A joyfully Franciscan view of Catholic life, inspired by St. Clare (Santa Chiara) of Assisi!

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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!

Monday, March 27, 2006

St. Therese "Comic Book"

"Chiara" fans, I'm sorry that I haven't blogged in a while...I was quite ill last week and haven't been in the best of spirits of late. However, I've been remiss in not posting, especially after some of the nice things that I bought during my last trip to Chicago two weekends ago!

As I mentioned in my last post, I was looking in the children's section of Pauline Books, and found this
St. Therese "comic book" (graphic novel, if you want to be more technical about it).

As you might surmise, it covers in very nicely illustrated form the very short life of St. Therese. Thus, if you're not up for reading "Story of a Soul" all in one take, this is much more feasible. Being that it is written at about a 6th-grade reading level, this little book can be enjoyed by people of all ages and is a great introduction to the life of this beautiful Saint. In fact, I'd say it's a bit more in-depth than Therese, last year's theatre-release biopic.

I initially picked up this comic book as light reading while I was sick, and I'm ultimately glad that I chose to do so- being that I had quite a heavy cough, I almost felt as if dear Therese was helping me to offer my suffering up to Christ. Also, after I read this little book, I decided to begin to read Story of a Soul - I can't very well have a blog on contemplative nuns and not have read that book! Thus, more reflections on Story of a Soul to come.

And now for the part that I'm really excited about....supposedly this comic book is part of a series that Pauline Books publishes....and they have one on St. Clare! I just ordered the last copy off of Amazon.com five minutes ago, so I'll be anticipating its arrival in the week to come!

Pax et Bonum to everyone!


Monday, March 20, 2006

Saint Colette Children's Book

Well, this week is going to be "Show and Tell" week for me! I'm going to show and tell all of the lovely things that I got over my Spring Break!

This weekend it was my Birthday and I was visiting my boyfriend (Dan of the Holy Whapping) in Chicago, and we decided to check out Pauline Books. And lo and behold, I found a WONDERFUL book on one of my favorite- and most often neglected- Poor Clare Saints....Saint Colette!

It's a children's book and tells in very colorful language the story of a simply woman who gave her life to do God's will and was called to do extraordinary things. Indeed, St. Colette is a model for today's women who feel that they are constantly "on the go"....it seems as though as soon as St. Colette settled down somewhere she was called to go and reform or found another monastery!

Below is a prayer by Saint Colette taken from the book. You can order the book from Amazon here.

Saint Colette,
take me by the hand
I want to walk along with you.

Teach me to share what I have,
and offer a smile to everyone
throughout the day.

Teach me to forgive,
and to spread forgiveness
without counting the cost

Teach me to love,
and to look upon all people
with kindness

Teach me to pray,
and to talk to Jesus, my friend,

I am ready to walk with you, Jesus.
Lead me along the paths of the Gospel
as you did Saint Colette.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Nun Opera!: Dialogues of the Carmelites

I really must apologize to St. Teresa of Avila and St. Therese....because I've noticed that I've ignored the dear Carmelites on this blog. Thus, I will make my first Carmelite-related post!

I received a flyer in the mail today that announced that next season, the Lyric Opera of Chicago will be performing Francis Poulenc's opera, Dialogues of the Carmelites. The opera is based on a screenplay written by George Bernanos, author of Diary of a Country Priest and one of the greatest Catholic authors of all time. Unfortunately, being that the Lyric Opera of Chicago tends to like very start settings, they will not be using habits for the performance. However, I know that other performances have definitely used habits.

If you haven't heard any of Poulenc's music, you MUST! It's a bit freaky/silly at first, but once you acquire a taste for it, it's some of the most beautiful music you've ever heard. His O Magnum Mysterium sends chills down my spine.

