15 May 2012

College Choir Tour 2012

As I prepared to go on tour, I knew that I would want to remember it. So, I decided to keep a journal as we went, since there would inevitably be things that I would forget otherwise. I have added some clarifications, since I wasn't always writing this to explain everything, but instead so I would remember the trip myself. Also, I have taken out most names for internet privacy reasons. Without further ado:

   1. 3/29/12, West Genessee High School, Fairmount, NY
Heard recital choir and chorale, both of which were quite unusually good for High School choirs (vowels, cutoffs, group discipline). Worked mostly on dynamics and phrasing.
   2. 3/29/12, Holy Trinity Episcopal Church, Fayetteville, NY
Small chapel, priest was super nice and said it was the best choir they had ever had, and we connected very strongly spiritually. Standing-room only, and very enthusiastic audience with a large Sacred Honor Choir. {Sacred Honor Choir was when we had high school students come up and sing with us on the last two pieces of the program; we did this at most of our concerts.} 1st time run-through of the Bach {Singet dem Herrn ein neues Lied} in concert - and they gave us an excellent potluck dinner! {Most of the churches gave us dinner; we would come, set up, have dinner, then give a concert.} :)
   3. 3/29/12, Homestay
Truly lovely couple and a beautiful home. Stayed with 5 other girls. They gave us lemon cookies and tea, and we stayed up talking about a range of topics. He is a psych prof in Syracuse [taught a Houghton professor!], and she was an elementary music teacher. Their house looked more than a little like something out of a magazine - all so perfect, but so tastefully done and we felt very put at ease.
   4. 3/30/12, Troy Music Hall, Troy, NY
Stunning acoustics, full floor and two balconies, and side balconies (reminding me of the Royal Opera in London!) So easy to be too loud; Dr. J {Dr. Johnson, our conductor} kept telling us to be quiet! Had pizza for dinner with a very nice group of SHC kids (one girl had the craziest laugh, like a dying duck, which made the rest of us laugh and we had a good time). The audience was small, but seemed to enjoy the concert and we just had a lot of fun glorifying God in a place where it was so easy to make a good sound! Sometimes we would finish a piece (the dramatic/loud endings) and the sound would hang, shimmering, in the air. Awesome!
   5. 3/30/12, Stay Inn [Hotel], Troy, NY
Pretty nice hotel, and the beds were comfortable, (most important thing!). We got in around 9:45, and I finished off my paper, submitted it, and went to bed. Slept in, then continental breakfast,  quick nature walk on a path another girl and I found, and we were back on the bus!
   6. 3/31/12, King of Grace Church, Haverhill, MA
Diner was potluck again, delicious as usual, and they made a nice cake that said "Welcome Houghton Choir", so that was nice. We had devos and the guy doing them was sharing about how much music meant to him and how the concert pieces were so deeply moving. We were all sitting around very quietly when a little kid came running in, rather loudly (and graphically) proclaiming his success in the lav. It made everybody laugh. The concert went very well, with the audience clapping the whole time we were filing in and out. The space was nice, too, with a wide open stage although the piano was back behind the choir so we had to fool a bit with sight lines for the songs we do with piano. They were super appreciative, with whistles, yells, and standing at intermission as well as at the end :) The only nightmares: 1 ladies toilet in the whole building, and taking the robe boxes up narrow, twisty stairs to the attic that was the ladies' dressing room.
   7. 3/31/12, Homestay
Stayed in New Hampshire, since it was so close to the boarder. Along the way we passed the  church that sent out the first missionaries from America. That was neat! They gave us tea and popcorn and banana bread, and we saw their pellet stove, which was cool. The not-cool (well, cold) part was that as a result when we shut our door at night it was so cold! I woke up freezing, and my throat was so cold. I had some tea and toast for breakfast, and one of the girls loaned me her scarf and I took a shower. But regardless, after going to bed at midnight, getting up at 6 feeling miserable was not so fun. Chugging tea and cough drops, and off again.
   8. 4/1/12, Greater Framingham Community Church, Framingham, MA
We arrived at 9:30 or so, unloaded quickly, robed, and met the pastor. He informed us that we would be up front the entire service, and would follow his directions. Dr. J nodded, and it was so. We filed up in formation, (never having seen the sanctuary!), and went into rows of chairs on the stage (aka "choir loft" - it was most emphatically not a choir loft!). From the music playing we confirmed that it was a black Pentecostal church (or something along those lines). There was an electronic organ (think rollerskating sound, the man playing it was quite good!), an electric bass, and drum set. There was also a men's choir that was pretty much getting right into the music, and the pastor directed us to sing along, clap, sway back and forth (what we call the "choral shuffle"), etc. The service was an interesting mix of what I would call Baptist preaching, Pentecostal singing, and High Church (Anglican or Catholic communion and liturgy (confession of faith, Lord's prayer, Apostle's Creed, Gloria Patri). The did have a "welcome" like I hadn't seen before; all first-time visitors they asked to stand up and give name, where you're from, and religious affiliation (if any). Up on the stage, all 70 of us stood up, along with random people in the congregation (Houghton PR crew, some parents of choir people, etc.) They passed a microphone around and it took quite a long time. Then the pastor turned around and saw the choir standing there and just kind of laughed and skipped us. We sang a couple spirituals as a part of the service and even while we were singing the audience was standing up, singing along, clapping to the music, etc. It was good practice focusing on the conductor and staying together ^_^ After we finished, though, the pastor said 'Amen' a dozen or so times, then laughed and said "we saw those purple robes [our choir robes] and were wondering if you could actually sing. But you can sing!!!" That was nice =)
