The Art of Waiting | Mother Mary Francis, P.C.C. | The Foreword to Come, Lord Jesus: Meditations on the Art of Waiting | Ignatius Insight
In the fall of 2003, when Mother Mary Francis was waiting at the Chicago airport for her return flight to Roswell after the completion ofa visitation to our youngest daughterhouse, she began her new book on Advent in the following words:
THE ART OF WAITING
1. Waiting as a child
2. Waiting in fear
3. Waiting in joyous expectation
4. Waiting in peace
5. Waiting to understand
6. Waiting in airports
7. Waiting to see the Face of God
There is this about waiting: it is multifaceted. We can wait in fear. We can wait in joyous expectation. We can be content to wait to be understood when God strikes the moment rather than trying to turn the clock, the calendar, ahead to our preferred moment of "now!" We can stand patiently or irritably in line at the airport. We can wait with the deliciousness of a child's waiting for Christmas. We can wait in peace for God to strike his own moment, reveal his own plans, unveil the demands of his love. And we can see all life and its often bewildering hours and events as a waiting to see the Face of God, which vision is less the explanation of life on earth than a revelation of the mystery of his love. It is ours to determine how to wait. And Advent dawns upon our hearts and souls each year to educate us in the art, the bliss, the peace, the pain, and the wonder of waiting.
It is our Lady who shows us how to wait.
There are two species of humanity as regards reading a book: those who begin reading on page one and arrive eventually at the final page, and those who must read the end before reading what precedes and leads to the end. All of us belong to a crossed species, even our Lady. The foremost handmaid of the Lord wanted some details, some explanation of God's doings. "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord." But also: "How shall this be done? I know not man." And the angel's reply was hardly something to answer the human question satisfactorily. "The Holy Spirit shall come upon thee." But who is the Holy Spirit? "And the Holy to be born of you shall be called the Son of God." These are scarcely explanations that would have elicited a reply of "Oh, I see." No, she did not see.
"Be it done to me according to your word." But how will this word function, so to speak? Blessedly comforting for us are those words of Scripture: "She did not understand." Not then, nor later, either. Gently upbraiding her boy, who was the Son of God, she was later to exercise her maternal rights by asking: "Why have you done this?" when he had been missing for three days in the temple. The reply of the Divine Child was hardly an explanation. "Did you not know that I must be about my Father's business?" What business? But we do not find her presenting more questions. "She did not understand this word that he spoke to her." So, she just went home and cooked supper for him and Saint Joseph.
Alas, because her notes were set aside for "later", this was as far as the new book had progressed before the Great Advent of the Lord in Mother's own life. He came for her on February 11, 2006, unveiling all the mysteries of the Gospel that she pondered in the passage above. We, her spiritual daughters, were left with a great legacy in the conferences Mother gave to our community during her forty-two years as abbess. She had planned to edit her conferences for Advent into a book; but the Lord changed her plans, as he had so often done before.
Eager to share the treasures she poured out upon us, we feel impelled to make them available to a wider audience. Mother did not give an orderly commentary on the Scripture readings of each day of Advent but spoke to us on whatever subject our Lord put into her heart as certain passages in the liturgy struck her. She would often reflect on the Sunday readings; for the rest, her chapters explored any of the other multitudinous facets of Advent, touching on a number of passages more than once and opening out new vistas of meaning each time. As a wise spiritual guide, Mother knew that repetition is indispensable in teaching and it was also an element of her literary style.
We have gathered together her Advent conferences given from 1967 to 2001 and spread the rich viands of her thoughts over the course of the season, striving to match the daily Mass readings as far as possible. May these ponderings of Mother Mary Francis' heart help each reader to learn more fully the art, the bliss, the peace, the pain, and the wonder of waiting!
The Poor Clare Nuns
Monastery of Our Lady of Guadalupe
Roswell, New Mexico
Solemnity of Our Lady of Guadalupe