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Peace in Complete Surrender


by Mother Mary Francis, P.C.C.


There were three themes given me by our dear Lord for this special chapter. And I wondered of which one he wished me to speak. I took this problem to him for a solution, and he seemed to make it clear that there was no problem, that these three belonged together.

And I see these three themes do indeed belong together.  The first is that great word of our holy Mother Clare, “Love him in complete sur-render.” Every word is so important. It is not a servile giving. It is not a required surrender. It is loving. We love him, and therefore we surrender. The word “complete” is vitally important, because when surrender is painful, it is because it is not complete. If it is complete it may be suffering, but it will not be painful. It will not be anything involving turmoil. The second theme came out of our holy Mother’s great givenness, totally occupied with what she was supposed to do. So there was the theme of total activity, total occupation. The third theme is adoration. Adoration is the overspill of our love of God.

Surrender is always a work of love. We may be brought in to a kind of service, an unwilling service, as so many are in the world, but this is not surrender. Surrender is something  that I  myself decide upon. When an army surrenders to the enemy it is because they have decided this is the best thing to do. Our surrender is never to an enemy unless we would choose it to be so. But it is to God. It is something that we decide upon. One can never force surrender. And so sometimes in war, forces that see they are outnumbered will not surrender. They would rather die than surrender. We would rather die than not surrender. It is a free choice, a free gift, and it must be complete. Now in the secular sense there are usually terms of surrender, so that armed forces will say through their generals, “We will surrender to you if and if and if.” Lifting this to the spiritual plane we see that sometimes our surrender is like this. “Yes, I will surrender my will, I will surrender my heart, I will surrender my spirit, if and if and if.” This is not what our holy Mother is talking about. “Love him in complete surrender.” Complete. And when love’s surrender is complete it is immensely rewarding, it is the fountain of happiness within us. When there is anything grudging or anything that demands terms in spiritual surrender it is already doomed. In time we will chafe at a surrender which has never been true because it is not complete. t complete.

Now, man has  always  been  concerned (I guess I should show how modern I am by saying “persons” have always been concerned) with rights. There is something basically very correct in this. In the Declaration of Independence, we have that wonderful statement we all memorized as little children in grade school, “that all men are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights.” They just cannot be taken away, they belong to the nature of human beings: the right to life, the right to liberty, and the right to the pursuit of happiness. Now, we surrender in our religious vocation, in our life as daughters of our Mother St. Clare, the right to direct our own life. This is not surrendering the inalienable, because it is truly inalienable, but it is taking life to a much deeper level. I freely desire to have my life totally directed by God, through the Church, through the charism of Francis and Clare and through my superiors who take their place, however poorly or unworthily, but still do take their place. And so this is a tremendous assertion of my right to life. My right to life is only actuated in that complete surrender to Christ. He said, “I am  the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” So how can one exercise one’s inalienable right to life unless one is totally immersed in Jesus, who is the Life? If we are not, if we are outside of Jesus, we are that much lacking in life. We should burn these words into our hearts. “I am the Life.” Our holy Mother understood that so well, and that is why she said, “complete surrender.” Just, as it were, dive into Jesus, immerse yourself into the Beloved, that you may have life.                          

Again he says, “I am come that you may have life, and may have it more abundantly.” For life outside of immersion, of total surrender in him, is less than life. And so we respond in complete surrender. Then, the right to liberty. How many in our times are deprived of their outward liberty. How many thousands and millions we have in the world today whose external liberty has been taken from them. But there is the internal liberty which no one can ever take from us except ourselves. Each one of us is the only person who can really constrict her liberty. Our holy Mother knew that real liberty is found in Christ, in total givenness to our dear Lord. She tells us that to have this life in him we must go the narrow way. "Narrow is the path that leads to life." She doesn’t hem and haw about this: narrow is the path which leads to life. He says, “I am the way. I am life, I am the way to life.  I am the whole thing.” I choose to respond. I was called, individually, personally, by Jesus. I choose with his grace to respond, I find that liberty to do what I said I would do. One is certainly not free when one says, "I will do it" and then refuses to do it. That is just the very opposite of liberty. I am so constricted by my own willfulness, my passion, my own niggardliness, my own self-involvement, that I just don’t have any freedom. I am not free enough to do these things. We find the right to liberty on a deep level, a deeper level than many understand.            

