Thursday, August 03, 2006

A memory of when a Franciscan friend took his vows to the Third Order...

My friend was a religious kind of guy who knew his Bible very well, and read it frequently. He didn't come to grips with God in a manner that he is now meeting with Christ. If you would know something of a Franciscan, he has concern for the poor, believes in acts of Christian help, and finds time for community and prayer.

This is a lot to say about someone, but as I come to know this gentle man who was a boxer in his youth and now works as an Engineer repairing a fixing the things that make a hospital go (employed by one of the larger medical chains), you would sense that there is a genuineness and a kind of spirit about him. Perhaps I don't know how to say this well, for it is not so easy to describe.

He invited me to the celebration where he took his vows before God as a Third Order Episcopal Franciscan, about 8 years ago. So a mature man of about 50, he has come to the Franciscan order later in life. Fortunately, he has found a good deal of meaning in his living the life under his vows and matures by the living of a life called Religious. After the celebration, I wrote a poem about the afternoon event held at a retreat in the Western part of the County where we both live, near San Francisco in the County north of the City. We were out in the country for the event, held among trees down a steep path near the old chapel but hardly visible from where we dozen or so stood in a circle.

It was a lovely day, and we didn't need jackets or sweaters. This is the poem I wrote some months after the event. I have edited it from the original, again following many of the suggestions that were made in The Atlantic Monthly Writer's Workshop, where I originally posted it. The poem is one of those I'd kept quiet, as it were, since it seemed so personal and private. My friend has a copy of the earlier one and I don't think he'd mind my posting this edited version, edited by me to improve it.

Dialogue of Love (Revise)
by Peter Menkin

Inside the church there is a fire
burning in hearts, a seduction
that opens us to heaven. This is Spirit.
We respond to find Him,and will not
let Him go.Nothing
but music, voices raised

in hymn--sublime.
Can anything separate us
from the firm foundation?
I am reminded of another service,
set up by a few voices
caught with fire burning in hearts.

I recall it here.
I remember: Among the trees in the forest
Franciscans sang
while one made vows
to Christ Jesus.
Heavenly voices sent a sound,
for my friend had caught Him,
and we knew it was so.
That more than five years ago;

today the songs sang again,
among mortals taking refuge
in eternity Rock of Ages.
Set like a seal on the heart,
endeavor, be healed,
stand upheld--are among
many wordsuplifted. These are healing arts.

Church is a place of memories
and the living day.
God is spirit.
Nothing can separate us from the love,

never, no, never, no never.
The I Am of the minutes engage
a love strong as Death: unquenchable.

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