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!

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Feast Day of St. Catherine of Siena

Happy Feast Day of St. Catherine of Siena! Even though she wasn't a contemplative nun, she was still a beautiful Saint. We should follow her example of holiness and bravery in the face of criticism.

Incidentally, some of my friends at Notre Dame performed a wonderful rendition of the play "Catherine the Valiant," which was about Catherine's attempts to bring the Pope back to Rome. Great job, everyone! This is the first annual play performed by the Orestes Brownson Council at Notre Dame, a Catholic student group. Hopefully, next year's play is going to be "Candle in Umbria" by my dear Poor Clare Colettine Mother Mary Francis!

Anyhow.....Here is a biography of Catherine of Siena:

Catherine Benincasa was born in Siëna, Italy, March 25, 1347, in Florence, Italy. She was the 25th of the 26 children of Jacopo Benincasa, a wool-dyer, and Lapa Piagenti. She began to have mystical experiences when she could see guardian angels as clearly as she could see the people they were protecting as she was a little girl. Beginning when she was only about six years old, Catherine loved to go out to quiet places to pray and talk to God. She experienced a vision of Our Lord near the church of the Friar Preachers in the Valle Piatta. In the vision, Our Lord was clothed in pontifical garb with a tiara on top of his head and sat upon a throne surrounded by Saints Peter, Paul and John the Evangelist. When only seven years old she made a vow of virginity. When she was 15, she refused her parents' plan for her marriage. At the age of sixteen Catherine gained admittance to the Third Order of St. Dominic, the Mantellate, women who were affiliated with the Order of St. Dominic and wore the habit but lived in their own homes, serving the needs of the poor and sick under the direction of a prioress and ultimately under the direction of the friars. Thenceforward for three years she never left her room, except to go to mass and confession, and spoke to no one except her confessor and never went out except to the neighboring church of St. Dominic, where the pillar against which she used to lean is still pointed out to visitors.

On Shrove Tuesday, 1366, while the citizens of Siena were keeping carnival, and Catherine was praying in her room, a vision, what she described in her letters as a 'Mystical Marriage' with Jesus Christ. Jesus appeared, accompanied by His mother and the heavenly host. Taking the girl's hand, Our Lady held it up to Christ, who placed a ring upon it and espoused her to Himself, bidding her to be of good courage, for now she was armed with a faith that could overcome all temptations. She rejoined the world, and began to serve Christ in the sick, poor and ignorant. Many people were attracted to her by her charm, calm and wisdom. She served the poor, sick and to pray for the conversion of sinners. She still spend much time in prayer. Despite persecutions by the local clergy and others, she began to gather disciples. During the summer of 1370 she received a series of special manifestations of Divine mysteries, which culminated in a prolonged trance, a kind of mystical death, in which she had a vision of Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven, and heard a Divine command to leave her cell and enter the public life of the world.
She began to dispatch letters to men and women in every condition of life. Her assertive and confrontational letters to bishops and popes as well as her commitment to direct service to the sick and the poor have made Catherine a role model for a more worldly and active spirituality. Between 1374 and 1378, Catherine was called upon to exercise a broad influence in public affairs. The Republic of Florence, at odds with Pope Gregory XI, sent her to visit the Pope at Avignon, France, to make peace between Florence and the papal states. She failed in that task, but she was more successful in urging the Pope, who, like several of his predecessors had been living in France, to return to his proper residence, Rome. It was during these years that she achieved her widest influence. She had a detailed correspondence with Pope Gregory XI, also asking him to reform the clergy and the administration of the Papal States.

While at Pisa in 1375 she received the Stigmata, five mystical wounds deeply engraved in her hands, feet and heart, but she prayed that they might be concealed from human eyes. In June of 1376 she went to Avignon herself as ambassador of Florence to make peace with the Papal States, but was unsuccessful. She impressed the Pope so much, however, that he returned his administration to Rome in January of 1377. The year 1377 was mostly spent in the work of reforming the country districts around Siena, and it was about this time that Catherine miraculously learned to write. Need we be surprised that the works of Catherine of Siena rank among the classics of the fourteenth century. No one has ever questioned the beauty of the Tuscan style in the “Dialogues,” the “Prayers” or the collection of nearly four hundred letters still extant. In the Great Schism of 1378 she was an adherent of Pope Urban VI, who summoned her to Rome where she lived until her death in 1380. The accounts of her life collected by her followers were used in a biography by her confessor, Fra Raimondo da Capua (1398). Her letters are considered one of the great works of early Tuscan literature. Catherine died on April 29th in 1380 of a mysterious and painful illness that came on without notice, and was never properly diagnosed. She was Thirty-three years old. About fifty years after she died, her body was found to be incorrupt. Pope Pius II canonized Catherine in 1461. Her feast day is 29 April. In 1866 she became co-patron saint of Rome. Since 1939 she is the patron saint of Italy together with Francis of Assisi. Of all the spiritual stars, Catherine of Siena is one of the very greatest. Catherine is the only woman other than Saint Teresa of Avila, who was declared a Doctor of the Church on October 4, 1970 by pope Paul VI. Further she got the title co-patronship of Europe by John Paul II in 1999.

Patronage: Against fire, bodily ills, Europe, Italy, fire prevention, firefighters, illness, Italy, miscarriages, nurses, sexual temptation, sickness, Siena Italy.

Representation: Cross, crown of thorns, heart, lily, ring, stigmata.


Heavenly Father, your glory is in your saints. We praise your glory in the life of the admirable St. Catherine of Siena, virgin and doctor of the Church. Her whole life was a noble sacrifice inspired by an ardent love of Jesus, your unblemished Lamb. In troubled times she strenuously upheld the rights of His beloved spouse, The Church. Father, honour her merits and hear her prayers for each of us, and for our whole parish family dedicated to her. Help us to pass unscathed through the corruption of this world, and to remain unshakably faithful to the church in word, deed, and example. Help us always to see in the Vicar of Christ an anchor in the storms of life, and a beacon of light to the harbour of your Love, in this dark night of your times and men's souls. Grant also to each of us our special petition . . . (pause to pray for your own intentions). We ask this through Jesus, your Son, in the bond of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Nuns/Sisters Who Accept Online Prayer Requests

Over the past week, I found myself linking back to last week's Notre Dame post, where I included links to nuns/sisters who accept online prayer requests. In emergency situations, it's helpful to know that you can have these wonderful ladies praying for you and your intentions literally at the click of a mouse. I found that some of them- the Carmelites- even respond to me with very sweet personal notes letting me know that they are praying for me.

Here is a list of all the nuns/sisters that accept prayer requests online:

Contemplative Nuns at Prayer- Provided by the Archdiocese of St. Louis

Carmelite Nuns of Eldridge, Iowa

Carmelites of the Sacred Heart, Wisconsin

Carmelites, Worcester, MA

Discalced Carmelite Nuns at San Antonio, Texas

Cistercian Nuns

Poor Clares, Bothwell, Scotland

Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration

Poor Clare Colettines of Ty Mam Duw, Wales

Poor Clare Colettines of Barhamsville, Virginia

Sisters of St. Francis of Perpetual Adoration, Mishawaka, IN

Benedictine Nuns of St. Walburga Monastery

Passionist Nuns

Dominican Sisters of Springfield, IL

Dominican Nuns of Summit, NJ

Dominican Nuns of St. Jude, AL

Sunday, April 23, 2006

The Eleventh Commandment

I must confess that I chronically violate the Eleventh Commandment. Yes…the Eleventh Commandment, as put forth by my very wise spiritual director in two words:

Don’t Compare.

