Nightbirde. An amazing woman who blew the world away during her America’s Got Talent audition with her singing and her indomitable spirit to LIVE. She had cancer and had been given a 2% chance to live, and golly, did she make full use of that 2%. My reflection on this:
To find this spirited life, we first need to be found.
Allow me to offer a different perspective on the “Lost and Found” capability of St Anthony of Padua. When we lose things, many of us think of St Anthony, and some of us invoke him when we need to find a parking space (which in my experience turns up within five seconds). He is also known for St Anthony’s Bread, which is about sharing the abundant goodness of God that we have in our possession.
However some of us struggle to let go. We hold on to this thing, this event, this person, this memory of hurt or even a fantasy. The thing is the more we want control, the more we lose control of our true selves.
Nightbirde (Jane Marczewski) wanted to control the direction her cancer was taking her, but with each relapse, she felt that she was losing control, and finally her powerful encounter of God happened – on the bathroom floor.
Talk about hitting rock bottom, literally and figuratively. She was on the bathroom floor because she had been vomiting into the toilet bowl and had no strength to move. When she gave over control to God, she found herself safe in God’s embrace, safe to tell God whatever was in her heart. And somehow, light and peace and infectious joy became hers, and she gave away these newfound “possessions” freely, as we witnessed on America’s Got Talent.
This is my desire for all of us, and especially for the friars – that we are able to let go of the desire to be in control, and allow God to take the steering wheel. This is faith, this is truth, and when we do not acknowledge this wisdom, we become discombobulated. This is why we need fraternity. That is the precious insight of St Francis of Assisi, and as a former Minister General said,
“A fraternity well-lived is the Gospel evangelised.”
The Franciscan Order is focussing on being a contemplative fraternity-in-mission, and during our Custody meetings in July and October, the friars here will be discerning where the Lord is leading us individually and as a fraternity.
For me personally, during these three years as Custos, I have been inspired to deepen the bonds of friendship within the brotherhood through mutual care and trust. We can only be a fraternity, a brotherhood, if we are called to be so by a common Father, which is why our prayer life, the “contemplative” element, is essential to being a Franciscan fraternity.
And as the Father sent the Son into the world, so is the Son sending us. Hence mission is fundamental to our being Franciscans. We friars need to review how we are engaging people, especially those who feel they don’t belong or don’t feel they can be loved. St Francis left the comfort and security of the city to seek out souls beyond the city walls. Where is the Lord calling us to venture into now?
One big question we can ask ourselves is: What if I discover that I am somewhat lost in my interior journey to find my true self? Perhaps if we can be brave enough to acknowledge this, we can sing with Nightbirde that “we are all a little lost … and it’s alright”, and desire to find our way back to the Father, through the powerful intercession of St Anthony, the one who makes sure that what is lost … is found.
Happy and Holy Feast of St Anthony!
Custody of St Anthony