Below is a synopsis of the opera taken off of Wikipedia:

The action takes place during the French Revolution and subsequent Terror.
Act I.
The pathologically timid Blanche de la Force decides to retreat from the world and enter a Carmelite convent. The Mother Superior informs her that the Carmelite order is not a refuge: it is the duty of the nuns to guard the Order, not the other way around. In the convent, the jolly Sister Constance tells Blanche (to her consternation) that she has had a dream that the two of them will die young together. The Mother Superior, who is dying, commits Blanche to the care of Mother Marie. The Mother Superior passes away in great agony, shouting in her delirium that despite her long years of service to God, He has abandoned her. Blanche and Mother Marie, who witness her death, are shaken.
Act II.
Sister Constance remarks to Blanche that the Mother Superior's death seemed unworthy of her, and speculates that she had been given the wrong death, as one might be given the wrong coat in a cloakroom. Perhaps someone else will find death surprisingly easy. Perhaps we die not for ourselves alone, but for each other.
Blanche's brother, the Chevalier de la Force, arrives to announce that their father thinks Blanche should withdraw from the convent, since she is not safe there (being a member of both the nobility and the clergy). Blanche refuses, saying that she has found happiness in the Carmelite order, but later admits to Mother Marie that it is fear (or the fear of fear itself, as the Chevalier expresses it) that keeps her from leaving.
The chaplain announces that he has been forbidden to preach (presumably for being a non-juror under the Civil Constitution of the Clergy). The nuns remark on how fear now governs the country, and no one has the courage to stand up for the priests. Sister Constance asks, "Are there no men left to come to the aid of the country?" "When priests are lacking, martyrs are superabundant," replies the new Mother Superior. Mother Marie says that the Carmelites can save France by giving their lives, but the Mother Superior corrects her: it is not permitted to become a martyr voluntarily; martyrdom is a gift from God.
A police officer announces that the Legislative Assembly has nationalized the convent and its property, and the nuns must give up their habits. When Mother Marie acquiesces, the officer taunts her for being eager to dress like everyone else. She replies that the nuns will continue to serve, no matter how they are dressed. "The people has no need of servants," proclaims the officer haughtily. "No, but it has a great need for martyrs," responds Mother Marie. "In times like these, death is nothing," he says. "Life is nothing," she answers, "when it is so debased."
Act III.
In the absence of the new Mother Superior, Mother Marie proposes that the nuns take a vow of martyrdom. However, all must agree, or Mother Marie will not insist. A secret vote is held; there is one dissenting voice. Sister Constance declares that she was the dissenter, and that she has changed her mind, so the vow can proceed. Blanche runs away from the convent, and Mother Marie finds her in her father's library. Her father has been guillotined, and Blanche has been forced to serve her former servants.
The nuns are all arrested and condemned to death, but Mother Marie is away (with Blanche, presumably) at the time. The chaplain tells Mother Marie that since God has chosen to spare her, she cannot now voluntarily become a martyr by joining the others in prison. The nuns march to the scaffold, singing Salve regina. At the last minute, Blanche appears, to Constance's joy; but as she mounts the scaffold, Blanche changes the hymn to Deo patri sit gloria (All praise be thine, O risen Lord).

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Mother Dolores Hart: From Celluloid to Cloister

Well, being that it's Oscar night, I've decided to make a Hollywood-related post....and surprisingly, it has very much to do with this blog!

I would like to share with you the beautiful story of Dolores Hart, who was an actress deemed to be tantamount to Grace Kelly both in beauty and talent. After playing our very own Holy Mother Clare in the 1961 film Francis of Assisi, her interest in cloistered nuns was piqued and the Holy Spirit eventually led her to the wonderful Abbey of Regina Laudis in Connecticutt.

I have reproduced the following article below, taken from this webpage. Well if playing Holy Mother Clare doesn't make you want to become a nun, I don't know what will!

The Story of Mother Dolores Hart

The day Dolores Hart entered the convent, she had her limousine drop her at the gates.
(Courtesy of Delores Hart)Less than 40 years ago, Dolores Hart was one of the most visible and envied women in Hollywood.