   9. 4/1/12, Concert at GFCC
We had lunch (bean chili, spaghetti, meatball sandwiches, over-sized sub sandwiches, cookies, cake, etc). It was quite good, and afterwards we had a few minutes of free time, then some quick formations/testing out the space, devos, (where the guy doing devos made some good Palm Sunday points on praise), and we were on! The concert went well; on account of the audience we only did the first section of the Bach, but all our spirituals, etc. The liked us a lot, and we got rave reviews after the concert.
   10. 4/1/12, Homestay
Stayed with a very nice lady and her just-16-year-old son; her husband was in Arizona with 17 other guys from the church, golfing for 4 days. Their house was jaw-droppingly posh, but they were super nice. We went out to dinner at a place called Legal's, where I ate (on recommendation) a cup of clam chowder and also grilled salmon. I'm quite certain it is the best fish I've ever had! But it's Boston; that is to be expected! :) Went to bed early, since we were exhausted. She is actually from the deep South, so for breakfast we had grits, eggs, bacon, and sausage - along with Greek yogurt, fruit, coffee, orange juice, etc. We dropped the boy off at his school, then were dropped off at the church. We were early, but just hung out at the church.
   11. 4/2/12, Boston Trinity Academy, Boston, MA
Day of utmost insanity! My voice was quite tired, so I talked as little as possible. Worked on my Arabic on the bus, and we stopped at a school along the way to sing. We got stuck in traffic getting into Boston and were running late, so Dr. J had us do our warm-ups on the bus. When we stopped, we were instructed to leave everything on the bus and run in. So we jogged/ran across the grass and into the school, where there was a 'relay' of teachers who took our coats/waterbottles and directed us. We kept running right into the auditorium with Dr. J telling us as we went what formation to get into on stage. It was apparent that instead of the usual masterclass, we would just be doing some singing. We filed right up onto the stage; the room was already full of students and as we started in, they started cheering and clapping. We sang Witness (one of our spirituals), then Ehre Sei Gott (in German), the latter half of Idumea (early American, and the stomps were lots of fun on the hollow wooden stage - plus, all the girls were wearing our flats, not slippers!), and Give Me Jesus. For the last, Dr. J invited the students who sang with us in Haverhill as a part of the SHC to come up, so they did and that was fun. Then the bell rang, the students all left quickly, and we were directed to the bathrooms and handed bottled water, then hustled back out onto the bus. Turnaround time? About half an hour :O
   12. 4/2/12, Calvary Baptist Church, Easton, PA
Lunch was a half-hour stop at some mall, the food court of which consisted of 7 options - one of which was closed, and three of which were Asian (and all were basically the same). I really just wanted tea, but couldn't find any, so got gingerale instead. Arrived at the church around 4 pm, so it had been a 7-hour or so drive that day. We were all pretty tired, but unloaded, and did some warmups/our standard figuring out of formations and testing the space. They fed us chicken, beans, boiled potatoes, salad, and amazing rolls! There also was a huge dessert table. Between prep and dinner we had a little time off: Quote of the day goes to Dr. J - "Okay, you can go now. For the next 7 minutes I won't manage every detail of your life." :D I thought the concert went decently, although the audience felt kind of meh. Coming after churches that so warmly welcomed and loved us it was a reminder that we need to always do our best, and that we're singing for God's glory, not so we can get appreciation from the audience. The awkward part was driving back with our hosts (who actually were perfectly nice, don't misunderstand!) and he went on a 5-minute exposition of the virtues of the auditorium, how it was specially built for music/sound, the floating clouds adjusted just so, etc. My roommate and I just kept mum, because it was by a long shot the worst place we have sung in to date for sound - kind of like shouting into a black hole. We couldn't hear anything, and the whole space felt dead. But like I said, our hosts were very friendly and we chatted for a bit, then headed off for some sleep.
   13. 4/3/12, Philadelphia, PA