Then, the pursuit of happiness - such a beautiful word, pursuit. We should be in hot pursuit of God, who alone is the Source of our happiness. And when we are in hot pursuit of God and his dear will, we are inevitably and invariably in pursuit of  others’ peace and happiness, and thus in hot pursuit of our own. Happiness comes of giving, and that leads me into that second point of reflection, that our Mother was totally occupied in what she was supposed to do. This complete surrender is a passivity of the highest kind, that is, I choose to be surrendered. And true passivity of this kind is of course the highest activity. When we are completely given it isn’t that we sit around and wait for something to happen. That certainly isn’t spiritual passivity. When I am completely sur-rendered I am totally occupied with what I am supposed to be doing. And this is why Clare is so great. She responded to God through the words of our Father St. Francis who was, after God, her only pillar and support. The rest of her life was spent in being completely surrendered to that surrender, and in being totally occupied with what she was called to do. We are in pursuit of happiness when we are completely surrendered, when we are in hot pursuit of what we have promised to do, and when we are totally occupied with what we are supposed to be doing. This brings the beautiful accompaniment of a downpour of God’s grace.  There must be this downpour in our life, this completeness, this totality.  Happiness is not a phantom–like pursuit, but it is a hot pursuit in a firm choice, a spirited race, not an unmapped foolish riding off in all directions.

We go on to the third point: adoration, which is a consequence of faith. Our Father St. Francis knew this so well. When he came into the presence of the Blessed Sacrament he really believed that our dear Lord was physically present. God was present, Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity, so he fell down in adoration. We come into the presence of the Blessed Sacrament, we believe, and as a consequence, we must adore. Where there is not that impulse towards adoration, it is because faith has weakened, has slackened, and perhaps is near death. This lack of faith shows in other areas: the lack of faith in Christ’s Vicar, the lack of faith in the Church’s magisterium. This is always partnered with a lack of adoration. When we believe, we must adore. Adoration is the overspill of our love for God. It is also a consequence of faith. That consequence of adoration must be exercised. We go down prostrate before God in body and spirit, in heart. We are just totally prostrate before God in complete surrender, in adoration. This must be exercised.

I think a  clear figure of this is some small infirmity, for example, with the knee. If it has been injured, then to kneel again, to prostrate, one has to practice and practice. How much more on the spiritual level. If we are not posturing ourselves in adoration we will lose the facility to do so. That adoration of the heart must be repeated over and over. We must bring this into all the details of every day.                       

There is so much to ponder about loving in complete surrender. Never leave out the adjective. Surrender is not just unrewarding, but it is not real surrender in our spiritual life unless it is complete, unless it is the work of love.  Let us never be partially occupied with what we are supposed to do, but totally occupied like our Mother, in what we are supposed to do. She was always there all the time, completely surrendered, totally given, totally occupied. We don’t need anyone to prove to us that she was totally occupied with praising God at the Divine Office. She was totally occupied with him in prayer. She was totally occupied with the love of her sisters, so much that she would get up in the middle of the night when the weather changed to see if everyone had enough blankets. She was so totally occupied, that she would work miracles not just to feed them, but to give them what she considered indispensable as an Italian woman: they had to have olive oil. This is such a dear human touch. You cannot eat without olive oil.  So she worked the miracle of filling the jar for the olive oil. 

Clare was totally occupied with God’s desire to be praised by her, worshiped by her, adored by her; totally occupied with the needs of her sisters, because these are always enmeshed, they can never be separated. If we were ever to think, “I am totally occupied with God, but I cannot be distracted by the needs of others” we are greatly, fatally mistaken. Nor can we ever think, as some tend to do in our time, “I have to be so occupied with social justice, with doing this and doing that, and I really do not have time to pray; my work is my prayer.” This is an equal heresy. When we are completely surrendered, totally occupied, these two mesh together. These two are totally consonant.                        