New Role, New Life

In the late 1950s, Hart was a starlet, making thousands of dollars per week and billed as the next Grace Kelly. She was the first actress to kiss Elvis Presley on the silver screen and in a six-year period, she starred in films with Anthony Quinn, Robert Wagner, Jeff Chandler, and Montgomery Clift.
She was the top-billed actress in MGM's highest grossing move of 1962: Where the Boys Are. Today she is Mother Dolores. She lives at the Abbey of Regina Laudis in rural Connecticut, where she has been a cloistered nun for 37 years.
Through a special dispensation from the Abbey, ABCNEWS' Bob Brown was able to talk with her without being separated by a grill and walk with her outside the fences of the cloistered grounds.
Destined for Greatness

Hart was a child of the silver screen — both of her parents were actors. Though neither of them became a star, she was baptized in the glow of Hollywood. Early on, she thought she too would have a career in the movies. "I grew up on Mulholland Drive, watching the klieg lights, just enamored at the lights from Sunset Boulevard," she says.
"You can imagine what that meant to me, as a 6-year-old, to suddenly find myself wandering around 20th Century Fox movie lots, thinking that was going to be my future." Though her parents were not religious, they sent her to a parochial school in Chicago where she lived with her grandparents. Leaving Hollywood, however, was a brief diversion from her path to the silver screen. Hart grew into a striking beauty and in 1957, at the age of 18, she signed a contract with famed movie producer Hal Wallis.
And in her first picture, Loving You, she starred opposite Elvis Presley. Hart recalls that when she and Elvis were supposed to kiss, the teens blushed. "My ears start getting purple, and even his ears started getting purple," she recalls. "They brought everybody over to brush our ears down with, um, paint or whatever it is." She has fond memories of working with Elvis: "If there is one thing that I am most grateful for, it's the privilege of being one of the few persons left to acknowledge his innocence."

Finding Peace in the Country

Despite her success and celebrity, however, Hart remembers her time in show business as filled with heartache. She found it emotionally difficult to separate from her colleagues after bonding with them while shooting a movie. "You work intensely for maybe eight to 10 weeks. And then you break," she says. "And you never see the person again. It's terrible… I think that's one of the most anguishing parts of Hollywood." During a period in which she worked in New York, starring in a Broadway play, Hart would often retreat to the country on her days off. On the suggestion of a friend, she took refuge in the guest house of a Connecticut convent, Abbey of Regina Laudis.
Hart was initially hesitant about the abbey, thinking back on her experience as a Catholic schoolgirl in Chicago. But unlike Hollywood, it offered community and continuity. Its members worked hard and stayed together. Hart was hooked: "I felt that I was going to be back here sometime." More than three years after the first of several visits to the convent, Hart was engaged to be married. But instead of becoming a wife, she says she had a spiritual calling and dedicated herself to the Church and life at Regina Laudis.
For California businessman Don Robinson — Delores Hart's fiancé at the time - the news was devastating. "I actually broke down and cried," he recalls. "I couldn't believe it." New Role, New Life The day Hart entered Regina Laudise, her limousine dropped her off following a publicity event for her latest movie Come Fly with Me.
She was 24 years old. She found the transition into the sisterhood difficult. Trained as a movie star, Hart was ill prepared for the daily, disciplined ebb and flow of cloistered life. Seven years passed, she says, before she felt completely comfortable with her decision to join the order.
Decades later, Robinson still lives in Los Angeles and has never married. He continues to visit the woman he now knows as Mother Dolores each year. He says their love has sustained itself — albeit in ways very different from what he'd imagined as a younger man. "We have grown together. Like we would have in our marriage," he says, "She's my life."
In recent years, Mother Dolores's health has declined. She suffers from a nerve condition that sometimes leaves her in extreme pain. And even though she clearly made a choice to become a nun, she says it was not a choice to abandon who she was. "I have struggled with this call to vocation all my life," she says. "I can understand why people have doubts, because who understands God? I don't. When you are dealing with something at this level, you are dealing with mystery."

Mother Dolores and the Oscars

Mother Dolores, formerly Delores Hart, is still a member of the Motion Picture Academy of Arts and Sciences. But she has not been able to vote for the Oscar winners since joining the Abbey of Regina Laudis — she cannot leave the abbey to see the films. Recently, however, she has asked the Academy to reinstate her as a voting member. She plans to watch the films on home video.

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