My mother prays for me pretty regularly. Prayer is something I learned in church, and in great detail when I attended CCD on Sundays or after school once a week for most of my childhood. I remember very little of it, but I will never forget why I was told to pray. I was told that God was always listening and that He loved me. Pretty nice, right? Some believe that we are God. I am God. I am. Heresy to some, right? Scientists have studied prayer, absent of the role of God, and have concluded that it really works. And I believe it. Crazy, right? Somehow, I hold many seemingly contradictory viewpoints on the subject as all being beautiful and true. In fact, this is one of my superpowers. I can see many sides and possible outcomes in life. It can make me feel lost at times, but that’s OK. I think getting lost is good when it’s intentional.
Now, if I think of prayer as a pause for reflection, then life becomes much easier. I feel not so lost. In fact, it feels purposeful. I find it purposeful to pray, or in my case meditate and seek peace with all of my faults. I find the flaws in humanity to be deeply meaningful and beautiful. I think that the process of prayer or reflection is largely a process of transformation when it is done purposefully. Transformation is magical, I find, and it’s that transformative process that manifests in a lot of what I create. Additionally, it may be this feeling that compels me to create.
My maternal grandmother, Kathryn, was devoted to prayer and considered becoming a nun. Born into a large family, she finished school only through the ninth grade when she instead found herself working steadily at her father’s mercantile shop in Glen Ullin, ND. Working there, my grandmother usually had outfits in the latest style, had the latest short haircut, smoked cigarettes, loved parties, and danced the charleston. She must have felt lost in perhaps many ways to have prayed so seriously on whether to marry someday or join such a radical cloister of nuns. In fact, my grandmother had been attending business classes in Wisconsin when she heard about and was intrigued by the new contemplative order of nuns called The Poor Clares of the Primative Observance. It was her idea that she might join them and be head cook there, seeking union with God through a life of prayer and sacrifice in the spirit of St. Clare.
St. Clare, to whom St. Francis was mentor and guide, was an interesting character as are the nuns of this order. They are not like the Benedictine, Dominican, Visitation or Carmelite nun. A Poor Clare nun brings gifts of prayer, simplicity, community and joy. Each Poor Clare community is as individual and unique as is each sister in them. The Poor Clare Sisters number over 20,000 sisters throughout the world in 16 federations and in over 70 countries. Most monasteries have from four to thirteen members. St. Clare (1194-1253) is the patron saint of eye disease, gold smiths, laundry, and television. Television? She founded the order under the close guidance of St. Francis of Assisi and was radically committed to corporate poverty and rejected any attempts by any pope to impose rule on her order.
Deciding not to join the cloister, my grandmother found herself corresponding with the nuns regularly and would do so the rest of her days. She lived to be almost 97. This was a comforting act for her. It made her feel like she had all her bases covered in the prayer department. She also made regular donations to the nuns and always heard back with a hand written letter from the head nun along with prayer cards and special intentions. I remember on the nights I stayed with my grandmother that she would read from her bible before going to bed, and now I wonder if some of the cards and slips of paper sticking out of the bible were from those nuns. She really believed in the power of prayer and was devoted to the practice.
Later, my mother, the youngest of Kathryn’s five children, prayed on whether to marry or become a nun herself and began her practice of writing to the same cloister at the age of 20. She was engaged to my father at the time. My mom said writing to the nuns kind of felt like sending a message in a bottle. The only difference being that you got a letter back. She still continues to write to them, and, out of respect, I won’t make any assumptions about how and when my mother has felt lost. We all, I’m sure, feel lost sometimes.
St. Clare was designated as the patron saint of television in 1958 by Pope Pius XII, because when St. Clare was very ill, she could not attend mass and was reportedly able to see and hear it on the wall in her room.