Let us remind ourselves and remind one another by our manner of living that there is peace only in complete surrender. We will never find peace in a partial surrender, a grudging surrender. But we will find it as a work of love in complete surrender.  We will find rest and fulfillment in being totally occupied with what we are called to do, with what we have promised to do. Keep always that posture of the heart, adoring before God, adoring before his holy will. “I admonish, and pray, and exhort you,” my daughters, and my own poor self, that we love in complete surrender, that we be totally occupied with what we are called to do, and that by faithful practice we keep always the agility of the heart to fall prostrate in adoration of God and his most dear will. In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.        


From a chapter conference on the vigil of the Solemnity of St. Clare, 1984

© 2008 by The Community of Poor Clares of New Mexico, Inc. All rights reserved

 Poor Clare Monastery
of Our Lady of Guadalupe 809 East Nineteenth Street
Roswell, New Mexico 88201 U.S.A


Eternal Values

by Mother Mary Francis, P.C.C.


The great achievement of our Mother St. Clare was that she made remote values seem near to us and she made ultimate realities immediate. We can assess a person by her sense of values: On what does she really set her heart? What does she value most of all? All around us (and of course, in ourselves), we see such a sorry sense of values when what is desired is the immediate satisfaction of self. Everything that is not immediate seems to have no value. It is, of course, possible to have, alongside of this, sterling ultimate values. I do want to live for God, even if at this moment I am living for myself. I really want and value holiness, but at this moment it demands too much. So my immediate value is my satisfaction, my ease, the triumph of my aggressiveness, the indulgence of my sensitiveness, my moodiness. Dwelling on myself takes precedence over ultimate values, the remote good that I acknowledge but which seems to have little to do with the present situation.

A person is a spiritual person according as ultimate values close in and absorb the immediate value. These immediate values can be for our satisfaction, and God wants our satisfaction. But we become very short-sighted when we believe this is to be achieved in the way we decree: people must change their ways, things must be changed so that we can be satisfied; and the ultimate value—which is true satisfaction—fades out of the picture. But with our holy Mother it was never so. The ultimate values were to her as proximate as the person next to her, as proximate as the present situation. This, I think, accounts for her great light-heartedness. She made remote realities immediate.

What is my reality? God is my reality. And the more immediate he is in the present situation, the more am I the true values-person that she always was.

Now, there are three facets of value. We see the first in the meaning of the word, which comes from the Latin “valere”: to be strong, to be worth something. And so according to what we value, we are strong or weak. We see that very vividly in the Gospel about dear Peter who was invited to walk on the water. He had an ultimate reality. He had a final goal: Jesus was there on the waters and he wanted to be with him. The boat was just too far away. He wanted nothing between him and Christ. This was a sterling value, and he asked that it be achieved. He told the Lord, “I’ll do anything at all if you say, ‘Come.’” And our Lord said, “Come!” So Peter set out in this marvelous strength, toward this ultimate reality: Christ, looking at him across the water. And then his feet got wet (as ours so often get wet) and the wind came up (just as we often feel the winds of supposed adversity or real adversity) and the immediate value arose before Peter: I am going to get hurt, I am going to suffer, I am going under. The ultimate value faded out except as a means of deliverance. All his strength was transferred to the present situation: “I am going down!” The fact that Christ was still looking at him diminished in importance until it had no meaning at all. Now it was all Peter: “I’m going down!” And so, seeking to find the strength of values in the present situation, he became weak, and this is just what we do. God is so good to give us dear Peter for our encouragement.

We see this so prominently in our holy Mother: when he said, “Come”, she came. Certainly she had her own interior battles to wage. She is not great because she never struggled—quite the reverse! He said to her as a young girl, “Come”, and she never returned to her family, to the materialities she once had. She just came and kept on coming. Surely she often felt her feet getting wet and felt the wind of adversity in every way. She felt the threats, but she never wavered because the ultimate value of Christ’s calling her was always proximate. She was, despite frailty and infirmity of body, a woman of marvelous strength.