At first, one might be ready to dismiss these words of advice as being too simple….but upon reflection, the spiritual dangers of constant comparison towards our peers become apparent.

The danger in comparison arises when we look at the gifts of others, and then dwell on the fact that we don’t have those gifts. This comparison becomes worse for our spiritual life when we dwell on the fact that we don’t have those gifts… and then assume that we are somehow unworthy to contribute to God’s Kingdom.

“She knows so much Catholic apologetics than I do- why should I even bother having this totally un-intellectual blog?” or “He can draw those beautiful pictures of the Saints, and I can’t do that- what do I have to give to God?”, or “She seems so pious when she’s praying the rosary and I always “zone out”- I should just give up on saying the rosary altogether, since I’ll never be like her.”

In this instance, comparison is really masked jealousy and implicit despair, whether we realize it or not. The definition of jealousy is coveting another’s good for one’s self….and in effect, that is what we are doing when we get down on ourselves for not having another’s gift. Despair occurs when we assume that the situation is beyond all repair- which is what happens when we assume that we somehow can’t “contribute” to the Body of Christ.

Now, while we can always take voice lessons so we can sing that hymn on key and read a book to “brush up” on our apologetic skills, we sometimes need to realistically assess our own weaknesses and realize that we will never be like our peers. However, just because we don’t have a particular gift that God has granted to someone else, it is spiritually harmful to despair by telling ourselves that we can’t be a good Catholic or contribute to the Body of Christ in some other way that matches our own gifts and talents.

In order to overcome this tendency to despair, we must have hope! We must take hope in the fact that if we submit ourselves to God’s Will and stop putting pressure on ourselves to be everything to everyone, He will fill us with His grace so that we may be a mirror of Christ using our own gifts and talents.

A perfect example from the Catholic Tradition of two people with differing gifts and talents is that of St. Francis and St. Dominic. Francis was very poetic and didn’t emphasize the intellectual tradition to a large extent. Moreover, he tended to operate his Order with relatively little planning, trusting that God would provide for his friars day to day. St. Dominic, on the other hand, founded his entire Order of Preachers with a heavy intellectual overtone and set up practical plans for the long-term running of his order.

What if Francis had told himself, “I’m not organized like Dominic- I should just give up on starting my Order”? However, Francis did place his trust in God, and for whatever organizational skills he lacked, God gave him the gift of charismatic love….and that love was what kept the Order together. Likewise, what if Dominic said to himself, “That Francis is so on-fire with charisma….I’m more reserved…I should just give up on this Order”? Well, let’s just say we’d have a lot more Albegensians running around today!

Putting these hypotheticals aside, the fact is that these holy men didn’t compare! They looked at their own gifts and talents, offered those talents up to God, and both turned out to be mirrors of Christ in very different but equally wonderful ways! The one similarity that united both men was that they both were on fire with love for Christ….and like them, that is hopefully the one thing that we can all have in common, despite our many gifts.

Breaking the Eleventh Commandment isn’t so much a discrete act as a habit that we get into, which makes it all the more dangerous because it is so difficult for us to end that pattern of comparison. However, we must have hope that God can break us free from this habit. First, it is vital to pray every single day against the propensity to compare yourself negatively to others. Secondly, every time that you find yourself dwelling on another person’s gift that you don’t have, try and name just one talent that God has given you. If you can’t think of any gift- which is often the case if you get down on yourself- just tell God that you want to submit yourself to His will using any talents that he might draw out of you in the future. In that regard, be patient…you might not think that you have any gifts to share with the Church now, but he will make those apparent in time. St. Therese had that problem, too….she couldn’t figure out where she fit into the Body of Christ….until she concluded “my gift is love.” Ultimately, love is the best gift that one can have and the gift towards which all our other talents should flow.

Speaking of St. Therese, I think it’s appropriate to close with an excerpt from Story of a Soul that describes perfectly the different buy equally beautiful ways in which God has created each of us:

“One day I was worried about the happiness of the blessed in Heaven. I knew that some saints are greater than other, being possessed of more glory. Well, what about the lesser saints? are they unhappy because of this? Pauline took my little thimble and a large drinking glass belonging to Papa. She filled both to the brim with water. Then, smiling into my anxious face, she told me to look closely. "Which is fuller? The thimble or the glass?" At once I understood. The little thimble represented one soul, the large glass another. Each could hold no more water than Pauline had put in it. Without any trouble I realized the example could also be applied to Heaven. Here the saints reflect just that beauty and perfection which God had decided for them. Each is "full", and there can never be any sorrow because some are little thimbles and others large glasses.”

What use would it be for the thimble to dwell on the fact that it wasn’t a wine glass? It would be better served to focus on how it can be filled to capacity. Similarly, if we follow the Eleventh Commandment, we can be assured that we too will be filled to the brim with God’s Love and Goodness.

St. Francis' Reflections on the Eucharist

We had our Second Annual Eucharistic Procession this afternoon at Notre Dame, which has prompted me to post a couple of reflections on the Eucharist.

One of the things that GK Chesterton observes in his biography of St. Francis is that us "moderns" tend to focus too heavily on the "trendy" aspects of the Seraphic Father, such as his "environmentalism." Indeed, modern culture has molded Francis into what it wants him to be- a warm and fuzzy environmentalist. In the process, we don't automatically realize the depth of Francis' Catholicism....it takes a little bit of research to get beyond the "popular Francis" and see the true, SAINT Francis.

Today, I would like to show you some of St. Francis' quotes on the Eucharist....and hopefully they will illustrate just why he was so close to Christ:

Meditation of St. Francis of Assisi

Let everyone be struck with fear,
the whole world tremble,
and the heavens exult
when Christ, the Son of the living God,
is present on the altar in the hands of a priest!
O wonderful loftiness and stupendous dignity!
O sublime humility!O humble sublimity!

The Lord of the universe,God and the Son of God,
so humbles Himself that He hides Himself for our salvation under and ordinary piece of bread!
See the humility of God, brothers,

and pour out your hearts before Him!
Humble yourselves that you may be exalted by Him!
Hold back nothing of yourselves for yourselves,

that He Who gives Himself totally to you may receive you totally!


"And in any preaching you do, admonish the people concerning repentance, and that nobody can be saved except he who receives the most holy Body and Blood of our Lord. And when It is sacrificed on the altar by the priest or borne anywhere, let all the people on bended knees render praise, glory and honor to the True and Living Lord God."
- from a letter written by St. Francis of Assisi


"Thus it is the spirit of the Lord, which dwells in those who believe in Him, that truly receives the most Holy Body and Blood of our Lord. All the rest, who have nothing of that spirit and presume to receive Him, eat and drink judgment to themselves (1 Cor. 11,29)

So, you children of men, how long is your sense going to stay dull? (Ps 4,3) Why do you not see in the truth and believe in the Son of God? (Jn. 9, 35) See, day after day He humbles Himself, as when He came down from His royal throne. (Wis. 18, 15) into the Virgin's womb. Day by day He comes to us personally in this lowly form. Daily He comes down from the bosom of His Father on the altar into the hands of the priest."

