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Driven Out in the Spirit

May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. – Edward Abbey

Much to the bewilderment and even revulsion of my family, I am not at all conventional. Sometime early in life, I decided that it was going to be one long, adventurous road trip, and while I seem to settle down for a while and get all conventional (or not), I keep getting driven out in the Spirit, and move on.

So if you are waiting for explanations, they aren’t forthcoming. I am not made to be conventional. Be satisfied with that. I do have a strong sense of morality, although that, too, is not conventional. My strongest interior sense is of a longing for God, a spiritual love that is never quite requited.

Early on, about the age of fifteen, I read a lot of Franciscan literature. I was the only teenager I knew who had a copy of The Little Flowers. Lady Poverty was Francis’s mistress, his spiritual lover. He threw himself and his brothers into prayer and work. They preached in the vernacular in the streets, they fed and sheltered and healed the poorest of the poor, embracing outcasts and lepers. They buried the dead. They often went without food, and had inadequate shelter. Looking at the carefully preserved clothing that Francis wore at the end of his life, you can see the many, many mends and patches in his old robe. It was no more than patches on patches, reconstructed out of bits of discarded garments. But it was all he thought he needed.

He challenged the status quo of the mercantile class into which he had been born, and he challenged the status quo of a church grown fat and rich on propitiary offerings.

As I started reading The Long Loneliness, the autobiography of the “legendary Catholic social activist” Dorothy Day, I wrote to a friend who is a priest: “We got to the point today of discussing whether there would be room in the homeless shelter. It is very noble to talk about the Movement, and read Day, and live simply, but Lady Poverty is a stern abbess.”

And his answer was: “Yes, ‘holy poverty’ is often romanticized by those who only imagine it!”

This came out of a conversation with my adopted Australian granddaughter: “The best part of being goth/steampunk/Plain is looking like you came through some rift in the space-time continuum. Shake people up, challenge their reality.”

It was a scrambling, cross-purposes, full of unpleasant surprises day. We flailed our arms a bit, shouted “Nuurr-urrgh!” at each other for a few minutes, caught our breath, and prayed. Then asked for prayers and realized prayers. And the prayers were answered. I didn’t exactly time it, but it was less than 20 minutes. You know how people say, “All in God’s time.” Sometimes God’s time is now.


About Julie

Bishop of the church and religious order ICCO in The YOKE, based in Iowa City. Former Anglican parish priest, shepherd for ten years, artist, and writer.

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