A joyfully Franciscan view of Catholic life, inspired by St. Clare (Santa Chiara) of Assisi!
- Name: Chiara
- Location: Virginia, United States
Chiara Offreduccio (St. Clare) was born in 1194. It is said that when her mother had Chiara in her womb, an angel appeared to her and said, "your child will be a light that will illuminate the world!" Hence, her mother named the child Chiara, which means "light. As G.K. Chesterton put it, St. Clare was a romantic figure just like Juliet was. However, instead of running away from her family in order to be with an earthly man, Clare gave up everything and ran away from her family for the love of her Savior!
Wednesday, November 30, 2005
Sunday, November 20, 2005
Any St. Clare picture that you could EVER WANT!
Well, after hours of procrastinating and not doing accounting homework, I've finally compiled the ALL INCLUSIVE collection of every and any picture of St. Clare that you could ever want! Not only does this include official pictures of St. Clare, but also other paintings that remind me of St. Clare, as well as pictures of me dressed as St. Clare. Yeah, I'm pretty obsessed, huh? It involved me looking up Clare's name in about five different languages and "googling" it.
Click HERE to see all of the pictures!
Also, please e-mail me if you find any cool Clare pictures that aren't on there already.
Are We All That Different From Contemplatives?
Later that week after my retreat had ended, a company called me up asking me to come to the city for an office visit. As they required my presence at the office at 8 AM in the morning, I needed to catch a bus that left campus at 4 AM. In this instance, I immediately obeyed their request without any question.
After I thought about this discrepancy, I said to myself “how bad we humans are at figuring out our priorities!” How hypocritical we are! I got to thinking even more….here we label our contemplative brothers and sisters as strange and reactionary- we regard their lifestyles as something very alien to us. But if we analyzed the situation a bit more, we’d realize how much we have in common with contemplatives….
We claim that contemplatives constrict themselves by scheduling their lives according to the ringing of prayer bells.
But are we any different? Indeed, we live our lives by bells- alarms, car horns, work bells, school bells, telephone rings. We answer to these bells each day of our lives, far more frequently than the contemplatives answer to their church bells.
We love to claim that contemplatives repress their “individuality” by donning identical habits.
But look at us! We stuff ourselves into a monochromatic sea of blue and black suits for at least five days out of the week. And when we aren’t forcing ourselves into monochromatic conformity, how often do we immediately obey the call of the media and magazines to wear the latest “styles?” Indeed, we wear habits too. The only difference is that our habits have a $300 price tag.
We love to say that contemplatives are hiding from the world, enslaving themselves inside of a cloister. But what cloisters we have! For 90% of our time, we shut ourselves up in dull gray offices and cubicles, adoring the unblessed sacrament of prosperity.
And what about the silence of contemplative life?! Have we ever took time to think that it’s not about the silence of our mouths but of the silence of our hearts? If we listened to our own words, I think that we’d realize that most of the things that our mouths say need not be said at all….but yet we refrain from speaking with our hearts for fear of being “offensive,” too “emotional,” or saying something that could be a “Career Limiting Move.”
They “blindly” obey God and their Abbot/Abbess, but do we see any clearer? When was the last time we openly questioned our boss?
Thus, if we look at our lives and theirs, we will realize that we too answer to bells, wear habits, enclose ourselves within walls, remain silent, and obey our “superiors.” So what is the main difference between us and them?
It is said that contemplatives are the most “joyful people in the world,” so why are we so miserable? Why must we look to the next promotion, the next house, the next product, the next commodity as the ultimate source of our happiness?
Let’s look even deeper, then.
They allow the bells to draw them away from their work and enter into a deeper union with God. We let our bells draw us out of whatever we are doing to fill in our time to a hurried life of what we call “productivity.” But does God look at balance sheets? Does God hear the banter that goes on in the boardrooms, or does He really care? Will God be persuaded to buy the product in the latest advertisement?
They wear their habits as an expression of themselves- as an expression of saying that they don’t need sartorial finery in order to be happy. But us? I need not go on.
They put themselves up in cloisters because they love the world so much that they can’t hold it tight enough. But even in the most crowded offices, we are world apart from our brethren due to the walls of competition and pride that we have erected.
And then the boss walks around the corner. Their boss is the Lord Almighty. Perhaps their happiness lies in the fact that they know that their boss isn’t committing fraud behind their backs, their boss will never give them bad direction, and their boss has no “favorites.” They know that their boss has a reason to be in the position where He is, and it’s not so that he can drive the latest BMW or live in the “elite” section of town. It’s because He wants us to live in the most elite place of all- with Him.
Tuesday, November 15, 2005
Saint Clare Comic Strip in Spanish!
"The Adventures of Sister Clare" in Spanish!
So continuing with my obsession with "Santa Chiara," I was procrastinating yet again when I had to dust off my High School Spanish skills and found this AWESOME "SANTA CLARA" website, complete with really POD paintings of her, and a kids' comic strip!
