Marti Gras - St John of God

Marti Gras - St John of God

There are a number of things we celebrate today, the day before Lent begins.  We have Marti Gras, which according to Wikipedia refers to events of the Carnival celebrations, beginning on or after Epiphany and culminating on the day before Ash Wednesday.  Marti Gras is French for Fat Tuesday, referring to the practice of the last night of eating richer, fatty foods before the ritual fasting of the Lenten season, which begins tomorrow on Ash Wednesday.

Today is also the feast of Saint John of God who is the patron saint of firefighters, booksellers, printers, heart patients, hospitals, nurses and the sick.  He was a rather impulsive child who left his family when he was eight upon hearing a visiting priest speak of adventures waiting with the new worlds opening up in 1503.  He ran away from home with this priest and never saw his parents again but led a very interesting life--seeking adventures and always returning to God in some form or another.  He was far from perfect and at one point, was committed to the Royal Hospital where he was confined to the mental hospital, enduring the treatment of the day which included being tied down and a daily whipping.  

John of Avila came to visit him and told him his penance had gone on long enough--forty days, and had John of God moved to a different part of the hospital.  He then began to minister to the other sick people and the hospital was not happy to have him released--but he felt called to begin his own hospital.  He was loving to all, welcomed anyone in need and was a rare model of unconditional love for the needy.  

One final story (which is sited on Catholic On-Line) - The Royal Hospital was on fire and upon hearing the fire bell, he ran to help, discovering people watching the hospital--and its patients--go up in flames!  He rushed into the blazing building and brought out patients and when all were rescued, he began throwing blankets, sheets and mattresses from the windows.  He fell through the burning roof and all thought they had lost their hero until John of God appeared miraculously out of smoke!  For this reason, John of God is patron saint of the firefighters.  He died on March 8, his fifty-fifth birthday, after catching pneumonia while trying to unsuccessfully save a drowning boy.  

I really love the stories of the saints.  I didn't know anything about Saint John of God before I checked the calendar today. I enjoy reading the stories of those who have gone before us and often find comfort learning about their various adventures and perils.  Reading about the life of John of God makes me think of my work as a chaplain volunteer in the hospital.  

Saint John of God began his own hospital so all would be able to access care and medical treatment.  He did not about ones social status, means or character, which for this time in history, was very important.  He reportedly said, when questioned about the character of one of his patients, that the only character worthy of being questioned was his own.  He was clearly a very humble man as well.  I wonder what he would do in our current insurance driven world?  

Tomorrow Lent begins.  As often as I wrestle with my faith and tradition--which happens on a regular basis--I am always comforted by the liturgical calendar.  I LOVE Lent.  I find comfort thinking about the time we spend in the desert, being drawn closer to God, regardless of our faith tradition.  Today on Twitter there were a lot of people commenting on what they were giving up for Lent and I was intrigued to read the various tweets.  Everything from soda (which for years has been on my list) to alcohol and sex!  One of my favorites was the person who was giving up alcohol for Lent but giving up Lent on St Patrick's day--just for the day!  Although there are years where I too have fasted from something, I feel like I am being called to a different understanding of Lent this year.

Rather than give up something, I am going to add something.  When I think of Lent, I think of the time in the wilderness--time where we are drawn to the silence and a season of reflection.  I remember writing a homily while at the seminary about being called to fast.  I discovered that people were called to fast in anticipation that God would answer their prayer and needs.  People fasted knowing God would be there and respond.  With this in mind, I am going to fast in a different way and add time for silence to listen.  My goal will be to spend a minimum of a half an hour listening--listening for the spirit and listening to where God is calling me in this season of my life.  

I am such a "thinking" person, my strong ENTJ who loves to learn and process, so for me to spend time in silence just listening, really requires an intentional commitment.  I am rather terrified at the thought of putting this in writing and am tempted to just resort to giving up diet soda, but frankly, I haven't been having soda on a regular basis and it would be much of a sacrifice!  

So my lenten journey will be to listen, to anticipate that God will respond to my silence and be with me in my own wilderness experience.  I will also follow a few Lenten medications and reflections--and now that my website appears to be up and running, I will try to blog on a regular basis, however often that turns out to be.  

I am still discerning what Embracing Your Bliss will be and how it will evolve but in the mean time, Lent begins tomorrow!  Blessings on your journey as we continue to explore the ABC's of Embracing Your Bliss:  Awakening to the Spirit, Bringing Joy to Others and Creating from the Heart.

Blissfully, Susan

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def. Bliss: -noun Supreme Happiness, Utter Joy/Contentment; the Joy of Paradise!