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Chiara Center has become part of my spiritual journey. All the wonderful people, the natural beauty, and the peace make Chiara Center a great spirtual treasure. Youth minister from Branson Missouri
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Seeing Haloes
December 13, 2013 11:53 AM

Ah - it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas. Lights are shining. Even in the dark street shineth.  How do you see the light?  Is it as John Shea suggests in this wonderful poem?

Seeing Haloes
For Anne by John Shea

Even at Christmas,
when haloes
are pre-tested by focus groups
for inclusion in mass market campaigns,
they are hard to see.

Annie Dillard was scrutinizing
the forest floor of Pilgrim’s Creek
when she looked up
and saw a tree haloed in light.

She had caught the tree at prayer,
in a moment so receptive and full
the boundaries of bark burst
and its inner fire
became available for awe.

But seeing haloes
is more than a lucky sighting.
It entails the advent skill
of sustaining attention,
the simple act,
as Dillard found out,
of looking up.

That is how haloes are seen,
by looking up into largeness,
by tucking smallness
into the folds of infinity.

I do not know this
by contemplating
shimmering trees.
Rather there was a woman,
busy at Christmas table,
and I looked up
to catch a rim of radiance
etching her face,
to notice curves of light
sliding along her shape.
She out-glowed the candles.
All the noise of the room left my ears
and silence sharpened my sight.

When this happens,
I do not get overly excited.
I merely allow love to be renewed,
for that is the mission of haloes,
the reason they are given to us.

Nor do I try to freeze the frame.
Haloes suffer time,
even as they show us
what is beyond time.

But when haloes fade,
they do not abruptly vanish,
abandoning us
to the sorrow of lesser light.

They recede,
as Gabriel departed Mary,
leaving us pregnant.


Posted in Franciscan Musings | 0 Replies
Thin Places
August 1, 2013 11:07 AM

Heaven and earth, the Celtic saying goes, are only three feet apart, but in thin places that distance is even shorter.  Thin places are those places that inspire the soul, stir the spirit, invite wonder, bring tears, give goosebumps, restore a tender memory... perhaps it's a particular place in creation, maybe it's a church, a family home, a cemetery, a hospital, the site of an accident, the place you got engaged, or even on the corner of a busy street.

For St. Francis of Assisi, a little chapel tenderly called "The Little Portion" (Portiuncula in Italian), was a thin place.  It was the center of Francis' life.  He rebuilt this little chapel which was acutally named Our Lady of the Angels because it is said that  angels were sometimes heard in the little chapel. It was here Francis first gathered his followers. It was here that Clare first joined him. It was here the Brothers met each year and Francis sent them forth on mission. It was here that Francis shared his picnic with Clare. It was here that Francis died on October 3, 1226. Francis told his brothers that if they were chased out of one door of the chapel they should come in another, for this is a most special place in all the world.

The original chapel can still be seen in Assisi.  A large basilica of St. Mary of Angels is built around the humble little chapel. 

On August 2 we Franciscans celebrate the Feast of the Portiuncula. We invite you to celebrate with us. Perhaps you can pay attention to those places in your life where the space between heaven and earth is very thin, a place where you experience the very breath of the Divine

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It's Summer
June 6, 2013 3:29 PM

Here at Chiara we are entering into the rhythm of summer. 

You know... more cold beverages than hot beverages, bringing out the bug spray,  keeping the grass mowed, discussing vacations, putting away the coat racks, welcoming retreatants, sharing stories of graduations and weddings, watching the skies for those dark rain clouds, going to the farmer's market for those fresh vegetables, celebrating Pentecost and all that the Spirit stirs up, going for walks, being drawn to water...

Brother Sun becomes our companion and enables the photosynthesizing of all the green around us.  No wonder Francis of Assisi was so moved by Brother Sun. In the great Canticle of Creatures composed before his death Francis sang

"All praise be yours, my Lord, through all that you have made, And first my lord, Brother Sun,                            Who brings the day; and light you give to us through him.     

How beautiful is he, how radiant in all his splendour!  Of you, Most High, he bears the likeness".                                                                                                                                

In his classic work, The Canticle of Creatures Symbols of Union, Eloi Leclerc writes, "The cosmos is to Francis chiefly an epiphany of light, and in this epiphany the sun plays the chief role....The sun which Francis finds so beautiful and to which he discovers himself to be closely related does not shine upon him soley from the heights of the cosmic heaven. It also sheds its rays within him, out of the depths of his soul, like a prophecy of what he is ultimately to become."

