Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity Postulant Regina Lehnerz summarizes a two-week class that Franciscan friar Father Charlie Smiech taught on the Prayer of Saints Francis and Clare January 30-February 10, 2012.
There is a scattering of Sisters in St. Francis Chapel, there is Fr. Charlie Smiech striding down the center aisle towards the altar with notes in hand, and there is a stack of books nearby containing the complete works of a couple of radical 13th century sell-outs for the Poor Christ. This is how we began our two-week class on the Prayer of Francis and Clare.
In these last two weeks, this course on prayer has covered topics spanning spiritualization, adoration, contemplation, communication, beatification, transformation, integration, and all other things Franciscan as they apply to finding ourselves silently and still before the all-encompassing presence of God. We have discussed the gratitude, humility, and fidelity portrayed in Francis’s prayers, and there has been extensive conversation concerning the themes of Clare’s letters. These themes include the constant kenosis of spirit, identification with the Poor Christ, the idea of giving birth the Jesus in the world, and the transformation of the soul, which necessarily occurs in a contemplative spirit. Fr. Charlie also taught on the three “Eye’s” of discernment; the eye of the body sees what is in existence, the eye of the mind sees the reason for this existence, and the eye of the soul reminds us that God who created what exists also created us. Apply specific examples as necessary.
One of my most memorable chicken-scratch notes for the course is on St. Clare’s third letter to Blessed Agnes of Prague wherein she writes, “transform your whole being… through contemplation! So that you too may feel what His friends feel as they taste the hidden sweetness which God has reserved from the beginning for those who love Him”. Fr. Charlie summed it up this way: when we are praying and find sweetness on our tongue, we remember God is with us.