Had my 21st birthday in Philly! Got back to the church early, so we hung out in the choir room, looked at their music, practiced the Bach melismas, told stories, and generally hung out in a very choir-ish fashion while waiting for everyone else to show up. Voice-being-tired is now more like I-have-a-cold; my voice doesn't hurt so much, but the whole coughing/sneezing/continually blowing my nose is not so fun! Anyway, we got to Philly, and the buses dropped us off for a few hours of free time. We walked around and looked at the Liberty Bell (from the outside), and wandered down South street. We had heard that a good place to get cheesesteaks down there was a place called "Jim's", so we found it and 16  of us crowded in line (it's a small place!). The guys working there were super friendly, and asked if we were on a field trip ... um .. haha? We told them we were with a college choir, at which they told us to sing something! We had a good mix of people, so we sang Witness, and they loved it. Then we got our cheesesteaks and went upstairs to eat. While we were eating my choir friends sang Happy Birthday, which was sweet of them :) Then we went exploring, bought ice cream, funnel cakes, and fresh-squeezed orangeade (not all of us buying each thing!), saw the tomb of the unknown soldier, posed for crazy pictures, and sat in the sun in a park. it was all rather fun, and we met up again with the buses and drove to the church.
   14. 4/3/12, Church of the Holy Trinity, Rittenhouse Square
The trick with the church was unloading; there was no parking and the buses had to simply stop on the street. We had been given orders on the way over, and when we stopped the crews jumped off, we yanked everything (luggage and concert equipment) off both buses, and they were off again within a minute or two. It was quite impressive, and we hustled everything inside so it would be off the street. Then we had the standard formations, set-up, dinner, robing, concert call, etc. By now I was blowing my nose a couple times a minute, and seriously considering sitting out of the concert. But I really didn't want to; it was one of those gorgeous old churches, and I had really been looking forward to that concert. So I just prayed that I wouldn't have to cough/sneeze/blow nose during that time and for the next hour and 35 minutes - the time from when we lined up for the concert until I got back to the dressing room - I was fine. Praise God! :)
   15. 4/3/12, Hampton Inn, Philadelphia, PA
I did crash. After pushing all day, I finally had to admit how absolutely awful I felt. Took some cold meds, had some tea, and tried not to focus on being miserable (which I think I failed at). To be truthful, I pulled the blankets over my head and cried. The girls I was staying with are wonderful and came to the rescue; hugs and kind words make a world of difference and I fell asleep. Woke up and fever had broken; I felt utterly wiped out, but on the mend and my head was clearer. had a shower and quick breakfast, then shoved everything back on the bus (the situation was the same as at the church, except the street was bigger!) and we were off again.
   16. 4/4/12, Hilltown Baptist Church, Chalfont, PA
Well, the "Hill" part makes perfect sense; I don't know where the "town" came from! We drove out of the city, down a highway, into a small town, then out of the town, into the country, then very rural country ... then pastures, woods, farms, a lake, one-lane roads, big hills, etc. until we were wondering if maybe we were lost (and by we I mean choir people, not the bus driver). however, we finally pulled up at a church which was actually pretty good-sized, and we unloaded with plenty of room (and grass!) all around. It was still morning, and we had a rehearsal to learn the music we'll be singing for a special Easter service. Then we went across the road to a arm/country store/sandwich place and got lunch, then more rehearsal. We ended up with some free time and were pretty much told not to talk, but to take a nap. I was really dragging, and did go outside in the grass for a nap. The concert was a bit sentimental; the last full concert of the trip [by which I mean Dr. J told us that we wouldn't be singing the Bach again] =( But it went well, and the acoustics were pretty good.
   17. 4/4/12, Homestay
We stayed with a retired couple who had been missionaries in the Philippines for 35 years. We heard a lot about their kids and grandkids, and they had us sign their guestbook. She was also a Houghton grad, and we talked about the changes that have taken place in the last 40-some years. They also asked us how they could pray for us. It was a wonderful homestay, and she dropped us off with time to spare at the church.
   18. 4/5/12, Hawthorne Christian Academy, NJ
We headed out for NYC, and on the way stopped at another school. Here we met with their choir, plus a homeschooled choir. After we sang and Dr. J did some masterclass work we had a quick snack, then did some more singing.
   19. 4/5/12, NYC
As we drove into NYC, Dr. J did some tour-guide/info talking. We arrived at Calvary Baptist Church/the Salisbury Hotel on 57th Street, Manhattan, and did another super fast unload onto the street and into the hotel. When we were settled in, one of my roommates and I headed off to Central Park. We wandered around and had snacks, then back to the hotel. We dressed up, then headed off for the Metropolitan Opera to see Verdi's "Macbeth". Afterwards, several of us walked down to see Times Square at night. It was quite stunning, and on the way back we stopped at a street vendor and got falafel. We also got stopped by a guy who declared how much he loved each of us and the whole world, and proceeded to rather awkwardly hug us before walking on. We got back and collapsed tiredly. :)
   20. 4/6/12, Day in NYC
We had call at 9:30 the next morning, to work on the Masagcali. While we were there we did our formation work, too, and Dr. J pushed our call time back so that we had pretty much all day off! By the time I got out of rehearsal it was a little after 11. Had lunch with two choir friends (pizza at a little Italian shop!), and we decided to wander up to the Metropolitan Museum of Art through Central Park with others. We looked around, and after awhile everyone except one other girl had gone back. We agreed to split up, since she wanted to see some Dutch masters and I was more interested in British and French. Ended up seeing somevery wonderful paintings and having a lovely time.
