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!

Thursday, August 24, 2006

A Public Confession

Dear friends of “Canticle of Chiara,”

I actually wasn’t going to make any more posts until I received a beautifully written e-mail from a dedicated reader of this blog. Well, this person’s e-mail made me come to my senses. Thus, just as the Poor Clares make public confessions before their communities, I’ll make a confession before my own community on this blog.

You might remember a post a while back that talked about the “Eleventh Commandment”- don’t compare yourself with others. I’ve continuously broken this commandment by means of matching up my “Canticle of Chiara” blogs to the success of some other Catholic blogs. I watched in envy as some people that I knew started up blogs and three weeks later, the blog would be spotlighted in “Our Sunday Visitor” or some other national Catholic publication. I would check the rankings of St. Blogs Parish every day, and subsequently became discouraged when I perceived how little attention “Canticle of Chiara” received. Finally, I became so discouraged when I felt that “Canticle of Chiara” had gotten little publicity in the wake of the recent Feast of St. Clare that I was determined to stop posting for an indefinite period of time. Honestly, St. Clare herself would most likely slap me for having these sentiments! I ask you all to forgive me.

After I received the aforementioned e-mail, I realized that running this blog could be compared to nuns in a monastery. Indeed, nuns have a certain amount of people whom they are able to meet in person and keep in regular contact with- just like those of you who leave comments and e-mail me. However, in most cases nuns spend their entire lives doing prayer and penance for those whom they will never see. The nuns may never receive a definitive sign that their prayers for people in the world may be answered- they’ll never know for sure whether a certain person has been converted to Christ, and even if that person does indeed convert, the nuns will never receive news of it. Nonetheless, this lack of absolute assurance in no way renders futile everything that the nuns do for others - somehow the nuns have faith that God in His Providence will hear and answer the prayers. Likewise, there are so many people out there that I will never realize are looking at my blog. From now on, even if there’s only one person who benefits from reading my posts, that’s all the motivation I’ll need to keep “Canticle of Chiara” going. After all, even if there had been just one person on earth, Jesus still would have died for that person.

In closing, I’m deeply sorry for not having my priorities straight. I look forward to continuing “Canticle of Chiara”!

Friday, August 11, 2006


DEAR BLOG READERS- I WISH YOU ALL A MOST JOYOUS FEAST OF SAINT CLARE!!!!! I consider this post to be the culmination of all my other posts, since today is the Feast Day of the Patroness of this humble little blog.

Thus, it’s come time for me to answer the big question: why am I so inspired by St. Clare as to dedicate an entire blog to her?

The answer certainly isn’t very simple. For the past 800 years, St. Clare has inspired thousands of women to become nuns- as far as I’m aware, I’m not necessarily called to that particular state of life. St. Clare is the patroness of television, and I watch so little TV that I have the folks from Comcast calling me and asking why I rarely tune in. Also, St. Clare has been deemed to be the “lover of poverty,” and I would consider myself hardly poor. Thus, why do I love her so much?

First of all, in the words of a person who is very dear to me, when you truly love a person, it’s nearly impossible to articulate why you love that person. However, I can perhaps give an explanation as to why I love the ideals which Clare represents. I’ll expound upon two of those ideals:

For one, I love how Clare represents that no one is immune from the call to holiness and that no one is incapable of living a life entirely for Christ. Growing up, various people taught me the misguided “liberation theology” theory that God only loved those who were born into economic poverty. Moreover, so many people throughout my life have rather thought it impossible for me to ever be holy because I’m just another spoiled “rich girl.” However, Clare is living proof that even the most wealthy people are capable of emptying themselves for Christ. She and her many followers have been the rich young person from the Gospel who have given up so much of themselves that they have been able to slip through the “eye of the needle.” I suppose it’s this great paradox of Clare’s life to which I am drawn…if holiness was possible for a woman who had even more than I will ever have, perhaps I too may come to achieve even one-fiftieth of that holiness.

Up until very recently, I have viewed my life through the lens of ambition: my gifts and talents would be squandered unless I became a “prominent” person through the world’s eyes. To the contrary, Clare has taught me that it is not worldly success but rather spiritual poverty that makes us “prominent” in the eyes of God. Indeed, the world considered what she did on that blessed Palm Sunday to be an act of “stupidity”….her running away and relinquishing of all her possessions was one rash and unwise decision. Clare, who could have risen to the heights of the Umbrian aristocracy, signed away any prominence she might have had with one clip of the scissors. She went on to live out the rest of her life as an unknown, never writing any book or owning any possessions that would survive her. She certainly didn’t choose to live this life for security or escape from the world, but because she loved the world so much that all she wanted to do was pray and do penance for those who are in most need of Christ’s mercy. When the world called her to pursue a life of ambition and fame, Clare cried “I don’t care!” but instead pursued a greater ideal of praying for the conversion of that world who had fed her such false ideals. Indeed, it is that love that is a model for all of us- she loved the world so much that she wanted what was truly best for it. Whether we are consecrated religious and try to love the entire world to that extent or married men and women who love our spouse and children in that manner, Clare’s love is certainly a model for all of us. It is a love that doesn’t make sense in the world’s eyes, but certainly makes sense in the eyes of Christ.

