On Friday, July 31, a Cultural Audit gathering took place. The sisters, in small groups, created contemporary parables to illustrate how values are lived out today.
The Parable of Transforming Presence
Four women gathered together. The say that there were many hungers among peoples.
They brought what they had from their poverty. They found that the energy they had among them transformed these gifts like leaven into food for the multitude:
v Marginalized were included
v Lonely had company
v Strangers were visited
v Addicted were in support groups
v Wronged were forgiven
v Families of nations were reconciled
v Hearts were touched by personal presence
v Others were influenced to do the same.
Together they went forth with hope like fire in their hearts.
The Kingdom of God
What is the Kingdom of God like? And to what shall we compare it?
It is like two sisters, one from the U. S. and one from Cameroon, meeting at a table in Assisi. And the sister from Cameroon had the courage to ask, “why don’t we start partnering?” in answer to the theme of the Conference (IFC-TOR). This conversation was the seed of the uncommon Common Venture which grew and grew and grew.
Four communities have been transformed into a miraculous tree of relationships that invades Africa, America and Europe.
And is not South America on the horizon?
The Picnic Under the Bridge
A sister left work one evening. She passed a city bridge. A homeless person invited her to a picnic with friends under the bridge. Sister said, “Oh, no, I can’t come now. I have to pray Vespers at 4:00 p.m.” She continued on.
A second sister passes. She, too, is invited to the picnic. She thinks, “Oh, no, I have no sanitizer.” She refuses the invitation and continues on her way.
A third sister passes and is invited to the picnic. She says, “Let me text my sisters at home to let them know I’ll be late.” The homeless person responds, “Text them and tell them to join us.” And the sisters came.
The group partied into the evening on five donated bags of Krispy Kremes and one fish caught by the gay brothers. An undocumented Cuban lesbian taught the group the Lord’s Prayer in Spanish. All had plenty to eat and under a full moon the sisters left for the convent, fired up and ready to go!!!
To what shall we compare the reign of God?
We say that it is like the gathering of our four Franciscan communities. We are like the yeast of Christ which we kneaded into four measures of flour until the mass of dough began to rise. These measures expanded to companion a broken world.
The Parable of Bread
There once was a group of women who saw the hunger of the world. Willing to be risk takers they gathered together and on said, “Let’s make some bread.” And the rest agreed. The brought together the rye flour from Connecticut, the wheat flour from Milwaukee, cornmeal from Cameroon, and oat flour from La Crosse.
Then they added the yeast of contemplation, the sweetness of prayer, the warm water of simplicity, and an egg of hospitality.
They stirred in service and kneaded it with hands of justice. As they lived in relationship the dough rose and grew in size.
It was shaped in various forms according to the needs of the people. And putting it in the oven, they baked it in love.
After it was cooled in patience, they blessed it, shared it and recognized Him in the breaking of the bread.
The Parable of the Renegade Vine
BRANCH - I am tired of being a part of this vine and I want to go on my own. I’ve been on this vine 40 years and the other branches are stunting my growth and holding me back. I could do much more someplace else.
GOD - Maybe what you are asking for is a little pruning. As a branch you cannot bear fruit by yourself. You are important to me, the vine, and together you will bear even more fruit. We’ve got some young vines here that need to learn what you know. You really didn’t choose me. I chose you. I commission you to love one another.
The Pearl of Great Price
The reign of God is like the Franciscan way of life that brings to the world a disturbing presence. This presence stimulates growth and change which becomes the pearl of great price. This alternative reality everyone unconsciously seeks to possess. When they recognize it they sell all to possess this pearl of great price.
The Good Samaritan
An immigrant name José was on his way home from Minneapolis to Dallas when he was pulled over for speeding. The police officer found no driver’s license or documentation for José. He was taken to jail, stripped of all his possessions, and was not read his rights.
The chaplain at the jail passed by, refusing to talk to José because of his fear of being labeled a friend of immigrants.
A lawyer came to the cell and saw that José was a poor person. The lawyer assumed he would not be reimbursed for his services so he passed him by.
A woman, who was a translator in the court system, saw José and was moved with pity. She went to José, listened to his story and made a phone call for him. She posted his bail and took him to the Catholic Worker House in town. She made a donation to the Catholic Worker House to cover any further expenses incurred by José and went on her way.
The Pearl of Great Price
A group of Franciscan sisters gathered at a Cultural Audit day and found themselves discussing what was most important about life. As they sat together conversing, one of the sisters said, “What would Jesus say is important?”
A newer member said, “Oh, I get it! I need to rid my heart of negative criticism.” Another stated, “I see that I need to rid myself of a competitive spirit.” A very active person reflected that she wants to be less busy.” An elderly wise sister said, “I need to be more mindful of other people and relationships.” After some more comments the last one said, “If we were all one composite person with all these gifts we would be a community of loving presence.”