   21. 4/6/12, Calvery Baptist Church, NYC
I was on for helping with lights, so got back to the church around 4:15. We did set-up until dinner at 5:30, then dinner and a quick change, devos, and we were on! We hadn't really known what the Good Friday service would be like as far as structure, but it turns out that they pretty much wanted us to sing our concert and the pastor gave a pretty short, direct message that was very good. They loved us, and I found it to be a deeply meaningful service. Partly getting over my sickness and feeling human again, partly the significance of Good Friday, partly just knowing the material well and working well as a choir, partly a full house and engaged audience, but it rated as my favorite concert. (I can say that since it's our last concert, so I know for all of tour now.) The only real downside of the evening was having only me and one other guy on robe crew come to haul the robe boxes to the storage room. Plus, there were only two elevators for the entire hotel, and they were finicky and wouldn't come. So we and two other [nice, helpful, wonderful, kind] guys [who volunteered] from the choir carried all six boxes down 3 flights of stairs. It was very tiring!
   22. 4/7/12, St. Joseph's Cathedral, Hartford, CT
The next morning we were up early and off again! Heading out of Manhattan we hit 2 red lights just as we were leaving the hotel, but other than that we didn't get a singe one the whole way off the island! We made it from central Manhattan to the highway in about 5 minutes. I feel like that might be some kind of record! We arrived at the church without difficulty, and quickly hauled equipment in and were handed programs for Holy Saturday service, Easter concert, and Easter service - plus a packet of music, which were were informed we would be singing! *Blink* ... well, so in the next few hours we [kind of] learned everything we needed to sing for the 2-hour mass that night, an hour concert the next day, and another hour mass. [Note that we do not sing that whole time, that's just how long the services were.] We had a quick lunch somewhere in there, but otherwise rehearsal until 2 pm.
   23. 4/7/12, Hotel, Hilton/Garden Inn
We went to our hotel under quite strict orders to be quiet! Take a nap, read a book, etc. I took advantage of the free wifi to check emails, then watched youtube clips of college students doing standup comedy and tried not to laugh too loudly :)
   24. 4/7/12, Holy Saturday Mass, St. Joseph's
New experience as a part of college choir: sightreading music at a performance/having music during a performance! Since we sing all our concerts memorized, it was very strange to not be very familiar with all the music! As far as the service itself, it was at 8 pm although it was the service I would think of as being the midnight service - starting in darkness, reading the story of the crucifixion, then lighting candles, lights, bells, and finally "alleluia". [For anyone not familiar with non-protestant tradition, it should be noted that during the season of Lent {40 days before Easter} the word 'alleluia' is withheld from the service as a part of the anticipation for and rejoicing of Easter.]
  25. 4/7/12, back at the hotel
We left the church around 10:15 pm, and 4 of us decided to get pizza, since we hadn't had dinner. We ordered some to be delivered to the hotel, and it came around 11:45. In the meantime and while we were eating someone turned the TV on, so we were watching the cooking channel and commenting on the good or negative things we thought about the food people were making. Around 12:30 we wrapped it up, having had a couple more people come and help with the pizzas/comment on the cooking channel. The next morning breakfast was not included with the hotel stay, so I had the leftover piece of pizza for breakfast out on the patio and enjoyed the sunrise/early morning since it was a lovely one. Made coffee to go, and it was back on the bus again!
   26. 4/8/12, St. Joseph's, Easter morning
We had a concert at 10, then mass at 11. [And by 'we', I mean us as college choir, the cathedral choir and cathedral brass, Soli Deo Gloria orchestra, and the church organist. A note about the organist: he is from Argentina, and has his PhD or something in organ playing, basically his expression looked like 'let me have some fun improvising on a ~ 3,000 pipe organ for an Easter service - BANG!' He was phenomenal, and a treat both to watch and to listen to! :D] The mass was considerably shorter (only about an hour) since there weren't any baptisms or confirmations like there were Saturday. We packed up quickly, and a few of our organ people from HC who are in choir got to play the organ! The organist was also very nice, and after the service thanked us for coming and told us that it was the best Easter service he'd had in his 15 years as organist there!
   27. 4/8/12, Bus ride/home
So, we all got on the bus for the long drive from Hartford, CT, to Houghton, NY. The good part was being with friends, and we did have a lot of fun. However, when we saw the sign welcoming us to Houghton, there may or may not have been - okay, there was - some very excited cheering! We thanked Dave, our awesome bus driver, did a pretty much record-breaking unload (although not because we were holding up traffic, this time!) and headed of to crash after our adventure. Since the dorms don't open until Monday, I'm staying with one of my friends/fellow choir alto since she lives off campus and can get into her apartment.

