by Laurie Gudim
Feast Day of St. Clare of Assisi
When I was director of a family violence and sexual assault prevention agency in Wyoming, one of the deputies from the sheriff’s office would have coffee with me from time to time. This was a compassionate guy who had seen his share of the misery people can inflict on one another in intimate relationships.
My office was hidden away at the back of a shopping center so that people could come in and see me without attracting gossip. Even so, I had few visitors. When this fellow came by I’d brew coffee, then we’d bring our chairs outside so that we could catch the morning light and listen to the breeze in the pine boughs, and so he could smoke. He’d recount difficult incidents, worrying about the people involved, pouring out his frustration and his hope.
Eventually he would finish his coffee and stand up. He would always make his departure with the same words. “Well, I guess I better go do something, even if it’s wrong.” We’d laugh, and off he’d go.
I’m not exactly sure why the memory of him comes to mind today as I ponder the story of St. Clare of Assisi. She was a cloistered nun, devoted to prayer and austere poverty. Did she even visit with people apart from other sisters of the “Order of Poor Ladies”? I don’t know.
Perhaps it’s that the only response I really could make to this fellow’s visits was prayer. He didn’t need my counsel, and he did a very good job of keeping the identity of those he was discussing confidential. (In fact, one of the reasons he may have confided in me is that I was relatively new to the community and so wouldn’t guess who he was talking about.) I usually met his tales with a few sympathetic remarks and a whole lot of silence. That seemed to suit him fine.
After he left, I’d invariably stay where I was seated, gazing out at the mountains and talking to God. Then I’d gather up our coffee mugs – he always left his squarely in the middle of the chair he had vacated – and go back into my office to plan a presentation or a training or to make phone calls.
Certainly there was a parallel in the conversations – him pouring out his heart into my sympathetic silence, me pouring out my heart into God’s sympathetic silence. And my resolve at the end was the same as his – to go and do something, “even if it’s wrong.”
My beloved speaks and says to me:
‘Arise, my love, my fair one
and come away;
– Song of Songs 2:10
Laurie Gudim is a writer and religious iconographer who lives in Fort Collins, CO. You can view some of her work at Everyday Mysteries.
Image: Photo by Laurie Gudim