Thursday, April 26, 2012

'Shirt of Flame' Discussion

Writing Prompts for Shirt of Flame.

What did you think of the stories of Fred and Gene (the homeless man) in the book? How did the stories of these simple, ordinary men help the author teach us about St. Therese?

 This question reminds me of one of my favorite sayings, "character is how you treat those who can do nothing for you." When we read about Gene, I think of what St. Therese described as the "unnoticed drops of blood" of Christ on the cross and how we are all called to try in our own "little ways" to unite ourselves to the suffering in the Body of Christ. How can we love the "lepers" inside of ourselves until we love the "lepers" of society as Christ would? I think of the Corporal Works of Mercy when Heather King describes Fred, and how visiting the sick can be a chore sometimes made worse when the patient has a difficult personality, or it somehow clashes with ours. Heather King reminds us that we can not grow by only surrounding ourselves by people who make us feel good about ourselves all the time! (awww snap!) What are those obstacles keeping us from fully embracing Jesus? I felt so empowered by the way that Heather King reminds us, through the example of St. Therese, that our vulnerability really becomes our strength. We can't go anywhere on our own until we admit that vulnerability, like St. John says "Lord, I must decrease so that you may increase," (John 3:30). Christ gives us everything we need for our journey - we must strive to be open to how God wants us to see ourselves and the world.

Here are a few more questions:


Which aspect of Therese's life did Heather King reveal to you in a new or different way?

What did you think of the stories of Fred and Gene (the homeless man) in the book? How did the stories of these simple, ordinary men help the author teach us about St. Therese?

On page 53-54, King writes about women "who wear the scapulars, who carry the flame; who wait, and who, in a very real way, have kept the Church going...." What do you think of this passage? Are there women in your life that image reminds you of? Share!

10 comments:

  1. I love that, Julia! Especially your quote about character. I think what struck me most about those two men was that they remind me of all the times I judge others. Either their looks, their intentions, their 'niceness' or value to me. And, so often, I am shocked to find out later that they are really nothing like I imagined. The perfect, beautiful mom whom I thought had the high life ends up having a severely autistic child. The woman who seems a bit flighty and always worries over silly thing has suffered 2 miscarriages. I judge so often, I guess it's instinctive in a way. But I need to continuously stop myself immediately and remember the 'little way' the 'drops of blood', the 'lepers' that gave St. Francis his final conversion.

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  2. There is something so deeply beautiful about Heather King's encounter with Gene. I let my heart rest with it and ask what is it to "kiss the leper?" The poor, the outcast in all of us does not desire pity but compassion, a pure love. . a pure flame. . . .only a pure heart can see God, I think because only a pure heart would desire to find Him. . .and so we find Him in what Mother Teresa would call "His distressing disguise." All of the facade burns away and we are able to see the heart of the other in all of their glorious beauty, receiving God's love letter written on flesh and blood. His precious drops of blood in the most unlikely and the most familiar faces, the poorest of the poor hidden in plane sight. To kiss a leper and be kissed by a leper. .is to simply be present to the other and allow love to be the lens, love to be the ears, love to transform our hearts. . .our mind. . .our strength (our action), that love be the encounter. Pure flame, burn away the cataracts that would cloud our vision from seeing rightly.

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  3. Since we all love Fred, I found this post on Heather King's Blog:

    http://shirtofflame.blogspot.com/2010/09/rip-freddie-one-year-ago-today.html

    With a photo of the man.

    Did you know the book is dedicated to him?

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  4. All of you ladies have such a talent for writing...WOW! Are you sure you want me in this bookclub? Maybe you would just prefer I read and respond out loud? : )

    Nan, I enjoyed reading this and found myself contempating in Adoration this morning. "The poor, the outcast in all of us does not desire pity but compassion, a pure love. . a pure flame. . . .only a pure heart can see God, I think because only a pure heart would desire to find Him. . .and so we find Him in what Mother Teresa would call "His distressing disguise."