Enjoy the sunshine!





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Where the Light Is
April 17, 2013 12:55 PM

Our name, Chiara Center,  means "light" for Chiara in Italian and Clare in English means light.   Here persons seem to discover light.  

Just as things in the plant world each spring start growing toward the light even while their roots are underground, so too, does the human spirit seek light.  Something in our very fiber knows where the light is, even when we can't see it.  Something within us digs deep inside seeking to grow towards the light.  In the face of tragedy at the Boston marathon or  the news of advanced cancer or the loss of a job or an unnamed very real fear, something calls us forth into light.  The light is our true home.

It's a good season to notice the greening, the budding forth and  to pay attention to plants and buds turning to the light.  We can imagine this greening as a mirror of something in us about to break ground and to come into the light, too.

Is it any wonder Jesus said, "I am the Light of the world."

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Put Your Finger Here
April 8, 2013 11:01 AM

Put your finger here.  Interesting words of Jesus as He places Thomas' finger into the wounds in His side.  There was Thomas struggling to believe, to make sense of his confusion and loss and he is invited to touch a wound.  How helpful is that?

Many persons come to Chiara Center seeking peace, struggling to forgive, grieving over broken relationships and commitments, desiring to move beyond the fragile past, hoping to understand the why of deep pain.  They walk the healings grounds, sit in the majestic Church before the wounded Christ on the cross, engage the Franciscan art, wrap themselves in the silence, and sometimes them weep.

Chiara Center does not provide a remedy, a healing ointment, a miraculous prayer.  No, here, too, one is invited just like Thomas was, to touch the wound.  Our God is a God who knows about wounds and suffering.  Both St. Francis and St. Clare pondered the face of Christ on the San Damiano crucifix and came to know the great truth  -- our God suffers with us, our God bends low to share in our very wounded lives and in the great wounds of our world.

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It Comes Down to Feet
March 28, 2013 9:04 AM

Yes, it comes down to feet (pardon the pun). 

Feet aren't the most beautiful part of who we are.  They get bunions and callouses.  They smell.  They carry us all day and ache. They receive very little attention.  They are where "the rubber hits the road".  And yet, Jesus' last, profound, intimate gesture before his death was to wash feet.

And he did it in the middle of a meal. What a strange time.  He didn't wash their  feet when the guests arrived or before the meal or after the meal, but in the middle of the meal.  Wouldn't we all have been confused?   The apostles were taken off guard, and frankly they were very uncomfortable being put in such a a position of vulnerability.  Wouldn't we be uncomfortable, too? Most of us are too proud to let someone wash and anoint our feet.

It is no wonder that when St. Francis of Assisi was dying, he asked the brothers to read the part of John's Gospel in which Jesus washes the feet of the disciples.  

In recent weeks Pope Francis has brought all of us to a greater awareness of our call to humbly serve, to bend down as well as look up, to share a meal and to wash feet. 

There are countless ways to wash feet and to allow our feet to be washed.  Here at Chiara Center many guests experience a healing, a cleansing, a washing, an intimate moment of God's mercy and caress.  It comes in the quiet, in the watching of creation, in the walking the paths, in reverencing goodness, in honoring God's spirit, in simply being.

So, this Easter, we can take off our shoes, look at our feet, and notice the feet of those around us. Could we, would we take up a towel?





Posted in Franciscan Musings | 1 Reply
St. Francis and Popes
March 12, 2013 12:16 PM

These recent weeks we have been thinking of St. Francis and his relationship to the Church.  He certainly would not known of the Vatican since it did not exist and  the papacy was at the Church of St. John Lateran in Rome.  In fact it was to St. John Lateran that Francis went to receive approval from Pope Innocent III for his way of life and Rule. 

However, Francis was very attuned to the Church, her calls for reform, her liturgical directives, her politics. Francis experienced three popes in his lifetime --  Pope Innocent III, Pope Honorius III and Gregory IX.   Here Giotto depicts Francis preaching to Honorius III.

Francis, you who were called to rebuild the Church, enlighten our Cardinals gathered to call forth our next pope.  May a new spirit of truth and life and hope shine forth.

Posted in Franciscan Musings | 0 Replies
March 7, 2013 9:38 AM

According to Robert Morneau, prepositions are determinative.  Being for or against, in or through, above or below, beside or beyond, inside or outside make a difference.