You better check it out, or else I'll send the Saracens after you!
Monday, November 14, 2005
Beautiful Poor Clare Photos
My Vocation Discernment Retreat at the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration
The Adoration Chapel of the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration
Well....*drum roll*...today I returned from my weekend long vocation discernment retreat with the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration in Mishawaka, IN. Although I had to miss the Navy game (Go Irish!), the retreat was well worth it. And, it was extra exciting being that this was my first ever vocation discernment retreat!
Indeed, the retreat came at a very good time. The past week, I had been completely stressed out over my schoolwork, my inability to find a job, as well the fact that God's time frame for giving us answers is a little bit different than ours. In fact, I had been so wrapped up in schoolwork that I hadn't had time to go to daily mass or say the rosary in over two weeks! I definitely had my share of "Jesus-time" this weekend, their charism being Perpetual Adoration!
The Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration were reccomended to me by my spiritual director, who noted that they are a beautiful little community. Indeed, they are! Their other apostolates are teaching and health care, and they have schools and hospitals all over Indiana.
Fortunately, this community of sisters never went "crazy" during the late 60s, 70s, 80s, and early 90s. In fact, they take alot of "transfer sisters"....that is, very orthodox women whose former congregations went a little bit haywire during past decades. Indeed, it struck me that there is an age-gap of orthodoxy....women who, at the very latest, professed during the early to mid sixties, and very young women in their 20s. They currently have three novices and two postulants, all chronologically young. However, every woman that I met there, regardless of her chronological age, was so refreshingly youthful!
Their motherhouse is in an old mansion that used to be owned by the Studebaker family....a beautiful early 1900s edifice. The residential part, as well as the main chapel and the Perpetual Adoration chapel was built in the late 40s, early 50s....it has that late-Art-Deco look to it, but is at the same time very tasteful. The walls are lined with beautiful and traditional pictures of Our Lord, Our Lady, St. Francis, and of course, St. Clare. There was a GORGEOUS picture of Chiara's investiture that was painted by one of the sisters in the 19th Century.
Weatherwise, this weekend was gorgeous, albeit a bit windy. I was picked up by two sisters on Friday evening, and later had a meet-n-greet session with all of the professed and novice sisters as well as the postulants. The priest leading the vocation discussions was from the Diocese of Gary, and, like many young priests these days, was extremely solid...he was one of the best confessors I had in quite a while, in fact! He instructed us to read several passages from Scripture that had to do with accepting God's call...namely, the story of Zecariah as well as the Annunciation. After a brief period of chatting with the sisters in the common room, we were summoned to the Perpetual Adoration chapel for a Holy Hour. I admit that I haven't been so good at getting to Adoration here at Notre Dame, but spending a total of over four hours with the Blessed Sacrament this weekend made me realize what a necessity it is in my life. Indeed, my writing flourished as I wrote in my journal in the chapel!
The rest of the weekend, we had a few more discussions, celebrated Holy Mass, shared S'mores with the sisters, went to morning, daily, evening, and night prayer, and had a one-on-one chat with the vocation director.
So.....the part you've been wondering about...did this weekend give me any definitive answers? Well, yes and no. For one thing, the vocation director and I came to a mutual decision about how it might be best for me to wait a few years...until I get over this confusion and uncertainty that I've felt in college for the past several years....so that I can make a proper decision about religious life.
However, there was another thing....you know the feeling of when you're on a date with someone and are supposed to be paying attention to your date, but no matter how hard you try, you can't stop thinking about somebody else? Well, all throughout the weekend....even during Perpetual Adoration....I couldn't stop thinking about my boyfriend, who indeed is a gem, and about how much I love him! To a lesser extent, I was also thinking alot about the Poor Clares in Barhamsville, VA, and about the deep connection that I feel with them.
Indeed, the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration are such a beautiful, joyful, wonderfully gifted community...but somehow I just didn't feel that certain "spark" this weekend. I can't even put my finger on it as to why I didn't, but perhaps it's God gently leading me to an entirely different vocation, such as marriage.
However, I reccomend this lovely community of sisters to any girl who is discerning a Franciscan vocation! Besides, brown does WONDERS for a girl's complexion!
Thursday, November 10, 2005
Review of "Candle in Umbria"
So, here is my opinion of the play....
The play is seperated into four main acts, each centering around a point in the life of Clare.
Act I features Clare's mother, Ortolana, being told by an angel that her child will be "a light that will illuminate the world!"
Act II involves Chiara leaving her family, running away in the night, and her investiture by the Seraphic Father
Act III features the story of the Saracens attacking San Damiano, and Clare holding up the monstrance in order to protect her cloistered sisters
Act IV shows Clare's death, and finally a scene in which twelve women dressed in modern garb come onto stage and sing the praises of Clare's legacy. I found this particular scene to be the highlight of the play:
"This light burned only, sent no fissured atom Shivering down some miles of naked space.
This light just flickered, faithful till the final
Sputter of yearning burst her drift of flesh.