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  5. I wonder if we were especially struck by this book because typically, when a woman reads a spiritual book by a woman, it deals with motherhood and marriage in some way. This book didn't. Not at all. I wonder if we were subconsciously struck by that change in perspective and it helped us to see ourselves differently. What do you think?

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    1. I thought about that, also, Lauren. When I recommended it to a friend, I told her that I felt that men could read the book and relate to it, but that it spoke especially to a woman's heart, but that it wasn't about marriage and motherhood. It also didn't give specifics, such as directions for a typical day in the spiritual life or guidance about specific spiritual practices. Before, I would have thought that was what I was seeking in a spiritual book. Just as we wondered how Tim Farrington could get into the mind of a woman so well, I marvel that Heather King was able to break down the complexities of the "Little Way" in what appeared to general themes, but yet each of us left the book with very specific, concrete changes we made/wanted to make in our lives.

      When I taught in the classroom, I was always refreshed by a good workshop. The best workshops had 1) good speaker, 2) organized, logical format, 3) explored a big idea--you sometimes lose sight of your big goals as a teacher as you get mired in the day-to-day tasks, just as you do in any profession or vocation, 4) gave an opportunity for us to apply the big ideas of the workshop to our own classroom.

      Shirt of Flame is also a deeply Catholic book, yet I would not hesitate to hand it over to a person who might be "squeamish" towards Catholicism. King manages to illumine deep truths of Catholicism with quotes from such varied sources, something at which I know you always marvel. Like you've said, you want to be a better, wider reader after reading Heather King. Over the past year, I've had to stop reading sites, FB posts, etc...from quite a few national Catholic sources because of the lack of charity and substance I saw in some posts and comments. The words that hurt my heart were just the law being spat out, with the spirit of the law being completely ignored. The power of what St. Therese and Heather King have shared with readers is in their ACTION (full of struggle, consolation, lack of consolation, insights), guided by love, because it's not just TALK about love.

      General becomes specific, Deeply Catholic without being overtly Catholic, Little Way is really a Big Deal, like Elizabeth expressed in her post--Paradox is always interesting in literature, but it's downright exciting, passionate stuff in the real world.

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  6. Terri, I thought that was beautiful what you said about the law being enforced but the spirit of the law being passed over. It reminds me a little of the friction between the Vatican and the Sisters in our country, right now. There is a disconnect where there should instead be a spirit of unity. Shirt of Flame shares a universal message - which can translate to men, women, children in any age, stage, belief system or profession. Lauren, I thought the same thing! It was SO soul-refreshing to read a book for my own spiritual formation, not as it relates to my role specifically to the people in my life, but to me as an individual.

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  7. TERRI!!! Perfection! Well done!

    Deeply Catholic without being overtly Catholic. Yes. Sure and glad, but not desperate or anxious. Feeling no need to prove anything. I know I have hurt people in the past with my desire to "prove" the Church and her teachings to them. It just doesn't work. I think that comes with wisdom.

    Like Shawn Chapman in her sari, leading the Rosary before her husband's funeral. Praying and singing alone in a room full of atheists and agnostics. She was not ashamed, she was not worried about offending anyone. She had no expectation of anyone joining in with her. She simply acted out her love. And the best secret of all is that she is 1000% time more likely to bring a soul to the Church than I'll ever be.

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  8. Lauren, I have always, always admired Shawn for the exact same reasons. And don't put yourself down! Because you have shared this book with all of us, we are now able to share it with so many others. Who knows how may souls we may win for Christ, just because of this book alone? What I think is beautiful is how it is enlivening the faith of people who have felt uninspired for some time - that's huge too!

    I know St. Francis' message is used so often but it just seems to resonate here. Preach the Gospel always, and if necessary, use words.

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  9. "It was SO soul-refreshing to read a book for my own spiritual formation, not as it relates to my role specifically to the people in my life, but to me as an individual." Yes, Julia! And St. Francis' message is the perfect reminder.

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