In her new book Mystics and Misfits: Meeting God Through St. Francis and Other Unlikely Saints, author Christiana Peterson writes about her life in a Mennonite intentional community and also shares a few letters she wrote to Saint Francis. And a letter to Simone Weil. And to Clare of Assissi and Margery Kempe and Dorothy Day. These weren't fan mail letters, nor were they just a narrative device in a beautifully written memoir. She wrote to these Christian saints and mystics, whose own works she'd been reading, out of a need for companionship on the journey through life, out of a desire for mentoring, out of a longing to go deeper with God. Of course, no return note landed in her mailbox, but I imagine an outside-of-time-and-place thing going on, an authentic communion of saints that helped shape and buoy her.
Here's part of her letter to Simone Weil on the topic of attention:
"Maybe that is why I'm not so good at this yet, Simone. I am digging up the darkness inside me, uncovering my shadows, looking at them one by one, and am trying to see that God loves and accepts me even there. I want so much to love others well, but it takes energy and a kind of discipline, yes, attention, that I never anticipated.
Your words have been discomfiting. But I see now that in many ways, you understand more than I do. And I confess that I am defensive because you have poked at my weakness.
Still, I wonder what you would do if you appeared in our community...."
After reading Christiana's book I've started to think about writing a letter of my own. I have someone in mind. To whom would you write?
[Photo: Taken of a page from Mystics and Misfits.]