- from the writings of St. Francis of Assisi

"And just as He appeared before the holy Apostles in true flesh, so now He has us see Him in the Sacred Bread. Looking at Him with the eyes of their flesh, they saw only His Flesh, but regarding Him with the eyes of the spirit, they believed that He was God. In like manner, as we see bread and wine with our bodily eyes, let us see and believe firmly that it is His Most Holy Body and Blood, True and Living.

For in this way our Lord is ever present among those who believe in him, according to what He said: "Behold, I am with you all days even to the consummation of the world." (Mt. 28, 20)
- St. Francis of Assisi

Our Lord Jesus said to His disciples: "I am The Way, The Truth and The Life. Nobody can come to the Father except through Me. If you had recognized Me, you would have recognized My Father too. And from now on you will recognize Him, since you have seen Him." Philip said to Him: "Lord, show us the Father and it is enough for us." Jesus said to him: "Have I been so long a time with you and you have not learned who I am? Philip whoever sees Me, sees My Father too" (Jn. 14, 6-9).

Now, the Father dwells in light that cannot be penetrated (1 Tim. 6,16), and God is a spirit (Jn. 4, 24), and nobody has ever seen God (Jn 1, 18). Because God is a spirit, therefore He can be seen only by means of the spirit, for it is the spirit that gives life, where as the flesh is of no avail (Jn. 6, 64).

But since the Son is like the Father, he too is seen by nobody otherwise than the Father is seen or otherwise than the Holy Spirit is seen. And so it was that those who saw our Lord Jesus Christ only in a human way and did not see nor believe that He was the true Son of God, as the spirit and his Divine nature demand - they all stood condemned.
And so now with all those who see the Blessed Sacrament, sanctified by our Lord's words on the altar, through the hands of the priest, in the form of bread and wine: if they do not see and believe, as the spirit and the Divine nature demand that it is truly the most holy Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, they stand condemned. For it is the Most High who bears witness to it. He says, "This is My Body, and the Blood of the New Testament" (Mk, 14, 22-24) and, "He who eats My Flesh and drinks My Blood, has life everlasting." (Jn. 6, 55)

- from the writings of St. Francis of Assisi on The Blessed Sacrament
Quotes of St. Francis of Assisi:

"...In this world I cannot see the Most High Son of God with my own eyes, except for His Most Holy Body and Blood."

"What wonderful majesty! What stupendous condescension! O sublime humility! That the Lord of the whole universe, God and the Son of God, should humble Himself like this under the form of a little bread, for our salvation"

"We adore Thee most holy Lord Jesus Christ, here in all Thy Churches, which are in the whole world, because by Thy holy cross, Thou hast redeemed the world.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Prayer for Poor Clare Colettines as They Travel to Conference

Dear friends of "Canticle of Chiara"......I know that all of our dear Poor Clare Colettines have been praying for us, and now it's time that they need our prayers!

Mother Mary Clare of Bethlehem Poor Clare Monastery in Virginia informed me today that she and many other Poor Clare Colettines from around the world (including the Netherlands) will be travelling to California for a conference of their Federation of Mary Immaculate.

Please bear in mind that for a cloistered nun, it is very difficult whenever she leaves her cloister....much less travel halfway around the world! Thus, they need our prayers during this time. I reccomend that you ask the intercession of St. Colette, who was the reformer of the Order. While reforming her Order, St. Colette had to travel thousands of miles, so she is definitely in a position to help these lovely nuns on their journey!

Here is a prayer that you may want to use:

Dear Father, through the intercession of your servant St. Colette,
Protect your faithful daughters of the Mary Immaculate Federation of the Poor Clare Coletinnes
As they journey to California for their conference.

May you look over them as they journey to their destination
May you grant them wisdom and patience during the conference
And grant them peace and protection as they journey home


Have a wonderful conference, Sisters!

Friday, April 21, 2006

Catholic Identity Crisis at Notre Dame: PRAYER REQUESTS NEEDED!

Dear Brothers and Sisters of "Canticle of Chiara":

Following up on yesterday's post, I am very concerned about the state of Catholic identity at my beloved University of Notre Dame, after our president John Jenkins made his decision to continue the staging of the Vagina Monologues as well as other events that will severely detract from the Catholic nature of this University. This decision is deeply saddening after so many people, students, staff, and faculty alike, have worked so hard to promote the Truth of Holy Mother Church and Her teachings on campus- I am afraid that many people might be led astray by the staging of these other events that are contrary to the Church's teachings.

Thus, dear friends, I enjoin you to take action in making your opposition to this decision known via writing, and more importantly, prayers.

Part I: Writing

Please write to the University of Notre Dame's Administration expressing your disapproval.


Part II: Prayers

As you know from reading my blog, I hold the belief that the prayers of contemplative nuns and other consecrated religious are particularly efficacious.....in addition, of course, to your own personal prayers.

Many nuns have websites that accept prayer requests online. To make the job easy for you, I have collected a list of most of the communities that accept online prayer reuqests or have e-mails for prayer requests.

Please submit a variation of the following form letters to the nuns on the list that I have provided to you:

Dear Sisters:

Thank you so much for giving me the opportunity to solicit my prayer request to you- I have utmost faith in the power of you prayer on behalf of the following appeal:

On April 5, 2006, Father John Jenkins, CSC, President of the University of Notre Dame in Indiana, USA, published a letter stating that he would allow the on-campus performance of "The Vagina Monologues" to continue. He also approved other events that go against Catholic values. I am very concerned about the future Catholic identity of the University of Notre Dame, since "The Vagina Monologues" is a sexually explicit play that glamorizes immoral behavior which is antithetical to the Gospel. By reducing a woman’s identity to a part of her anatomy, the play degrades the dignity of human beings. The continued performance of this play will only confuse young people as to the nature of their God-given bodies. Moreover, the on-campus performance of this play and similar events detract from the Catholic character of Notre Dame that generations of individuals have helped to build.

Thus, I humbly ask that you and your sisters hear my petition and pray for Fr. Jenkins and the University of Notre Dame. Pray that, if it be God’s Holy Will, Fr. Jenkins may be filled with the Holy Spirit and have a change of heart regarding these matters. Moreover, please pray that Our Lady’s University continue to be, in the words of our founder, Fr. Sorin, “a primary source of good” in this world by continuing to maintain its Catholic identity.

Thank you for your prayers.