And that would be a pearl of great price.
The kingdom of heaven is like an invitation Sue made to help make cupcakes for an impromptu party for the feast of the Portiuncula. She realized she didn’t have all the ingredients. So she knocked on Joan’s door, who was playing solitaire on the computer. Sue asked her if she had some flour. Joan grudgingly tore herself away form the computer and finds her flour. Sue invites her to come to her apartment to share in the cupcakes. Still needing other ingredients Sue knocks on Cormarie’s door, interrupting her in the middle of CSI. Sue asks her for sugar, and Cormarie, with one eye still on the TV, reluctantly hands over some sugar and agrees to come to the party.
Now, having the ingredients needed, she runs into Dorothy and Bernyne on her way back, who offer to join the party and bring the napkins.
While the group is gathered playing Hand and Foot, and Rummikub, the scent of the cupcakes permeates the corridor, attracting Joanne and Karen. Knowing they didn’t contribute anything to the baking of the cupcakes, they offered to do the dishes by hand (since the dishwasher was broken).
While eating the cupcakes and enjoying each other’s company, they realized how wonderful it is to come together, each bringing something of themselves. “Why don’t we get together next week to make Hot-Cross Buns and bring them to the shelter for the feast of St. Clare?”
What must I do?
One day four Franciscan sisters came to Jesus. We have a question for you. We are at this conference and we have been sent out to select something which will make the world a better place.
“I think we should save the planet,” said the first.
“I think immigration is of huge importance,” said the second sister, “and we need to act now.”
“I think non-violence is key,” said the third, “even getting a hold on gun control.”
“And for me it’s the economy,” said the fourth. “So many people are suffering.”
And together they said to Jesus, “So we want you to tell us what you think is most important.”
“O, Sisters,” said Jesus, “you who catch on so slowly, in spite of your education. Back up a bit. Think a little deeper.Go down within yourselves and ask ‘might there be something we could nourish in ourselves that would allow all these things to happen?’”
“Just one thing,” they said in chorus.
“Just one thing,” said Jesus.
“Something big enough that it would awaken our energy and desire?” said the first.
“Yes,” said Jesus.
“Something that will nurture our spirit and our souls?” asked the second.
“Something that will get us fired up and ready to go?” asked the third.
“You mean there is one thing that will do this?” said the fourth.
“Yes,” said Jesus.
“We want to know,” said the first.
“We are listening,” said the second.
“We will act on what you say,” said the third.
“We are so grateful,” said the fourth, “but now, tell us, what is it?”
“It’s a small thing,” said Jesus, “and the smallest bit of it in your heart will grow and it will eventually take care of all four of your concerns and many more.”
Together they said, “Tell us what it is.”
Jesus looked at them gently. “It’s compassion. Nourish the tiniest corner of compassion in your hearts and it will become a flame, and then a blazing fire, and you four Sisters and your four communities will become a compassionate presence that will save the world.”
The four Sisters blushed.
“We will think about this,” they said, as they walked away.
The Pearl of Great Price
When we, the Franciscan Sisters of the Common Venture, found our pearl of great price – the pearl of right relationships, we agreed to sell, to give up our attachments
v To independence
v To comfort
v To assuming that we know
v To hoarding and consumerism
v To a life of privilege
v To unhealthy criticism
v To control ‘over’.
And then free of these and free of fear, we live the reign of God in the 21st Century – NOW.
The Parable of the Seekers
On a balmy Friday night, a group of women were together in a boat on a lake. One of the women, named Petrina, wanted to dive in and look for treasure. The others in the boat each cried out their advice:
“You might hit your head on a rock.
It’s too scary down there.
It will be too dark to see.
I think it is going to rain.
You’ll run out of oxygen.
You’ll get lost.
There really is no treasure.
You might look stupid.”
One friend in the boat, name Clare, which means clarity and light, offered to dive in with her. “There may be danger,” said Clare, “but there is such potential. We can do it together, My light will lead us. Let’s don’t just live, let’s shine!” Then Clare asked Petrina, “Are you fired up?” Petrina said, “Yes, I am! Are you ready to go, Clare?” “Yes, I am,” said Clare.
Petrina and Clare dove off the side of the boat and as they went deeper and deeper into the water, they saw a school of fish when Clare’s shaft of light penetrated the water’s darkness. Petrina hesitated to continue because she didn’t want to lost the beauty of what she saw. Clare reminded her of why they were there. Clare motioned to Petrina to swim deeper and deeper, to seek the treasure.
As they continued swimming, they encountered decaying coral, they spotted a fishing net of struggling, frightened fish caught on bits of coral. Petrina tried to untangle the net but couldn’t do it herself. Clare shone her light through the murky water. Petrina untangled the net and the fish danced into freedom and lead them into fresh air as their tanks of oxygen registered zero.