Gaze, Consider, Contemplate, Imitate

Clare of Assisi is a particularly strong and gracious model of how to resist the forces in

our world that dehumanize us. She teaches us how to use the strength of our character

and wills, empowered by our relationship with God, to build up loving communities and

invite greater collaboration toward the common good in all. In fact, Clare gives us a

process for this movement of gracious change—a process that has four integral steps.

First, she asks us to take a careful look at our lives and our world. “Gaze,” she says.

Take a long, loving look at the world around you. Do this in a small and immediate way

by taking a slow walk around your neighborhood or through a neighborhood of an urban

area near you.


What do you see when you engage your heart, your senses, and your desire for the

world to be a more loving place?


Second, Clare asks us to engage our mind in this process of gazing. “Consider,” she

says. Note that she asks us to engage the mind second, not first, bringing the

considerations of our mind into play once we have already engaged the heart, through

our eyes. Bringing in the mind after the heart will help us suspend our judgment, and, if

we truly “consider,” rather than analyzing, dissecting, or judging, we will be in greater

solidarity with whatever we are considering. We can think informed by our senses and

our affect, so that we engage the whole of our being in this connection with others and

the world around us. We might call this “holistic thinking,” but it is also relational

thinking. We are asked to “consider” and therefore to enter into the situation and

subjective reality of what we are seeing.


What new consideration does entering into someone else’s reality bring?

Third, Clare asks us to bring the divine into our considerations—to ask for and be

deeply open to God’s perspective on what we are seeing and considering.

“Contemplate,” she says. This word is sometimes intimidating to us, especially if we

have not been particularly creative in how we connect to the divine. For Clare,

contemplation is simply an openness to the deeper reality that we are created by a

loving God whose love continues to give us life, day by day. This God wants, in fact, to

share life with us, to be turned to daily; the warmth, love, reassurance, insight, and

sometimes challenging perspectives that we receive in the context of relationship with

this God is what keeps us vital and alive. This is, in part, why she encourages us to

“contemplate”—that is, to open ourselves to God’s loving presence—continually.

How does connection with God transform the ways that you see, think, desire, respond,

and sustain connections with others?


Fourth, Clare asks us to extend our connection with God into the broader world.

“Imitate,” she says. Encouraging us to “taste and see” the goodness of God through the

earlier steps, now she asks us to bring our transformed selves into deepening

relationship with others. “Imitate” the tenderness of God that we have learned at God’s

side. Clare had a strong and deep, intimate relationship with the incarnate God. She

spent hours in front of the cross of San Damiano in her community. She understood the

Christ on that cross to be asking her to “rebuild” the human community, just as Christ

had asked her collaborator Francis before her. Her daily practice of gazing, considering

and contemplating led her naturally to imitating the love that she had learned in

relationship with God. In asking us to “imitate,” Clare asks us not to be afraid to bring

God’s kindness into all of our relationships, as instruments of the healing love that we

find in the embrace of God.


Where is one relationship that could be transformed if you brought the love of God more

consciously into that relationship?


Resources for Renewal will be offering many tips, suggestions, workshops and other

offerings to help you deepen your contemplative practice; this is an integral part of our

mission: to open up the reservoir of wisdom and contemplative practices that can renew

us and our society.




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