In Notre Dame,


Here is a list of all the nuns/sisters that accept prayer requests online:

Contemplative Nuns at Prayer- Provided by the Archdiocese of St. Louis

Carmelite Nuns of Eldridge, Iowa

Carmelites of the Sacred Heart, Wisconsin

Discalced Carmelite Nuns at San Antonio, Texas

Cistercian Nuns

Poor Clares, Bothwell, Scotland

Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration

Poor Clare Colletines of Ty Mam Duw, Wales

Sisters of St. Francis of Perpetual Adoration, Mishawaka, IN

Benedictine Nuns of St. Walburga Monastery

Passionist Nuns

Dominican Nuns of Summit, NJ

Thursday, April 20, 2006

A Franciscan's Response to Fr. Jenkins

This letter was written by my dear friend and Franciscan, Rev. John Coughlin OFM, a professor at the Law School here at Notre Dame in response to Notre Dame President John Jenkins' disastrous decision to allow the continued staging of the Vagina Monologues. Let us give thanks that our Seraphic Father Francis has asked Our Lord to give Fr. Coughlin courage and eloquence! The letter is below:

In his Closing Statement on Academic Freedom and Catholic Character, University President Father John Jenkins expresses his belief that he has articulated "principles that a large majority of this community can embrace." If Jenkins is right, I feel obliged to respond as a member of the minority. Apart from the decision about whether or not to sponsor a particular play on campus, I share Bishop John D'Arcy's "deep sadness" about the Closing Statement. In my view, the statement espouses a conception of the Catholic University based upon a divorce between reason and faith. This divorce will hardly settle the matter about the relation between academic freedom and the Catholic identity of Notre Dame. Moreover, Jenkins' raising of the issue may have unwittingly polarized the University community and damaged Catholicism at Notre Dame. I must say at the outset that I have not been eager to enter the present controversy. Concern for the future of Catholicism at Notre Dame, however, has convinced me to overcome my reticence. Please permit me to speak as a Franciscan priest, faculty member and lawyer.First, I would like to speak as a Franciscan priest who has attempted to assist in the magnificent ministry of the Congregation of the Holy Cross at Notre Dame. The euphoria expressed in The Observer as a result of Jenkins' Closing Statement indicates that he has made some students very happy. At the same time, I know that there are more than a few good Catholic students who are scandalized by the President's action and statement. These students believe that violence against women and sexual harassment are wrong not because of secular ideology. Rather, violence and harassment are wrong because they are sins against the law of Christ. Likewise, these same students are striving to live in accord with the radical nature of the Catholic teaching on sexuality. At no point in history has it ever been easy to live a life of chastity. The crudeness and eroticism of certain aspects of contemporary culture have rendered the task all the more difficult. This is true for all of us and especially for the talented young women and men who are our students.

Although the president's statement uses certain Catholic language, it contains no endorsement of the teaching that the only proper place for the consummation of sexual intimacy is between a man and woman united in Holy Matrimony. In fact, Jenkins admits that the Vagina Monologues "stand[s] apart from, and indeed in opposition to, Catholic teaching on human sexuality." Instead of adopting a policy that permits this kind of speech, the president of a Catholic university should be guarding against it. For those of us who are committed Catholics, and Jenkins no doubt belongs to this group, we should be doing all in our power to create a culture that fosters the Catholic truth about the gift of human sexuality and its proper place in the order of creation. My opinion is that there is, to quote the late Pope John Paul II, a "new Spring" of Catholic life blossoming at Notre Dame. I base my opinion on my grace-filled experience here with our wonderful Catholic students. It is also the case that some of our students are nominally Catholic as a result of inadequate catechetical formation through no fault of their own. Evangelization is needed to invite them into the "new Spring" of Catholic life. I agree with Jenkins that plays such as the Vagina Monologues stand in opposition to Catholic life and culture. For this reason, I doubt that his Closing Statement will nourish the "new Spring."Second, please permit me to offer a few observations as a member of the faculty. In his Closing Statement, the president stresses his desire to ensure "the academic freedom to explore the full range of ideas and expressions produced by human thought ...," "a wide-open, unconstrained search for truth" and "open, unrestricted academic inquiry." Moreover, he wants to "animate the debate" and "strive to bring these various views into dialogue with the Catholic intellectual tradition." The proposed debate and dialogue seems to presume that our University is at present characterized by a flourishing and pervasive Catholic intellectual life. I firmly believe that Notre Dame is both the best academic institution and most dynamic faith community of the great Catholic universities in the United States. Personally, I feel grateful to be a member of the faculty of a University that I have come to love. I pray for this University on a daily basis. However, I am not so certain that the present state of the Catholic intellectual life here at Notre Dame would make for the strongest Catholic participant in the dialogue with contrary views. I think we ought to be honest and acknowledge that many, and perhaps most, members of the faculty are skeptical about the validity of Catholic truth claims based upon faith. Likewise, many would be suspicious about faith claims as proper participants in public discourse. Vatican II rightly urged that the Church be open to the world. The on-going dialogue continues to bear fruit for all the participants. It must be admitted, however, that the effects of the ensuing dialogue with secular culture have not always been beneficial to the life of the Church. When secular culture rather than the Church begins to serve as the primary formator, the effects are not likely to foster the gospel life. The Catholic intellectual life here at Note Dame has not been immune from the negative effects of the dialogue as it has transpired in the Church over the course of the last four decades. My impression is that secular speech of all types is alive and well at Notre Dame. Rather, it is the Catholic intellectual life that needs to be fostered and nourished.

Given the less than ideal state of Catholic intellectual life at Notre Dame, how might the president of the University respond? To be sure, he should not retreat from the dialogue as it was intended by Vatican II. Whoever the President of the University is at this perilous yet promising time, he would be well advised to come to terms with reality, drink deeply from the living fountain of faith and act with all in his power to strengthen Catholic intellectual life. Unfortunately, nowhere in his Closing Statement does Jenkins affirm that Catholic belief is necessarily normative within the Catholic intellectual community. The statement creates the impression that Catholicism is just another "good idea" sometimes at issue and to be batted around in the on-going intellectual debate at the University. Without the recognition of the primacy of Catholic truth claims at Notre Dame, the University's own internal dialogue will fail to ensure integration of faith and reason; and in its dialogue with wider culture, Notre Dame will be a weak partner with little of its own to offer. Truth claims based upon faith and safeguarded by proper authorities remain integral aspects of the Catholic approach to reason. Catholic thinkers as diverse as Augustine and Thomas Aquinas have recognized the need for intellectual humility in light of sacred scripture, tradition and the magisterium of the Church. The Catholic approach to reason stands in contrast to the hermeneutic of suspicion and skepticism, which seems to be all too characteristic of contemporary academic culture. Such a rationalist approach labors under the burden of an Enlightenment myth in which rational inquiry is thought to exist independent of viewpoint, tradition and community. To say the least, this myth has long been exposed by scientists, philosophers, cultural anthropologists and theologians alike. The rationalist approach is incompatible with Catholic faith. It demands a divorce between faith and reason. Rather than facilitate the divorce, the president enjoys a principal role in setting the conditions for the reconciliation between faith and reason.

