy

It falls with wind, it falls through sunlight

It sings a thousand tiny songs

Combining into one roar of life

One indiscriminate word one cannot quite discern

Framed in a thundery blast

It will only be in the kingdom where everything has been shaken into peace

That this word will be clear, an eternal syllable.

For now, it pours, ridiculously generous grace kissing the face of the earth.

With passion.

Chapters of Grace 4: Prayer

Everybody has their habits, and we dogs like habits. It takes some time, though, to really figure out the habits of people. At least I think that’s true. This human of mine takes me to church, like I said before. I usually get to go on the days when people are not there. It seems that even though they say they like church, they don’t want to be there too often. I am not sure why. Maybe too much of a good thing? Anyway, the days when we are not at church are days when we still do this thing called prayer. This is how it works.

When we get up in the morning, real early, to go outside and start the day in the fresh air, that is good stuff. Except if there is a storm with a lot of water falling down, or that white stuff that comes when it’s cold. After we are out there for a while, the human calls us and says, “Time to pray cookie!” Or something like that. I really had trouble understanding the prayer part, but the cookie part made sense to me right away.

So we go inside and upstairs to a special room where it’s always quiet. The human sits down and is very quiet for a kind of long time. The good part is that a bunch of times while we are there he gives us cookies. All sorts of good cookies. And this is before breakfast. It is a great way to start off the day. So, even though I don’t really understand the whole thing, I am for prayer. I think it helps my human too. After we pray he is ready to do all the other stuff he is supposed to do. And he seems pretty mellow too ( I think that’s a good word for it). Yay prayer.


Over the last few years I have sometimes opened my eyes during the quiet time in the little rectory chapel in the morning and decided to take a photo. A year and a half ago there were three of God’s creatures there with me each morning. There was Leo, my mother’s cat, who spent his last six years, to the age of almost 21, with me. There was Gracie, whose recollections of those mornings is above. Gracie spent just about 10 of her almost 11 years with me, a miniature Australian Shepherd with a really big heart. She started life cautiously, but grew to love people and the adventures of every day. And eventually there was Mercy, the newest-comer, also an Australian Shepherd, a little bigger than Gracie, intelligent and impractical at the same time.

When I would take a photo of the three there in the chapel, I called it the ‘interspecies monastery.’ Their company was real and – call me crazy – their sense of the special nature of that time and place each day grew through the months and years. Now one of them remains there each morning, in body. But the wholeness of the moment includes the little ones who already had been there, and fully there. “Time to pray cookie” became something very real, a center of the day at its very opening, often even before morning light appeared in the eastern sky. Ubi caritas, Deus ibi est.

2/3 of the Interspecies Monastery: the last 1/3 did not deign to be photographed with canines