Friends and Colleagues in Ministry,
The weather in Las Vegas in the Spring is amazing—every day in the 70’s and low 80’s, but then we know that right around the corner are days that might hit 120 degrees. In the meantime, we are enjoying sitting on our patio, watching the grape vines covering the pergola and bunches of grapes hanging down between the slats, just like in the pictures [and it only took three years for it to happen—see picture below]. Catherine boasts of having six different colors of bougainvillea in our backyard, along with every color of flower you can imagine. And we watched Mockingbirds build a nest on our back patio, feed their two young ones, and then they all disappeared from the nest a week ago. In what follows we will briefly update you on what’s happening with CFDM and share some thoughts about our forthcoming pilgrimage to Assisi.
A reminder that our transition from a single overarching CFDM to five independent affiliates of CFDM is now underway; a wonderful thing—God has blessed CFDM with growth and deepening spiritual practice. This means Douglas will no longer be the President of CFDM, but, for the next few years, will be the President of CFDM-Nevada, with a new EIN, new not-for-profit status, new website, etc. We will continue to have the current cfdm.org website, mainly as a tool to direct interested folks to the newly established websites of the five CFDM affiliates, and as a means of interpreting the work of CFDM. Several of the new websites are still under construction [including in Nevada—www.cfdmnv.com]. Leadership of the Affiliates is getting younger! Praise God! If you are getting this Newsletter [which is eventually going primarily to people in Nevada] and would prefer not to get it, just respond with a “delete me,” and it will be done!
In past newsletters, we had lengthy descriptions of our forthcoming Pilgrimage to Assisi, Italy, in early June, now just a month away. We will be walking in the footsteps of Saints Francis and Clare. I [Douglas] have just finished the itinerary for our week in Assisi, and include a snippet of it below, from the first morning’s seminar:
“Two and one-have years ago, when Catherine and I were in Assisi, walking in the footsteps of Francis and Clare [a time during which this Pilgrimage week was conceived], I/Douglas sat for some time in the little sanctuary of San Damiano, the broken down church where Francis prayed one spring afternoon before the crucifix, from which the Lord spoke to Francis, saying, “As you can see, my church is in ruins, rebuild my church…” As I too sat praying before the crucifix, something moved from my head into my heart. The question in my mind was, “Why did Jesus walk to the cross? Why did Francis embrace absolute poverty?” And the answer seemed so simple—they did it for love. Not to earn anything, or prove anything, or fulfill anything, or protect anything, but simply out of their deep and abiding love for God. Francis was a man so in love with God and lost in the joy of relationship to Christ, that nothing else really mattered to him. There was no bottom to his grateful happiness, no matter the amount of his suffering. Eyewitnesses tell us that he was so filled with gladness he would pick up a stick and place it across his arm like a bow on a violin and play, dance and sing to the Lord in an ecstasy of joy. He was a man who loved God with all his heart, mind, soul, and strength. He turned the values of his day “holy topsy-turvey,” not because this was fashionable, but because it seemed to him to be divine common sense. He discovered the pearl of great price, the treasure hidden in the field, the possession of which all other things were worth abandoning; and in the process he gathered a few followers, that became 12, then 30, then hundreds, then thousands at a time and in a place of tremendous hunger for a real experience of God. St. Francis began a spiritual revolution in his time that helped people living in a dark age to enter a new age of light and love. If we ask the question, “How do we do this? How do we love God, neighbor, self in this reversing way?” We have a beautiful answer in the famous prayer attributed to St. Francis that we will sing and pray together.”
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace:
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.
O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
Pilgrimages, continued: We will be back in Ireland/Iona in June of 2019, through CFDM-Arizona. Contact Joyce Vidal-Thornburg, the Director of CFDM-Arizona–email@example.com–to express interest and receive further updates.
As we become CFDM-Nevada, an affiliate of CFDM, we just finished a two-year spiritual director training program in Northern Nevada and, next week, will finish the first year of a training program for spiritual directors in Southern Nevada. One of our Board Members has taken over development of our new CFDM-Nevada website [any day now you can check it out on www.cfdmnv.com]. And other Board members are helping Douglas with a re-design of our two-year training program for spiritual directors, with expectations that we will continue the training in the future without Douglas being in charge—yea! Our current monthly contemplative days [3rd Saturday of each month, at various churches, which we call “Going Deeper”] continues to be strong, with good attendance, as we are building a contact list of those interested in contemplative practices. If you aren’t currently on that contact list, and want to be, let Douglas know. And we are beginning to plan silent retreats, weekend retreats around various topics, etc.
What’s happening for the Gregg’s
We are both thankful for the energy and health to stay in the rhythm of our current ministry assignments. Catherine and I are increasingly committed to staying here in Southern Nevada for the long haul. As many of you know, her current boss, Bishop Dan, with whom she loves working, is retiring as of Dec 31, 2018. It now appears as if there will be a gap between the departure of Bishop Dan and the new Bishop being consecrated, and that Catherine, as Chief of Staff for the Diocese, will be extremely valuable to the Diocese in that interim. We both hope to stay active with CFDM Affiliates as we are able, and Catherine is having increasing invitations to do workshops and seminars, especially around Celtic Spirituality; and she remains open to being Rector, or Interim, of an interesting Episcopal Parish in the right place. Rachael, Robert, and Alex [who have been living with us this past year] are moving into their own apartment this week, which is helping to clear space for our own future, including downsizing to a smaller home. We continue to wait, as patiently as possible, for the future to come to us, instead of trying to make something happen.
Here’s one more snippet from our itinerary for next month’s pilgrimage to Assisi, this one from our Thursday evening encouragement to follow Clare on her journey to join Francis and his brothers in their mission
[In the footsteps of Clare—risking all, the first step. A group event for those interested] ‘On that night [Palm Sunday, 1212], preparing to obey the command of the saint, she embarked upon her long-desired flight with a virtuous companion. Since she was not content to leave by way of the usual door, marveling at her strength, she broke open with her own hands that other door that is customarily blocked by wood and stone.” [from The Legend of Saint Clare]. Clare responded to a dare that changed her life forever. She dared to listen to the inspiration of God; she dared to accept the gospel as her only treasure; she dared to embrace a vision of life that Francis held out to her.
“From the Piazza of Chiesa San Rufino, preferably after dark and with at least one companion, follow the footsteps of St. Clare on her midnightjourney. Imagine Clare risking all by taking that first step to join Francis. Read Matthew 14:22-33 [Jesus inviting Peter to join him by walking on water] and compare Peter’s first step onto the water with Clare’s first step out of her paternal home. Take a slow walk through the city and head for the Porta Moiano [past Chiesa Santa Maria Maggiore, not far from the Basilica di S. Chiara]. It is a little used gate out of the city.
On the other side of that gate, in 1212, Franciscan brothers waited with torches for Clare and her escort, to lead them to Francis and other brothers waiting at the Porziuncola. On passing through the gate at night, there is total darkness. Take a candle and light it and spend some minutes recalling Clare’s departure from home. If you are walking in daylight, walk on toward the Porziuncola [you can take a taxi back]. Hear God’s invitation to risk all for the sake of the kingdom. What might be the first step to take?
Douglas & Catherine Gregg