The Catholic tradition respects individual conscience, and not every individual who is a member of a Catholic university community needs to embrace Catholic faith. However, all members of a Catholic university community are asked to respect faith and the truth claims that flow from it. On an institutional level, the proper authority must express the University's commitment to the priority of Catholic truth over all other claims. Frankly, the University needs to hire more devout Catholic professors who cherish the Catholic approach to reason and are also top-notch in their respective academic disciplines. I am humbled by the excellent hires that the University has made in this regard. Ex Corde Ecclesiae requires that at least a simple majority of the faculty be practicing Catholics. Jenkins has expressed his commitment to this goal. I doubt that his recent action and statement have advanced the goal. To the contrary, I suspect that the president's Closing Statement will discourage some prospective Catholic hires. I hope that it will not give cause to present colleagues to think about leaving Notre Dame.Finally, I would like to offer a brief comment as an attorney and canon lawyer. The president states that he is "determined that we not suppress speech on this campus." Although this kind of rhetoric may have a certain populist appeal, I am surprised to read it from the pen of a respected priest-philosopher. Indeed, the Closing Statement and the accompanying guidelines recognize the need to "suppress" certain types of speech at Notre Dame. From the perspective of constitutional law, the first amendment's free speech guarantee is not absolute. Depending on the type of speech, judicial review of government regulation of that speech recognizes varying levels of scrutiny. Even government regulation of pure political speech, which requires the highest level of judicial suspicion, may be curtailed by time, place and manner restrictions. In the United States, non-governmental institutions such as universities and colleges enjoy the right not only to regulate, but to suppress, speech on their private property. Virtually every major educational institution in the United States does regulate and ban certain types of speech. Regulation of so-called "hate speech" is a good example of the exercise of this right. The canon law of the Catholic Church also recognizes free speech as a quailed and not absolute right. According to Section 3 of Canon 212 of the Code of Canon Law, speech in the Catholic community is to be freely expressed as long as it "respects the integrity of faith and morals, shows due reverence to Pastors and takes into account both the common good and dignity of individuals." In my view, a Catholic University must suppress certain types of speech-albeit only on rare occasions. Pornography, racism, obscenity and war-mongering constitute speech that has no place in any Catholic community. To suppress such speech is not only a right; it is an affirmative obligation of the proper authority at the Catholic university. The good of the community depends on such regulation.

Last May, I had the privilege of addressing a large group of alumni meeting here on campus, who posed many questions about the current state and future of Catholicism at Notre Dame. I took this opportunity to express my strong support and admiration for then President-elect Jenkins. On numerous private occasions, I have continued to express this support to concerned persons all over the country. His public statements up until his most recent Closing Statement gave me good reason for expressing this support. In light of his previous statements, I must be honest and confess that I was stunned by the recent Closing Statement. Jenkins may be correct that I am in a distinct minority of faculty members who feel this way. Although none of us are indispensable, I think that the "minority" is a sine quo non to the health of this great Catholic university. The Closing Statement notwithstanding, there seems to me to be a splendid opportunity to foster Catholic intellectual life and culture at Notre Dame. Some features of the wider American culture are gravely ill and badly need the medicine of Catholic truth. I continue to believe that Notre Dame can be a big part of the cure and not the problem. A University founded under the patronage of Our Lady ought to be nothing less.

Rev. John J. Coughlin, O.F.M.
professor of law
April 9

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

St. Clare on the Resurrection

Happy the soul to whom it is given to attain this life with Christ, to cleave with all one's heart to him whose beauty all the heavenly hosts behold forever, whose love enflames our love, whose contemplation is our refreshment, whose graciousness is our delight, whose gentleness fills us to overflowing, whose remembrance gives sweet light, whose fragrance revives the dead, whose glorious vision will be the happiness of the citizens of the heavenly Jerusalem. For he is the brightness of eternal glory, he splendour of eternal light, the mirror without spot. - St. Clare of Assisi

Debunking Myths About St. Clare

You won’t believe how difficult it is to pay attention during these final weeks of my Senior year….thus, I’ve been procrastinating. As part of that procrastination, I’ve been doing “research” for my blog…aka, seeing what random St. Clare tidbits that I can find. Instead of cheering me up like reading about Clare usually does, I must admit that I felt worse after surfing the net- simply because I have come to realize that the Seraphic Mother is so entirely misunderstood!

Myth 1: St. Francis and St. Clare were romantically involved.

First, there is a common myth that St. Francis and St. Clare were romantically involved, physically attracted to one another. For instance, one fellow blogger noted that on this “God or the Girl” show one of the guys who is discerning met up with his ex-girlfriend and said, “well, you can become a nun, and me a priest, like St. Clare of Assisi and St. Francis of Assisi.” I’m not saying that such an attraction would have been sinful, per se, but I am going to say that such claims are completely untrue. What irks me about this “Francis and Clare were romantically involved” myth is that it implies that Clare consecrated herself to religious life in order to follow Francis, not because she wanted to dedicate her life to God.

Thus, I am going to make the argument that it wasn’t Francis that caused Clare to become a nun, but rather the love of her Savior that prompted her to give up everything. St. Francis was simply an instrument in having her dedicate her life to Christ. Honestly, if she wanted to attract Francis in a romantic way, I don’t think that she would have shaved her head like she did. Moreover, had she wanted to attract Francis, she would have requested to become an active sister so that she could have more “access” to him, instead of wanting to be cloistered.

During the period of time when Clare Offreduccio was discerning her religious vocation, he served as her spiritual director- a quite platonic role. To imply that St. Francis was physically attracted to her seems to connote that he had personal motives for encouraging her to join his movement….it might seem to imply that he wanted her for himself, rather than objectively wanting her to become a nun so that God’s divine plan could be fulfilled. Moreover, during those times when they met, she met him in secret in the presence of a chaperone. Honestly, since they were already meeting in secret, a chaperone wasn’t necessary….thus, it must have been Clare’s choice to bring along a companion. If she was romantically attracted to Francis I’m sure that she would want some “alone time” with him. After she became a nun, Francis called her “my little plant,” and “my little daughter,” clearly connoting a fatherly relationship to her. He was, after all, twelve years her senior.

Francis and Clare loved each other, but it seems to be that they loved each other as spiritual brother and sister, or as father and daughter. I think that this whole myth is simply a result of our culture’s pseudo-Freudian view that it is impossible to have a spiritual love for someone that is completely devoid of sexual attraction.

In closing, one only needs to look at the lives of Francis and Clare to realize that the love that they shared was that of a love for God, rather than a romantic love for each other. This little legend sums up that love:

One night, the people of Assisi thought the trees and the church were on fire, and rushed up to extinguish the conflagration. But they found all quiet within, where St. Francis broke bread with St. Clare at one of their rare meetings, and talked of the love of God.

Myth 2: “Clare really would have been an active missionary….it was the “repressive” medeival culture that forced her to become a cloistered contemplative.”

To combat this myth, I would best provide you with the words of the greatest Poor Clare writer of modern times, Mother Mary Francis, of the Poor Clare Colletines in Roswell, New Mexico. The following excerpt is taken from her beautiful book, A Right to Be Merry:

“It is sometimes said that St. Clare was a missionary at heart and became a cloistered contemplative only because that was the sole kind of religious life for women known in her day. This never fails to make her daughters bristle! If St. Francis had wanted his Second Order to be a missionary Order, he was just the man to have made that a fait accompli in no time at all. No one was ever more “original” than the Saint who walked at right angles to everything characteristic in his age. What he founded was a Second Order of enclosed, praying nuns, because that is what he wished to found. St. Clare, on her part, did indeed have a missionary heart. That is why she entered the cloister, to be a missionary to all the world….The enclosed life is the most ancient form of religious life for women, and will always be the most modern.” – Mother Mary Francis, PCC, A Right to Be Merry

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

The Strength of Our Lady: Support for Women Whose Boyfriends/Fiancees Seek the Priesthood

I was blogging this evening, only to come across on several blogs news that there is an A&E documentary called “God Or The Girl.” I have not yet seen the show- all I did was go on the official website for this series. The premise is that the lives of four young men in discernment are tracked over the course of several months as they grapple between the priesthood and their girlfriends. I can make no judgments about the show, although it did bring to mind an experience that I had two years ago.