The second facet of value is trust. When one lives by the ultimate value, one is equipped to trust. If we find our confidence in the immediate, it will be such a weak thing. We find our confidence in God, where she found hers. She trusted, just as Peter should have trusted, that God would somehow vindicate his own claim. We know that if Christ says, “Walk on the water”, we can walk on the water, and we can keep on walking until we come to him. She never wavered in that strength. Her trust was so adamantine!

And then, the third facet of strength that came from her values was totality. It is only when we make the ultimate value the proximate reality of our daily lives that we can be total persons. She was a total person all her life. At eighteen, she was not about to think this over for five more years. She got up, and she went, leaving everything behind. She was not concerned about the settlement of her estate or whether some of it should be set aside; she was just so total! In the line of materialities, she wore her best dress. This was an impractical thing—surely she should have brought warm, durable clothing for the kind of life she was going to live. But she went dressed for a ball to that little chapel. She wore her best dress for Christ to give it away: a beautiful symbol of everything she was leaving behind. She must have had footgear very unsuitable for that walk to the Portiuncula. Let us linger on these little details, too, and love to think of them.

And then she was total as regards her family. She loved them more than any other earthly tie, but left them and, in the very leaving, found them on a much deeper level, the profound level of the Heart of Christ.

And then, the totality of her vision! Let us think for a moment of the totality she asked of her daughters, the things that shine out in her beautiful, simple Rule. Christ is my spaciousness in the enclosure. He is my riches in poverty. There is this sweeping, free, beautiful totality. When we are not totally given, there is always a weight upon the heart; we always carry luggage in the heart. Even the smallest self-concern is too heavy for one who is called to run as lightly as we are called to run. Through the rocks of life, the crags of temptation, we are spiritually bare-footed. One has to be totally given to do that.

So let us not gather weights. Why, after putting off all concerns, should we put them on again? Let us trust, not in ourselves, not in the circumstances we should like to alter or modify, but in God! And when God says to us each day, in one way or another, “Come! Walk on the water”, we must come, not putting our trust in the weather forecast, in a study of the waves, in research on gravitational pull; our trust is in his word. Because he says “Come”, we can come.

This “Come” will be heard today if we listen, and we can come. Let us not be things-persons, but values-persons, as she was. We can do this by making the remote ideal proximate, the ultimate value immediate. This makes us rejoice. If God is present in the difficulties that arise, we can’t brood, though we can certainly suffer. A great ideal unleashes the fullness of human response.

Here is an example of what I mean. Holy Father Francis died when holy Mother Clare was still very young, and so this very strong woman, this woman full of trust, this totally given woman, did not give a false human response. She did not just thank God, who brought him into glory, and go on to carry out his ideal, but she cried and she cried and she cried! This was a warm, human response. They say that Clare could not be stopped from weeping. She got little pieces of cloth to touch to his precious wounds. She wanted, as a true woman, some little memento to keep. So she cried and kept little remembrances, but she went on. She had the full human response enlarged into the divine response. She didn’t say, “I can’t go on without him”, or “What shall become of us?” She said that, after God, he was their only pillar and support, but now that pillar and support is taken away; we have God alone. And she went on.

This is only one example of how her warm, human response was always enlarged by her response to eternal values. It seems to me that if we are not capable of the valid human response, we cannot arrive at the divine response. She did not step over this. She knew how to cry, she knew how to laugh, and she knew which response was appropriate. Then it was enlarged into the divine response.

So may we be values-persons—strong in making the ultimate immediate, full of trust because the remote is present, and totally given, so that, with her help, we may achieve that joy, that lightness of heart, that unwaveringness that characterize the beautiful woman we call St. Clare. 


© 2011
by The Community of Poor Clares of New Mexico, Inc.
All rights reserved.