Fine. SDG 


Well, there you have it! If you really did read the whole thing, I a) am very impressed with your fortitude, and b) hope you enjoyed it!

Here are a few things that didn't really fit anywhere else:

- "Your zeal to close the consonant borders on the humorous" - Dr. J
- Telling someone that 'you're the sparkle in my champaigne' is way funnier than it should be when everyone is overtired
- Cold meds + exhaustion + coffee = everything is much funnier than it actually is
- "Veggies prefer a short commute" - on the side of a truck, advertising local produce
- (regarding a cemetery) - "People are just dying to get in there" - anonymous
- "Oh, look. It's a big bell with a crack in it" - unnamed choir man, sounding like Riley on National Treasure and referring to the Liberty Bell
- "I could go for some Ecstasy right now. Quiet bus become the high bus" - choir man (also, this is totally in context!)
- "The penultimate bar, on beat 9, you get to go baaaahhhhh!!!" Dr. J
- For general information, the Bach motet we sang (memorized, of course) was 92 pages long :)
- choir tour was awesome and I would totally do it again and am so looking forward to next year!!!!!!!!!

07 May 2012

Black-Eyed Susan

Today I went out for lunch with three of my friends. We went to a place in Angelica called the Black-Eyed Susan Acoustic Cafe. It was quite fun, and the food was quite good. 

I got a sandwich called Muffaletta, and asparagus

Buffalo chicken sandwich and skillet potatoes. Also, hungry ;)

Brownie sundae!

I got raspberry-chocolate-whipped cream pie. Tasty!

happy eating

Waiting for creme brulee


we enjoy our food!

delicious chocolate mints came complimentary (1,000 times better than fortune cookies) :p
Well, that's what I did today! Then I had a meeting, then take home final, and time with friends ... good day so far! It's raining, but in a happy, spring kind of way! :-)

05 May 2012

Praising God

I was thinking, just now: you know how people say 'oh, it's easy to praise God in the good times, but it's when times get tough that you really have to work at it'? Well, I'm not so sure that is a good way to think of it.