Many of you know that last semester, I was in discernment as to whether to become a nun. However, that was not my first close-encounter with discernment. Long before I ever dreamed about religious life, my boyfriend was seriously considering becoming a Dominican Friar. At the same time, he happened to be steadily dating me. He was very open to me about his discernment and he consulted with his spiritual director, who gave him “official” approval for him to date me. Discernment is an extremely difficult time for the person discerning….but it can be an even more difficult experience for a woman who is in a serious relationship with a man in discernment- I have felt the pain first-hand.

Thus, if there are any women out there who happen to be in that situation, I want you to know that my heart feels the pain and confusion that you are experiencing. More importantly, I want you to know that I am dedicated to praying that God give you the strength to get you through this experience- I’ve been there, and you do need strength.

You might initially feel angry at the Church or even Jesus for “taking away” your love from you. I felt that way for a brief period of time. However, keep in mind that Jesus loves you just as immensely as He loves your boyfriend….and if He doesn’t intend your boyfriend to ultimately be your husband, Jesus has a more beautiful plan for you that you haven’t even dreamed of. He might call you to be His own Bride as a nun or a sister, or else he will lead you to another wonderful man. Just keep in mind that the entire situation is the will of God, and whatever happens is ultimately for the best.

Despite the knowledge that everything will turn out for the best, you’re still initially going to be in a lot of pain. However, DO NOT STOP PRAYING! Here are some things that I did during that painful time that helped me:

*Pray the sorrowful mysteries of the rosary. NO ONE UNDERSTANDS YOUR PAIN BETTER THAN OUR LADY. Just as she watched her son being offered up on the cross, you are watching your beloved being offered up to the world as an alter christus. Mary was in emotional anguish on the day her son sacrificed Himself, and you are in pain too- let Our Lady be your mother and comfort you. Indeed, it was during the time of my boyfriend’s discernment that I said my most passionate rosaries….never have I felt as close to my Holy Mother as I did during those difficult times.

*Pray the psalms. Do not hold back your pain from Our Lord. During my experience, I prayed Psalm 102 every day- “O Lord hear my prayer, let my cry come to you.” The psalms are really helpful during prayer, because they allow for you to express your sadness, but still help you to place your ultimate trust in God’s will.

As an added note, don’t be afraid to let your boyfriend know that you are a bit upset. Tell him that it saddens you to know that he might never be your husband, but also let him know that you truly love him- and as part of that true love, you want whatever Christ wants for him.

Fellow bloggers, pray with me to Our Lady for these women who are experiencing the pain of having a beloved boyfriend in serious discernment of the priesthood:

Most Holy Mother, I humbly ask that you look after your daughters
Who faithfully love your Son
And who have faithfully loved their boyfriends
So much to the point where all they desire is God’s will for them

Just as you tearfully watched your Son die on the cross,
Be with them as they watch their beloveds sacrifice themselves as an alter christus
However, amidst your pain and anguish, you knew that your Son’s suffering
Would redeem the world
Help them to realize that their beloved’s sacrifice will also be for the ultimate good

Ask your Son to bestow His blessings upon these faithful women
May He give them the strength to pray for the discernment of their loved ones
Despite the pain and confusion that these women might feel
Help them to continue to be women of God, faithful to the Church
And ask that they too may be led to the vocation that your Son wishes of them

Ladies, if you happen to be in this difficult situation and would like further advice or support, please do not hesitate to e-mail me at chiara1194@yahoo.com. My prayers are with you.

Monday, April 17, 2006

An Easter Sermon by St. John Chrysostom

They read this at Notre Dame's Easter Vespers every year....very moving....

An Easter Sermon by St. John Chrysostom

A re there any who are devout lovers of God?Let them enjoy this beautiful bright festival!
Are there any who are grateful servants?Let them rejoice and enter into the joy of their Lord!
Are there any weary from fasting?Let them now receive their due!
If any have toiled from the first hour,let them receive their reward.
If any have come after the third hour,let them with gratitude join in the feast!
Those who arrived after the sixth hour,let them not doubt; for they shall not be short-changed.
Those who have tarried until the ninth hour,let them not hesitate; but let them come too.
And those who arrived only at the eleventh hour,let them not be afraid by reason of their delay.
For the Lord is gracious and receives the last even as the first.The Lord gives rest to those who come at the eleventh hour,even as to those who toiled from the beginning.
To one and all the Lord gives generously.The Lord accepts the offering of every work.The Lord honours every deed and commends their intention.
Let us all enter into the joy of the Lord!
First and last alike, receive your reward.Rich and poor, rejoice together!
Conscientious and lazy, celebrate the day!You who have kept the fast, and you who have not,rejoice, this day, for the table is bountifully spread!
Feast royally, for the calf is fatted.Let no one go away hungry. Partake, all, of the banquet of faith.Enjoy the bounty of the Lord's goodness!
Let no one grieve being poor,for the universal reign has been revealed.
Let no one lament persistent failings,for forgiveness has risen from the grave.
Let no one fear death,for the death of our Saviour has set us free.
The Lord has destroyed death by enduring it.The Lord vanquished hell when he descended into it.The Lord put hell in turmoil even as it tasted of his flesh.
Isaiah foretold this when he said,"You, O Hell, were placed in turmoil when he encountering you below."
Hell was in turmoil having been eclipsed.Hell was in turmoil having been mocked.Hell was in turmoil having been destroyed.Hell was in turmoil having been abolished.Hell was in turmoil having been made captive.
Hell grasped a corpse, and met God.Hell seized earth, and encountered heaven.Hell took what it saw, and was overcome by what it could not see.
O death, where is your sting?O hell, where is your victory?
Christ is risen, and you are cast down!Christ is risen, and the demons are fallen!Christ is risen, and the angels rejoice!Christ is risen, and life is set free!Christ is risen, and the tomb is emptied of its dead.
For Christ, having risen from the dead,is become the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep.
To Christ be glory and power forever and ever. Amen!

Sunday, April 16, 2006

The Easter Vigil Story of My Conversion

Dear friends of “Canticle of Chiara”: Christ is Risen! Alleluia! I would like to congratulate all members of the elect around the world who have entered into full communion with Holy Mother Church on this most holy of nights…..and I would particularly like to extend my special congratulations to all those who chose Clare or any variation of it as their baptismal/confirmation name tonight.

