Sunday, March 11, 2007

More on Dense Community

What do you do with conflict?

I am still thinking about St Frances of Rome this morning and her life of commitment to Benedictine ideals. It seems her own values led her to an inner conflict as well as an outer one. She wanted to serve her family and yet at the same time she felt an overwhelming compassion for the poor of Rome. The community around her was dense in the sense that it pressed in on her from all sides. She felt an inner compulsion and yet her outward surroundings refused to support what she was drawn to.

How like that we are so often in our own spiritual lives, both within our own selves and externally with others.

Sometimes the question comes as an inner one.

What shall I do? What does GOD want me to do? We are of two minds. We want to serve God in the best way possible but sometimes our differing values come into conflict with one another. The best example I can think of is the case of a priestly vocation. A young man wants to enter seminary and be ordained. He feels God calling him. And yet, he could live a productive life outside of Holy Orders. What to do?

This can also happen in the external forum.

I want to support my family member, but she has chosen something which I believe is not best for her. I am conflicted, because I feel the need to support her, but cannot in good conscience do so because what she is doing is wrong. How do I respond to this situation?

Is there ever a cure for being pulled in two directions at once? I'm not sure that this is not just part of the human condition. I'm quite sure that it is our common human inheritance. But it is not so with God.

God is one in will, love, and action.

As James said, "there is no shadow of turning" in the Divine. We can always be sure that God is up to the best, even if we have a hard time figuring out what that best is or have difficulties in accepting it for our own lives.

I'm not sure I know of any "cures" for such conflicts.

However, one helpful thought occurs to me with reference to Frances of Rome. Her inner conflict lessened once she became more at peace with herself. Her inward being became singly focussed on God and God alone, through the gift of contemplation, mediated to her by her human suffering.

In essence, the thorn in her side became the way of salvation for her, because it caused her to lean ever harder on God, trusting Him to work in and through her.

That is one possible pathway through these difficult decisions.

There is a pious legend that Frances was sometimes guided by angels bearing lanterns when she ventured out into the dark night to help the poor of Rome. If there is any truth to these stories, it must come from the fact that Frances' own circumstances were the messengers of God to her, both lighting her way and enabling her to walk in the path God had chosen for her, even in the midst of dense community.

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