My life is amazing right now. It is easy to praise God. He is blessing me beyond what I could think or imagine, and yet my automatic reaction is, sadly, 'well, these are the good times ... will I still be able to praise Him when everything isn't falling into place quite so wonderfully?'

No! Why am I focusing on the times that it feels like the sky is so far away, instead of living in the moment and overflowing with thankfulness and praise to God? Must every moment in which God blesses me be tinged with the negative counter: just wait and see if it lasts. Absolutely not.

Should I be focused on the praise? Yes. Intentional? Certainly! But instead of thinking of it as a temporary state of gratefulness which I will soon remember only dimly from a black hole of separation, can I not instead just be thankful for how amazing God is? Wouldn't a better reaction, when overwhelmed with blessing, be to store up inside memories of thinking how wonderful God is, and what it feels like to not be able to stop thanking Him for being so wonderful?

This is pretty much something that I thought of less than 5 minutes ago, and decided to post. Thoughts?

02 May 2012

Nearer, My God, To Thee

So ... this basically made me cry. So much emotion from such a beautiful instrument ...

01 May 2012

St. Francis in 13th Century Culture

             In The Major Legend of St. Francis, Saint Bonaventure shows that St. Francis of Assisi led by example and that this example presented some solutions to the difficulties faced by 13th Century culture. He does this through relating incidents in St. Francis’ life and the way he interacted with the culture surrounding him, allowing the stories to be the example. The solution to the difficulties comes from the example itself – Bonaventure is not too subtle in saying that St. Francis’ example needed only to be followed in order for positive change to be effected. There are several themes prominent in Bonaventure’s work under which St. Francis’ life can be organized.
The first thing that Bonaventure had to do was make sure his readers understood that St. Francis had a special calling from God and thus deserved attention. Bonaventure shows Francis as having a good heart even before his perfect conversion; a man with which God has something to work. His life before his conversion was relayed by Bonaventure as a time in which he “was ignorant of God’s counsel for him” (531). Since God wanted him for His work, though, He got Francis’ attention through affliction: “Because affliction can enlighten spiritual awareness, the hand of the Lord was upon him, and a change of the right hand of the Most High, afflicting his body with prolonged illness in order to prepare his soul for the anointing of the Holy Spirit” (531/2). This special calling from God was used by Bonaventure to show that Francis had a unique place in culture and that he was to be an example. Francis’ importance, Bonaventure was careful to show, was great enough that God used a special calling to get his attention and make sure that Francis would follow the path he had been called to follow.
Bonaventure was careful to show as well that Francis was a clear benefit to society. He did this through showing his compassion for others and willingness to help. His awareness of the needs of others was shown in his clothing of a knight - a double action of giving more dignity to a human as well as giving a noble man honor (532). In this action Francis showed both that he was compassionate and trying to do the will of God – which made him a good example. These were qualities that Bonaventure wanted to emphasize in writing his book. The economic structure was that of an emerging capitalist society – merchants were making money on trade, and the old-fashioned money gain from land and rents was harder for the nobility to maintain since people were moving to urban locations. The nobility were gradually impoverished, becoming men such as the knight Francis helped – men who were nobles and had lost both their money and their social status. Francis’ gift was not only one of clothing, but also of compassion to a man who was insecure in his current social status. This example showed a solution to the problem of social instability in uncertain times – show respect instead of disregard to others, even if they are not currently as fortunate as you.
The capitalist culture that faced Francis presented unique challenges. One of these was that there was a market focus, which did not much lend itself to ideas of a life of poverty such as Francis lived. Demanding poverty would have been detrimental to Francis’ success; a major asset to his work was Francis’ flexibility in his rule and allowance of people to live lives other than the one he lived without condemning them. While he felt that what he was doing was right for him, he never insisted that everyone else or even anyone else live exactly the way he lived – instead, he set the example of living according to his convictions (533), and was concerned only that everyone else lived according to their own convictions as well. The freedom this gave those who were attracted to his lifestyle allowed many people to become his followers while still maintaining their capitalist way of life. This was critical to the success of Francis’ influence. Had he been asking everyone to give up their way of life, his example would have been less palatable and he would have greatly diminished his effect. The result of his flexibility and insistence on personal relationship with God served the purpose of allowing others to feel free to follow his example, thus providing a solution to the difficulty of how to live a committed Christian life in an increasingly capitalist society.