The Easter Vigil is a special night for me because it was two years ago at the Easter Vigil that I finally became a Christian. Indeed, I was raised Catholic but had fallen away from the Church in my teenage years, falling into a long period of being very unbelieving. It wasn’t until I came to Notre Dame that I was introduced to the True beauty of the liturgy, the wisdom of the Church, and the redeeming love of Christ. Throughout my sophomore year here at Notre Dame, I slowly began to “come over” to the Church….for instance, as I attended daily mass, the words of the Eucharistic rite really began to make sense to me. Indeed, my mind had seemed to be won over by the Church, but not my heart. My heart didn’t give itself to Christ until the Easter Vigil of 2004. It happened as I was singing “Ye Choirs of New Jerusalem” with my choir. The lyrics are reproduced below:

Ye choirs of new Jerusalem

Ye choirs of new Jerusalem, Your sweetest notes employ, The Paschal victory to hymn
In strains of holy joy. For Judah's Lion bursts his chains, Crushing the serpent's head;
And cries aloud through death's domains To wake the imprisoned dead.

Devouring depths of hell their prey At his command restore;
His ransomed hosts pursue their way Where Jesus goes before.
Triumphant in his glory now To him all power is given;
To him in one communion bow All saints in earth and Heaven.

While we, His soldiers, praise our King, His mercy we implore,
Within his palace bright to bring And keep us evermore.

All glory to the Father be, All glory to the Son,
All glory, Holy Ghost, to Thee,
While endless ages run. Alleluia! Amen.

As I was singing that hymn, my heart became overwrought by love for my Saviour….and indeed, I recognized Him as my Saviour, as the above song truly caused me to feel Christ’s redemptive power. Thus, I looked at the tabernacle and said silently to Jesus, “Where have I been all of these years without knowing you?! I want to come to You, O Lord….and come back to your most holy Church! I love you and you are my Saviour!”

Ever since that most glorious of nights, my entire life has been more enriched, more beautiful- simply because through God’s grace, I have come to realize Christ’s love for me through the Holy Mother Church. Despite the many painful experiences I have had since that conversion to Christ, it has been all the more bearable simply because I now have God in my life. It all started with the Easter Vigil.

Happy Easter, everyone! To Him in one communion bow all saints of earth and heaven! Alleluia!

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Powerful Passion Hymns

As a member of the Notre Dame Liturgical Choir, I've really been brought closer to Christ through four years of singing very powerful hymns. The hyms relating to Our Lord's Passion have been particularly moving....even moving me to tears. I've reproduced the lyrics of some of them below:

O Sacred Head Surrounded

O sacred head, surroundedby crown of piercing thorn!
O bleeding head, so wounded,reviled and put to scorn!
Our sins have marred the gloryof thy most holy face,
yet angel hosts adore thee and tremble as they gaze

I see thy strength and vigor all fading in the strife,
and death with cruel rigor,bereaving thee of life;
O agony and dying!O love to sinners free!
Jesus, all grace supplying,O turn thy face on me.

In this thy bitter passion,Good Shepherd, think of me
with thy most sweet compassion,unworthy though I be:
beneath thy cross abidingfor ever would I rest,
in thy dear love confiding,and with thy presence blest.

"Ah, Holy Jesus, How Has Thou Offended"

Ah, holy Jesus, how hast thou offended, that man to judge thee hath in hate pretended? By foes derided, by thine own rejected, O most afflicted.

Who was the guilty who brought this upon thee? Alas, my treason, Jesus, hast undone thee. 'Twas I, Lord Jesus, I it was denied thee; I crucified thee.

Lo, the Good Shepherd for the sheep is offered; the slave hath sinned, and the Son hath suffered; for man's atonement, while he nothing heedeth, God intercedeth.

For me, kind Jesus, was thine incarnation, thy mortal sorrow, and thy life's oblation; thy death of anguish and thy bitter passion, for my salvation.

Therefore, kind Jesus, since I cannot pay thee, I do adore thee, and will ever pray thee, think on thy pity and thy love unswerving, not my deserving.

"Psalm 102"

"O Lord, listen to my prayer and let my cry for help reach you. Do not hide your face from me in the day of my distress. Turn you ear towards me and answer me quickly when I call. For my days are vanishing like smoke, my bones burn away like a fire. My heart is withered like the grass. I forget to eat my bread. I cry with all my strength and my skin clings to my bones. I have become like a pelican in the wilderness, like an owl in desolate places. I lie awake and I moan like some lonely bird on a roof. All day long my foes revile me; those who hate me use my name as a curse. The bread I eat is ashes; my drink is mingled with tears. In your anger, Lord, and your fury you have lifted me up and thrown me down. My days are like a passing shadow and I wither away like the grass.

"But you, O Lord, will endure for ever and your name from age to age. You will arise and have mercy on Zion: for this is the time to have mercy; yes, the time appointed has come for your servants love her very stones, are moved with pity even for her dust . . . Let this be written for ages to come that a people yet unborn may praise the Lord; for the Lord leaned down from his sanctuary on high. He looked down from heaven to the earth that he might hear the groans of the prisoners and free those condemned to die. "

it's not a hymn, but I decided to include this passage of Isaiah anyway....


Behold, My servant will prosper, he will be high and lifted up, and greatly exalted. Just as many were astonished at you, My people, so his appearance was marred more than any man, and His form more than the sons of men. Thus He will sprinkle many nations, kings will shut their mouths on account of Him; for what they had not been told them they will see, and what they had not heard they will understand.

Who has believed our message? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? For He grew up before Him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of parched ground; He has no stately form or majesty that we should look upon Him, nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him. He was despised and forsaken of men, a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and like one from whom men hide their face, He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried; yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed. All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; but the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Reflections on Humility

I will confess that not unlike many college seniors who are on the brink of an unknown future, I’ve felt a little bit discouraged over the fact that I haven’t received “recognition” for some of my larger “accomplishments,” or what you will. Yes, it is vain, but it is indeed a human weakness that requires divine Grace to rectify. The first step is to pray for humility, and there are many examples of humility in the Catholic tradition.

The foremost example of humility is Our Lord. As Easter draws near, we finally see the culmination of all of his “accomplishments” during his life. Jesus was certainly recognized when riding into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday….yet that “recognition” was capricious, and they finally acknowledged Him by putting Him to death. Let us consider this- when Jesus was suffering for us- his greatest act of love that he ever performed- who was recognizing him at that point? Thus, during this Holy Week we should walk the via dolorosa with Our Lord, bearing in mind that in most cases our greatest acts of love will go unrecognized by other humans.

If we read the Gospels, we will also note that Our Lady didn’t concern herself with receiving recognition for loving her son. Instead, her last spoken words are “do as He tells you,” after which she resigns herself to a life of quietly contemplating, following, and loving Him. She didn’t need anyone to tell her, “Mary, you’re doing such a great job at following Jesus” in order to reinforce her efforts. Instead, she had the wisdom to realize that true joy is not found in the self, but rather found in focusing upon Jesus.

This Marian point of view seems to be what drives our contemplative nuns to do what they do. Everything about the contemplative way of life de-emphasizes the “me” and places focus on God- that is why all of the habits are uniform, for example. Moreover, instead of taking up their time with needless chatter all day, they try their best to place their focus on God. In living out this quiet contemplation of loving Christ, they are, in effect, mirroring Christ.

