Thursday, May 30, 2013

Listening to Voices

When I was a freshman in prep school, I had to perform a monologue from George Bernard Shaw's play, "Saint Joan." My brother was getting married the weekend that was our finals week, and the final exam in my theater course was to be a scene between two people. Since I wouldn't be there, my teacher had me do a monologue. He took the speech in Shaw's play where Joan is on trial, removed some of the interjections from other characters, and gave it to me to memorize. And, massive introvert that I am, I delved headlong into learning this part... and tapping into her courage and convinction. I knew the history of St. Joan, and how she was guided by voices. And I imagined how a woman, not that much older than myself, who had already commanded armies and proven herself a fighter would have felt if she were told, "You will spend the rest of your life in a prison." I also went into her belief that she was doing the work of God as guided by the saints. There was burning rage and righteous rebelliousness in the speech. I hit all of it. And I got an "A" and the great admiration of the school's theater director who, unbeknownst to me, had been invited to "drop in" and watch my performance. My freshman teacher had seen a preview of what I was going to do, and told Dr. Tretler, himself a former Catholic priest, "You need to see this."

What had amazed and wowed everyone was the passion with which I delievered the lines. I wasn't afriad to shout where it was appropriate. I didn't hesitate to allow my voice to quiet down as she talked lovingly about her French countryside, only to build back up into a roar against those who were condemning her as a heretic. I remember the last part of the speech:

"His ways are not your ways. He would will me to go through the fire to his bosom for I am his child and I am not fit that I should live among you. That is my last word to you." (emphasis added)

I felt her rage. I felt her struggle. I think I still do.

Those who tap into the source of Love through hearing the voices of saints or hymns or prayers are the peculiar ones. I count myself among the peculiar. I can't seem to go through the day without something turning my mind toward that Love that runs like an invisible river through the world. I often feel I'm at slight angle to the culture. I know I desire to see the world around me shift closer to that river of Love. I'm not about to pick up a sword and lead an army. I feel, at times, I've done that in my role as an LGBT activist. But there are times when leading an army isn't the right course of action. These days, the pull on me is not to protest, but to keep paying attention to the repeating chant, "Veni, Sancte Spiritus."

The Collect for this day:
Holy God, whose power is made perfect in weakness: we honor you for the calling of Jeanne d’Arc, who, though young, rose up in valor to bear your standard for her country, and endured with grace and fortitude both victory and defeat; and we pray that we, like Jeanne, may bear witness to the truth that is in us to friends and enemies alike, and, encouraged by the companionship of your saints, give ourselves bravely to the struggle for justice in our time; through Christ our Savior, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Part of this paying attention is for me to open myself further, and release more of the grip my ego has on defining me. This is tough stuff. It requires a level of weakness and vulnerability that many rational minds can not endure.

And this is my path as of May 30, 2013.

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