Bishop Morneau writes, "Faith reveals to us a passionate God who is with us in faithful, divine creativity,   who is for us in the eucharistic body and blood of Christ, who is in us through the transformative power of the Holy Spirit. Prepositions give us a Trinitarian spirituality at once compassionate and challenging."

What prepositions define your life?

The prepositions that define Chiara Center might be into the quiet, amid beauty, inside peace, toward wholeness, within the Divine, with creation.


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Unplug and Shhh
February 21, 2013 1:00 PM

"Life, unplugged"  Those words on front of the March 2013 issue of Sojourner magazine invite readers to the feature article by Richard Rohr. In the article "Finding God in the Depths of Silence" Rohr writes, "The ego gets what it wants with words.  The soul finds what it needs in silence."

One of the most frequent comments of guests describing their experience at Chiara Center is "It's so quiet, so peaceful."  Chiara Center is truly the place to unplug.  Quiet means far more than absence of noise. Silence is the foundational spiritual discipline in all world religions.  One recent guest, who came for what he called his "personal summit", said  he found himself at the corner of peace and quiet at Chiara Center --- and when he stood at that corner, he could hear God.

At Chiara Center we invite guests to unplug, to put down the iPads, to choose silence.  For it is when we can remain in silence that we are able to receive the immense Love that stirs, sustains, communicates in the universe.

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King Cakes at Chiara
February 12, 2013 8:54 AM

Yes, here at Chiara we have celebrated Mardi Gras with our guests by sharing a King Cake.  King Cakes usually decorated in the colors of Mardi Gras and the Three Kings - purple, green, gold ( myrrh, frankincense and gold) actually have deep symbolism.

The lucky one discovers the Divine Child, "the baby" in his/her piece of cake.  So we are nourished on the gift of the Divine Child no matter where we are on our journey.  If we have not abandoned the Child who came to us at Christmas and if we meditate on the mysteries of this Child become Man during Lent, then we shall be part of the New Creation.

This requires the inner work of CONVERSION or our Recreation in Christ will become wreck-reation! 

May you find the Divine Child this Lent.  May you experience Re-creation.

Posted in Franciscan Musings | 0 Replies
International Franciscan Cookie Day
February 8, 2013 9:55 AM

We here at Chiara Center claim today as International Franciscan Cookie Day.

Okay, this isn't an officially recognized day, but here at Chiara Center we have a special connection to a special Franciscan cookie and to todays date, Febraury 8.  You see, our signature gesture of hospitality is providing a special almond cookie for each guest.  Why an almond cookie?  It all began when Francis of Assisi was in Rome preaching in one of the piazzas and Lady Jacoba of Settesoli heard him and .... Well, she gave some of the family's property in Rome to Francis and the brothers to use as a hospice for lepers and she provided for their needs.  Francis and Lady Jacoba became friends.

When Francis was dying Lady Jacoba brought him some little almond cookie/cakes and a specially woven shroud for his burial.  Francis called her Brother Jacoba.  Today in the Basilica of St.Francis where Francis is buried there is a Giotto frescoe depicting Lady Jacoba.   And today, February 8, is the feast of Lady Jacoba on our Franciscan liturgical calendar.

Loving God, we see in Lady Jacoba an example of what it means to love and care for others and to serve their needs.  Teach us to be generous with our gifts in the name of Jesus. Amen.

Wherever you are, may you enjoy an almond cookie or find a friend with whom to share a cookie. It's a Franciscan thing to do.



Posted in Franciscan Musings | 0 Replies
Sacred Holding
February 6, 2013 2:48 PM

Sacred Vessel of Prayer Requests in Canticle Prayer Room

This sacred vessel in the Canticle Prayer Room holds words of desire, hope, need, tears, sadness, trust, and woundedness from Chiara guests. 

Once during each of the four seasons the Sisters and staff gather to pray for all the intentions and requests of our guests. What a sacred trust and sacred holding. This morning as I prepared the prayer space I held each of the small papers filled with intimate requests for healing and grace.  It was overwhelming, for there are hundreds of requests.  There is a deep, Divine connection and web of relationship with all who visit Chiara Center.

We entrust each person, each request, each hope to the loving heart of God who hears the cries of His People.

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What's in Your Blessing Bowl?
January 29, 2013 11:36 AM

Each morning St. Francis sent the brothers and sisters into the world instructing them to receive everything as a blessing.  And he reminded them to put blessings into the bowl of each person they met.  What a beautiful image.  We are to be blessing bearers. 