However, we’re not all called to be nuns…..but we are all called to mirror Our Lord and Our Lady. Thus, whenever you feel like you’ve gone unrecognized for some of your many accomplishments, look at the crucifix and ask yourself how many people recognized Christ at that point? Pray the rosary, asking Our Lady to bestow upon you the special gift of humility. Also, pray to the Saints- I would recommend any contemplative nun saint, St. Joan of Arc, or St. Bernadette for that purpose.

St. Bernadette specifically was a person who, like Our Lady, realized the transience of earthly recognition. For that reason, she withdrew herself inside a convent in an attempt downplay the fame that she had garnered on account of her visions. She didn’t enter the convent so much as an escape, but rather as a desire to contemplate Christ. I will write more on this beautiful Saint at a later point. Despite the hoard of unwitting teenage girls who randomly pick Bernadette as their confirmation name, she really is a wonderful Saint!

Monday, April 10, 2006

Catholic Elan: "The Fragrance of Fullness"

Oh, the lovely things you come across when you're procrastinating! I was browsing Catholic blogs, and came up with this wonderful account of a visit to a Poor Clares convent (I assume that it's in California?) on the blog Catholic Elan.

You can find the article here. It's a must read for any Poor Clare fan.

Here is a particularly memorable excerpt:

"I wonder: can we cultivate something of that grace, that fullness -of -silence rhythm in our lives? Or is that the gift of the Bridegroom for His brides alone? It seems to me that it is a gift, that it is a certain loveliness reserved for the Brides of Christ. Yet this does not make me unhappy, rather it makes me see that like the peonies, we all have different fragrances; that at the end of St. Paul’s race, at the fullness of our life with Christ, whether we are, like Ven. Anne, eleven- or like Mother Trinitas, eighty: that at this fullness, we give glory to God in the way He assigned to us. The way He made us."

PS: Mother Clare and the Bethlehem Poor Clares....if you're reading this, just wanted to let you know that I love you all!

- Chiara

Sunday, April 09, 2006

St. Clare's Palm Sunday

Palm Sunday is without a doubt an important day for all Catholics, but it is also a day of note for all those who have a special devotion to our St. Clare! It was on Palm Sunday of 1212 that Clare heard Holy Father Francis preaching in the cathedral in Assisi. It was his words that prompted her to run away from her father’s house later that night and give herself over completely to Christ.

As it looks right now, I will never have an experience as dramatically beautiful as that of Clare’s conversion. However, perhaps her actions on that Palm Sunday 800 years ago can represent something for us all- the need to “run away” from the sin that is separating us from living out a life that would draw us closest to Christ. While we might not all be called to be Poor Clares, we are all called to live a life that mirrors the Gospel according to the talents and gifts that God has given to us. Once we recognize our vocation, it is our duty to embrace it and never look back- just as Clare never looked back once she left the gates of her father’s castle.

That’s just my two cent’s worth. I also wrote this little prayer to our wonderful Holy Mother Clare:

Dearest Holy Mother Clare, Bride of Christ and Spouse of Poverty,
How much love you showed for Our Lord that Palm Sunday long ago
When you were inspired to follow him to the cross by casting away your selfish desires
And decided to live a life dedicated to prayer, penance, and poverty

On this Palm Sunday, teach me to recognize the love that Christ has for me
And follow your example by running away from all that holds me back from Him
Intercede for me, asking God to help me recognize my vocation more clearly
And to embrace that vocation, never looking back and always looking at Him.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Saints and Struggling with Authority

I won't go into details, but I am very disspointed by a member of the clergy with authority whom I had previously respected, whom today came out with a very unwise decision about certain matters. After first learning about this, I admit that I was very angry and upset....with this person, with the clergy, even with the Church. After I "cooled down" via prayer, I realized that my Saints were my dearest friends in this situation! Some of my favorite Saints did not have it easy in the face of difficult figures of authority.

St. Colette, the young girl who is pictured here, wanted to become a nun but discovered that the Poor Clares of her time were seriously misconstruing the Rule of St. Clare. Instead of letting her sadness and dissapointment overtake her, Colette channeled any anger that she might have had into an instrument of change.....and went on to cause major reforms to her Order!

Then think of St. Clare! After she went through her investiture with Francis, he and his brothers took her to a local Benedictine monastery, where she found the ladies there making very bad decisions....treating their servants poorly....neglecting their prayer life....and neglecting each other. Imagine how frustrated Clare must have been- here she risked everything to seek a life of poverty and she wound back in another palace, albeit a cloister! However, she let that experience shape her in a positive way....she became determined to have her "Poor Ladies" live a completely radical way of life.

Even St. Teresa of Avila, when reforming her Order, had to put up with Bishops who gave her alot of trouble when she tried to put into place her various changes. However, an active prayer life gave her the strength to overcome these challenges.

Thus, these three marvelous women made me realize that I need to offer up my anger, sadness ,and disappointment and instead channel my frustrations towards living a life according to the Gospel. Moreover, all of these ladies were contemplative nuns and no doubt they prayed for those very people who had disappointed them- thus, I must follow their example and do the same.

I wrote this prayer for that purpose:

St. Colette, St. Clare, St. Teresa of Avila,
Be my intercessor in Heaven
So that, like you, I may learn to
Pray for those who are against Christ
Pray for those who hurt me
And help me to transform any disappointment that I may feel
into hope that Christ's love will redeem the world
Help me to live my life so that I am a living testament to that hope

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

A Gift from St. Scholastica

For my birthday a few weeks ago, my boyfriend had given me a lovely St. Scholastica medal! However, since Scholastica isn't exactly on the "hot" list of Saints, he had to order it online so it was brand new and unblessed. I said to him at the time "the only thing I need now is to have a Benedictine bless it!" But where on earth was I to get a Benedictine, unless a Benedictine came to me?

St. Scholastica heard my prayer! Right out of the blue today, I received an e-mail notifying me that Fr. Fred Byrne of St. Vincent Archabbey, PA was visiting ND today to give a talk on Benedictine spirituality. I wasn't able to stay for the talk, but he was very kind and was able to bless my medal with his holy water. He was also very excited that I have a devotion to his Order's Holy Mother Scholastica!

Thus, our dear St. Scholastica has proven to be a wonderful intercessor and friend!

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Dear friends of the blog: as a member of the Notre Dame Liturgical Choir, the next several weeks will be crazy for me, as Easter Week is coming up. Thus, you will not be seeing many posts from me. Just wanted to give you all a heads-up.

A few weeks ago, Matt of the Holy Whapping , who happens to be an artist extraordinaire, drew this lovely picture for me. It expresses the fact that although I am no longer called to be a Barhamsville Poor Clare Colletine , I am still very much devoted to them and always will be. The girl in the foreground is supposed to be me, although Matt, being a typical forgiving artist, drew me as being much thinner than I am in reality. The nun with the glasses is Mother Clare, the Abbess of the Bethlehem Poor Clare Monastery in Barhamsville, Virginia. And, the nun with the monstrance is our very own St. Clare!

Thank you, Matt!

Everybody, have a wonderful, blessed Easter!

- Chiara

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