I wondered if any of this made sense to the child. Did she think scary thoughts of monsters and zombies, or did her mother transfer the reverence she felt for the medieval woman whose body lay in state. They found the grave of Clare in the 1800s, hundreds of years after her death in an incorruptible state.
I am like so many American Catholics, I don't remember much in the way of facts, not needing to hold onto any of it as proof. So the fact that when St. Clare's body was discovered it was fully in tact I'm thinking, Okay, and your point?
For a body to be incorruptible, means that it did not decompose. When her tomb was unearthed her skeleton was intact. Now she lays in state, a facial structure looking like skin applied, clothing depicting her era of dress donned, and reverence ignited in passing individuals.
Still, I was unmoved by that experience, except for the provocation of the emotions behind the interchange between the mother and child.
It held interest, but little emotional content.
We turned a corner into a small room, bare of furniture. By this time my role had been established as photographer and I quickly began snapping pictures of the dormitory where Clare and up to 50 other women spent their time in devotion to the beliefs of Francis. It wasn't much larger than my living room back home. How could so many women live in such a small place?
Our facilitator positioned himself in a corner of the room, the corner established as Clare sleeping area, and I watched as each member of our group, without words, opened their hands to him. He said a blessing and graced each person's hands with oil, anointing us, a familiar fragrance - rosemary - that grew wild along the path, amid olive groves.
The camera propped on my forearm, I raised my hands for the blessing, and as I brought them to my nose, something stirred inside of me. I thought of my daughter, Elizabeth, of Clare, and of myself. Somehow our journeys intertwined. St. Clare must have been an eight on the Enneagram: decisive, strong, intelligent, and not afraid to speak her mind. I could identify with her, feeling the struggle between leadership and submission that has been my role in a church that now seems to shun me as a woman. I prayed for my daughter that she would find her way in a world where women continue to be put down, made less of, and are not held in the highest regard.
I'm usually a steady hand when my eye sees something to capture. Through the lens I am able to detach enough from experiences to want to save them for posterity. And yet, of the numerous pictures of the children, and there were many children waiting in line for a blessing, the picture above is the only one remotely in focus. For my emotions had gotten the best of me when I pictured a St. Clare and her sisters living in a dormitory above the ground floor, defending her faith to anyone who might pass.
Why does a woman have the faith she has, and when it is ignited what is her reaction, why do some things speak so deeply to a woman? Oil, common olive oil, infused with rosemary, is such a feminine thing. Women cook, women use rosemary for vegetables, chicken, any number of recipes. Father John allowed the spirit, the feminine aspect of my belief in the Trinity, to work within him. Women are drawn to that, drawn to the place where love and gentle grace meet.