Furthermore, in an increasingly individualistic society, Francis’ example was more than possible to follow – it was appealing. The idea of a personal relationship with God was one that was for the time – the urbanizing culture felt itself more and more independent of the others around them, and the people who were out of their rural communities for the first time were experiencing a new sense of identity as a very personal thing. As a ‘spiritual merchant’, Francis’ first step in ‘selling’ his example was making his life and actions results of personal decisions. He achieved this, and passed it on to those who listened to him and followed his example. In this way also, Bonaventure shows Francis as a solution difficulties arising in 13th Century culture. The problem was the individualization of the urban society, the solution was a personal relationship with Christ to match the personal focus and keep the church centered in people’s lives. Francis is taking the way the merchants viewed the world and showing them how to hold this in a spiritual sense – telling them that they did not need to change everything about themselves in order to be acceptable to God. Instead of telling them to change everything about their lives, he told them that who they were as people was fine and only needed to be converted in order to be totally right. This again allowed many people to follow his example without asking that they follow his actions, and it was appealing enough that many people took him up on it.
His example in humility was particularly helpful in giving solutions to the difficulties faced by the culture. With so many people coming so recently from being poor and now in a position of power on level with or even above the noble classes, a lack of humility could be detrimental to social peace. Francis’ teaching to be humble was a solution to the problem of new class structure in society. He was not afraid to be honest and admit himself as the greatest of sinners (573) which showed great humility and was an example to those around him. This very humility would have kept Francis from bragging on his accomplishments as leader of a new order and trend in society. His success was that people adopted his ways of life – not that he became a popular leader (although that was certainly the way his ministry ended up, whether he was looking for it or not). He also did not fear rebuke and spoke freely to all, regardless of their station. He got away with all this since he was not a parish priest with the regular restrictions, and the pope saw that what he was doing was working as solutions to the problems faced by the church. His social position was vastly different from that of the established clergy, and one of the reasons is that he was not tied to the old traditions. Instead, he was able to move freely and set an example of a new kind of Christianity.
Francis’ piety gave him a great love for humanity and the created world, and set an example of how to treat others and the world. He felt a passion for humanity, as well as things non-human and created. He also felt particular compassion for urban people who were trying to live with authenticity, and spoke words of gentle critique for those who were trying to live his kind of life and were failing at it. However, his piety also helped him to see problems among other people, and gave him a great desire to fix those problems (588). He was deeply saddened by scandal and bad examples, seeing that bad examples caused people to be led astray. Bonaventure also shows that God reminded Francis that it was not his duty to make sure that the whole world was all in place, and Francis’ lesson from that was that piety is also knowing your own limits. Francis was set on fire by the perfect love that drives out fear, and taught by example that others should go assist people who need help since Christ loves them. This presented a solution to insensitivity in a culture that was disconnected from the normal ways of caring for others.
Bonaventure is careful to point out to his readers that they do not have to do exactly as Francis did in order to be in line spiritually. Instead, he portrays Francis’ example as notable on account of his fidelity to his beliefs, and makes the lesson about having a personal calling and following that calling wholeheartedly. From this, then, the example of Francis is clear and the solution to the instability in 13th century culture is simply to follow God and to do what one knows to be the right thing to do. He was not giving a way to get out of responsibilities – that would not be a life of integrity and responsibility. Francis is advocating a life of connectedness and living fully within the life he has chosen. After deciding on a life, he taught, one should live it and live it with integrity. He did not approve of anyone who “did not put on a heart of piety and was not seasoned with the salt of discernment” (564). Living differently than Francis did was fine – being too austere and missing the point, or being too carefree and not holding to convictions, were both to be avoided.
Therefore, the example of Francis is shown as a solution by showing a way of life that others could follow. Bonaventure encourages his readers to take Francis’ life seriously as an example, but not to venerate Francis’ personal life as the only way to live. The point of Bonaventure’s writing was that Francis had a calling from God and fulfilled it to the best of his ability – that is the example Bonaventure wants to make sure his readers don’t miss. The solution that St. Francis presented to the problems faced by the culture was typically Franciscan: not a book, a rule, or a sermon, but a life lived; an example of humility, poverty, piety, and great love for the created world. The personal engagement with Christian faith and the natural world allowed the people of a new urban culture to find a place and establish a new society, one based on individualism and devotion.