In our gift shop here at Chiara Center we feature specialy designed  Franciscan pottery blessing bowls.  Each one is a gentle reminder that we are to go through the day aware of the loving kindness of our God.

It is in giving that we receive.  And it is in receiving that we give.


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Happy Birthday, Henri, Mohandas and Thomas
January 25, 2013 2:39 PM

We celebrate three great spiritual leaders at the end of January and are happy to provide our readers with an excellent resource for each of them.

Henri Nouwen   www.spiritualityandpractice.com/days/features.php

Gandhi  www.spiritualityandpractice.com/days/features.php

Thomas Merton www.spiritualityandpractice.com/days/features.php

What a heritage we have received.  Let us carry on in their spirit.

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The Little Sparrow
January 23, 2013 3:09 PM

It was a chilly, overcast day when the horseman spied the little sparrow lying on its back in the middle of the road.  Reining up his mount he looked down and inquired of the fragile creature, "Why are you lying upside down like that?"  "I heard the heavens are going to fall today," replied the little bird.  The horseman laughed.  "And I suppose your spindly legs can hold up the heavens?"  "One does what one can, " said the little sparrow.

Ah, how Franciscan.  We each humbly do what we can and trust the great turning and transformation to God.  Chiara is surrounded by lots of little sparrows and singing birds who teach us simple and profound lessons each day.                                                                                                                                                                                         

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Humility and Compassion
January 15, 2013 9:15 AM

Humility doesn't make the evening news or bestseller lists or Golden Globes or People's Choice Awards.

Chiara Center is happy to encourage the exploration of humility, especially in the spirit of a wonderful book,  The Humility of God: A Franciscan Perspective by Ilia Delio, OSF.  Chapter Five, The Tears of God, is rich and powerful and healing and insightful and soul-stirring.  "The world is full of broken hearts because a heart can love and love is vulnerable.  There are broken hearts scattered all over the world, in places of war, in dying children, in the frustrated faces of the unemployed and elderly.  Yes, the heart is a vulnerable thing because it yearns to love.  The human heart is just like the heart of God."

No wonder our Chiara logo has the Tau cross at the center.  We can make the journey only if we learn compassion -- "the quivering of the heart in response to another's suffering."  "To live in relationship to Francis' God, to be God-like, is to participate in the sufferings of the world, to be compassionate." p. 90


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Blessings Come Through the Door
January 11, 2013 9:45 AM
It has been a graced week at Chiara Center as such good people come through the door and bring their presence to this healing place. Let's see - There were the students and faculty from Lincoln Christian University who were here all week for an intensive Christian Leadership program. What hope they bring. There were the health care professionals from St. John's Hospital,Springfield and St. Mary's, Decatur who celebrated their completion of RISEN (Re-Investing Spirituality and Ethics in our Networks). Congratulations! The Mission Integration Committee from St. John's Hospital came for a retreat and planning day. We could certainly feel the Franciscan energy. Individuals also came for spiritual direction sessions, for private retreat days, for tours of the Church. They obviously keep one ear to the Spirit's whispers. This weekend we welcome 43 women for the Eureka Christian Women Retreat who will be celebrating "The Circle of Life: The Heart Journey Through the Seasons". God is SO good and the Spirit stirs in the midst of all the flu, fiscal cliffs, frets and fears.
Posted in Franciscan Musings | 0 Replies
What are you celebrating?
January 8, 2013 3:17 PM

Okay so Notre Dame lost the big game. There are other things to look forward to and celebrate  in January. How about these?

January 4          St. Elizabeth Ann Seton

January 5          George Washington Carver

January 11        Brother Lawrence

January 14        Albert Sweitzer

January 21        Dr. Martin Luther King

January 24        Henri Nouwen

January 27        Mozart

January 30       Gandhi

January 31       Thomas Merton

Posted in Franciscan Musings | 0 Replies
Grit and Grace
January 3, 2013 9:18 AM

A recent article in Spiritual Directors International newsletter spoke of two defining elements in life: grit and grace.  Grit is stronger than resilience and is located in the very cellular structure of our anatomy. It means choosing life, goodness, hope.   "Grit with grace is an interior rotation toward living, continued breath, vision, purpose. Grit with grace moves beyond self-centered survival, into a dance of life affirming life... To live with grit is a deeply spiritual act which transforms family, workplace, unjust situations, and the world."