She was a small light burning. All the arc lamps
Of noise are shattered, all the spotlights gone
Away to weep in their unhappy ruins,
But the Clare-candle whispers on and on.
Where was the famous dictum, where the flashing
Deed, the policy taken, history turned?
Who would remember Clare wrapped in her silence,
Once the bare feet were cold, the eyelids closed?
Fool of a woman! Laying down her shining
Hair for a wisp of a dream in a madman's heart!
Who will remember Clare, after the gentle
Hands are still, the kept heart only stone?
Ah, but the weary weary generations
Each after wach has flung it's noise away,
Broken its own too terrible searching arc lights
While the Clare-candle flickers on and on.
The light just burned, too small for any norice.
This light just let its pale, pure beam seem lost
In all the rocker flashes of a brilliant
And dreamless world as practical as hell.
And who shall wirness bear the very tender
Paradox, the irony of God-
That the small light has filled the earth and heavens
Past flame and torch and glare and beam, if not
The thousands strong who say no word, and lightly
Spurn the strange earth with their unslippered feet.
Who fling their gleaming hair away like laughter
And turn their faces toward a nameless spring.
(She kneels directly in front of St. Clare, her back to the audience)
And sing! because one small light flickered, faithful,
And the Clare-candle lights the weary world!"
- "Candle in Umbria: The Story of Saint Clare of Assisi," by A Poor Clare Nun in the Monastery of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Roswell, New Mexico
Beautiful passage, no? It illustrates perfectly God's irony...in the world's eyes, Clare's life was but a flicker, but if you look at her life from a spiritual perspective, her way of life did indeed illuminate the entire world with love! I suppose we all have to keep that in mind whenever we feel that our action's "mean nothing."
I do have several critiques of this play, however...
At first, I was a bit underwhelmed by the way the play starts before Clare is born, and immediately skips to the point after which she has made her decision to join Francis. Then, the play fasts forward about a decade to when the Saracens are attacking Assisi, and finally concludes with the aged Clare in her deathbed. I will admit that I was expecting something a bit more chronological....Clare A to Z, if you will. However, think of the play's title...."CANDLE in Umbria." The fragmented storyline ultimately mirrors the life of a candle which flickers in and out of sight. Thus, Mary Francis brilliantly uses the imagery of a candle in the entire structure of her play.
Just as the case with the critique of the film "Brother Sun, Sister Moon," this play is more like a light-hearted poem....indeed, it uses flowery language, but does not delve deep into what really motivated Clare to do what she did. The omission of Clare's decision process that prompted her to leave the world behind probably is one of the play's greatest flaws. We don't see any internal struggle whatsoever.
That being said, I got the impression that the play was written for people who already have a devotion to Clare. Indeed, the play was orginally performed in a cloister. Thus, the intended audience, it is assumed, already understands the underpinnings of what caused Clare to leave her family and home for Lady Poverty and has no need to be taken through her decision making process. However, the absence of an internal struggle within Clare might very well leave those of us who have not completed a religious discernment process with a feeling of wanting something more from the play. For example, Ortolana, Clare's mother, touches upon the idea of how her daughter can be wealthy, but still live a very holy life by means of showing charity to the poor. After all, how can one help the poor when one has "nothing" in the way of material goods to give? Ortolana touches upon a very valid point. I suppose the answer would be that in being poor, you really are helping the poor by means of doing penance for and with them, and you also give them a wealth of spiritual goods through the power of prayer. However, in the play, Clare simply dismisses her mother's words by means of silence, leaving the audience to guess as to what her rebuttal would be.
Finally, the last critique of the play is that it tends to be a bit too hagiographic. Indeed, Clare is shown to be a very holy woman with a multitude of obstables to overcome, including her physical illness. However, the play tends to portray Clare as "Superwoman," if you will, and doesn't show how she must overcome spiritual struggles. In fact, the play doesn't really show her as having any spiritual struggles. And, in a conversation with my boyfriend from this morning, part of being a saint is the ability to go against your misgivings and instead do what you ought to do.
All in all, Mother Mary Francis gives a dazzlingly beautiful, clear, and crisp portrayal of the life of Saint Clare. However, the biggest flaw was that it needed to show Clare dealing with more internal struggles, so the audience could come to a better understanding of "what makes Clare tick." However, maybe I'm saying that because I'm a fan of dark, introspective independent movies.
The investiture of St. Clare!
So I found this beautiful little website called http://www.franciscancards.com. Of course, it specializes in e-cards featuring the Seraphic Order, but it also has many other Saints as well....some really obscure ones (hello, Matthew of Beauvais!) I admit that some of the cards have are a bit high in the cheese factor, others are overbearingly "cute"(such as the card with a cartoon Santa Chiara standing in front of a giant candle), but there are some really rare and P.O.D. cards featured, too....such as the one that I found above!
So spread some 'Ciscan cheer to your loved ones by sending them a Franciscan e-card!