We at Chiara pray you know grit and grace in the new year of 2013. May you recognize the Spirit of the Lord as you learn when to surrender and when to speak with fortitude.

Posted in Franciscan Musings | 0 Replies
Word Become Flesh
December 27, 2012 10:48 AM

How is it that God--who is all-powerful--became so vulnerable and weak, only finding shelter in a manger?  Jean Vanier, the founder of L'Arche (an international network of communities for the disabled) reflected on this question and answered:

The Word became flesh to reveal what is most precious in each one of us: our hearts, our thirst to be loved and our capacity to love, be kind and compassionate....  That is why Jesus identifies himself with the weak who cry out their need for love and who call people together in communion.

As the New Year begins we do well to resolve to become awake to the real presence of God in all the small places in our lives.


Posted in Franciscan Musings | 0 Replies
We cannot wait
December 20, 2012 1:56 PM

Snowflakes are swirling outside the window.  The staff is doing last minute cleaning.  The phones are quiet.  There's a hush, an expectancy. 
Chiara Center waits for the fullness of the mystery.  Tomorrow the earth herself shifts her hours of light and darkness in the winter solstice.

Yes, today there is also more violence, more suffering, more fear in our world.  And yet                             

"We cannot wait till the world is sane                                                                                                                                 
to raise our songs with joyful voice,                                                                                                                               
for to share our grief, to touch our pain,                                                                                                                             
He came with Love: Rejoice! Rejoice."   Madeleine L'Engle, "First Coming"

Let us turn our faces to the horizon to await the dawning of peace.

Let us rejoice that our God chose to come to us in our fragility.


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Tender Thoughts
December 17, 2012 10:18 AM

During these Advent days we are reminded of Clare of Assisi's profound understanding of the mystery of birthing life and God's coming among us so humbly.  In 1238 she wrote a third letter to Agnes of Prague. "May you cling to His most sweet Mother who gave birth to a Son whom the heavens could not contain.  And yet she carried Him in the little enclosure of her holy womb and held Him on her virginal lap."

Oh the sweetness of these words.  Oh the depth of the pain of those who bring forth life and then find a child taken so young.  We, too, are in solidarity with the families in Newtown.  God weeps.

What do we carry in the enclosure of our heart? Compassion? Judgment? Sadness? Communion?



Posted in Franciscan Musings | 0 Replies
December 12, 2012 11:01 AM

During Advent we here at Chiara Center are trying to slow down and help folks find their spiritual center.  Even though we have just launched our "new and improved" website and are hoping the website is faster and better, our real mission is to help people slow down and grow spiritually. After all, there is more to life than increasing its speed and acquiring more stuff.

So after you read this, pause a spell - in silence. Just two full minutes.  Let the expansive, faithful, compassionate love of the Divine embrace you. Than, as you move toward Christmas remember the simplicity of Bethlehem...move slowly...appreciate what' small... find what's quiet. 

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Welcome to our Chiara Blog
December 6, 2012 11:05 AM


Welcome to our Chiara Center blog.

We're blessed by the entire faith community of Chiara Center - the Hospital Sisters of St. Francis, all the staff members on the campus, all who come to Chiara for retreats and meetings, all who share our spirit through our monthly newsletter Chiara Light, and all who visit our website.  That's you. 

With the launch of our new website we are also introducing this blog as a way to keep in touch with all of you on a regular basis.  Who even knew a few years ago what a blog was and that it was short for a web log?  And now here we are blogging. St. Clare herself would surely smile and be delighted that we are using technology to create community, to celebrate God's generous love, and to grow in a contemplative spirit.

So check in with us regularly, leave us a comment, share a thought.

Our blog isn't a Big Load of Gossip (blog) or Better Listings on Google (blog). It's Blessing Light of God (blog) all in the Franciscan spirit of Francis and Clare of Assisi.

Posted in Franciscan Musings | 2 Replies

Recent Posts
Posted: December 13, 2013 11:53 AM Seeing Haloes
Posted: August 1, 2013 11:07 AM Thin Places
Posted: June 6, 2013 3:29 PM It's Summer
Posted: April 17, 2013 12:55 PM Where the Light Is
Posted: April 8, 2013 11:01 AM Put Your Finger Here
Posted: March 28, 2013 9:04 AM It Comes Down to Feet
Posted: March 12, 2013 12:16 PM St. Francis and Popes
Posted: March 7, 2013 9:38 AM Prepositions
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