I suppose I’m rambling at this point. However, my greatest prayer is that you all come to be inspired by Clare in the way that she has inspired my life. Thus, I’ve written this prayer for that effect:
O most gracious and loving God
Clare so loved the world that she sacrificed everything For the love of You and the love of others Clare relinquished a life of ambition For a life of prayer and penance Inspired by her beautiful life, Help me to allow my own desires to decrease And Your Holy Will to increase in my life May Holy Mother Clare intercede for me So that I may answer the call to holiness And take action in response to that call By praying for my fellow man And performing penance for the sake of the redemption Of the entire world! On this most holy solemnity of the Feast of St. Clare I ask that I may have the grace to love you more and more each day Just as Clare’s entire life was an act of love for Your sake alone Amen

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Chiara Countdown: John Paul II's Homily on St. Clare

The following is taken from the Poor Clare’s website at www.poor-clares.org and features the late Pope John Paul II’s homily, which was given on the Feast of St. Clare, 1993:

Eight hundred years ago, Clare of Assisi was born to the nobleman, Favarone di Offreduccio. This "new woman," as the Ministers General of the Franciscan families wrote of her in a recent letter, lived as a "little plant, in the shadow of St. Francis, who led her to the heights of Christian perfection. The celebration of such a truly evangelical creature is meant most of all to be an invitation to rediscover contemplation, that spiritual journey which only the mystics experience deeply. To read her ancient biography and her writings -- the "Form of Life, her Testament, and the four extant letters of the many she wrote to St. Agnes of Prague -- means being so immersed in the mystery of the triune God and of Christ, the Incarnate Word, as to be dazzled. Her writings are so marked by the love stirred up in her by her loving, prolonged gazing upon Christ the Lord that it is not easy to express what only a woman's heart could experience.
Clare's contemplative journey, which will culminate in her vision of the "King of glory", begins precisely in her total abandonment to the Spirit of the Lord, in the same way as Mary did at the annunciation: that is to say, it begins with that spirit of poverty (cf. Luke 1:48) which empties her of everything but the simplicity of a gaze fixed on God.
For Clare, poverty -- which she loved so much and mentioned so often in her writings -- is the wealth of the soul which, stripped of its own goods, is open to the "Spirit of the Lord and his holy manner of working", like an empty shell in which God can pour an abundance of his gifts. The Mary-Clare parallel appears in St. Francis' earliest writing, in the Forma Vivendi he gave to Clare: "By divine inspiration you have made yourselves daughters and servants of the Most High King, the heavenly Father, and have taken the Holy Spirit as your spouse, choosing to live according to the perfection of the holy Gospel."
Clare and her sisters are called "spouses of the Holy Spirit - an expression not common in the Church's history, in which a sister, a nun, is always described as the "spouse of Christ." Here we have the resonance of some expressions from Luke's account of the annunciation (cf. Luke 1: 26-38), which become key words for expressing Clare's experience: the "Most High, the Holy Spirit," the "Son of God," the "handmaid of the Lord" and, lastly, that "over-shadowing" which for Clare is her investiture, when her hair was shorn and fell at the foot of our Lady's altar in the Portiuncula...
If Catherine of Siena is the saint full of passion for the Blood of Christ, the great St. Teresa is the woman who goes from "mansion" to "mansion" to the threshold of the great King in the interior castle and Therese of the Child Jesus is the one who, in Gospel simplicity, travels the little way, Clare is the passionate lover of the Crucified Christ, with whom she wants to identify absolutely...
Clare and her sisters had hearts as large as the world: as contemplatives, they interceded for the whole of humanity. Those souls, so sensitive to the daily problems of each person, were able to take all difficulties upon themselves; there was no concern, suffering, anguish or discouragement of others which did not find an echo in the hearts of these prayerful women...
In reality, Clare's whole life was a Eucharist because, like Francis, from her cloister she raised up a continual "thanksgiving" to God in her prayer, praise, supplication, intercession, weeping, offering and sacrifice. She accepted everything and offered it to the Other in union with the infinite "thanks" of the only-begotten Son, the Child, the Crucified, the risen One, who lives at the right hand of the Father.
During this jubilee year, dear sisters, the whole Church's attention is turned with growing interest to the shining figure of your beloved mother. With how much greater fervor should you look to her in order to draw encouragement from her example and intensify your effort to respond to the Lord's grace with daily dedication and that commitment to the contemplative life from which the Church draws so much strength for her missionary activity in today's world!
May Christ, our Lord, be your light and the joy of your hearts. With these wishes, as a sign of my deep affection, I impart a special Apostolic Blessing to all. From the Vatican, 11 August, the liturgical memorial of St. Clare of Assisi, in the year 1993, the fifteenth of my Pontificate.


Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Chiara Countdown: "The Vocation of St. Clare of Assisi"

The following reflection is written by Fr. David Temple, O.F.M., and is taken off of the Poor Clare’s website at http://www.poor-clares.org/. :

Saint Clare of Assisi was a bright light in the thirteenth century. Co-worker with Saint Francis in bringing to birth the fresh, strong movement that would make the Gospel come alive with a new vigor.
Born to noble patrimony in Assisi, Italy, in 1194, Clare Favarone di Offreduccio was reared in a family that had seven knights, “all powerful and noble,” as the medieval chronicle said it. They lived from vast land holdings and were a force in the feudal economic and power structure of the times. When they rode out in splendor the people moved to the side to watch the knights who shone brilliantly in their day. All of this was good for Clare, but it was not good enough.
There were many bright lights in the family of Clare, but Clare was the brightest of all. Nor did she shine alone. There was Francis of Assisi and together they have dazzled centuries. Clare was twelve years younger than Francis Bernardone when he took to the streets with his richly clad friends, to fill the every balacony with echoes of their laughter and song.. If perchance she saw the zestful leader of the youth of Assisi, she would have glimpsed at him with the eyes of a little girl fascinated by all the glamor, but on guard because of all the noise.
When Francis in a bold movement of surrender to the Gospel made his public renunciation in Assisi, Clare would perhaps have heard the report. In her young years she did not see much of Francis, not only because of the dividing force of social barriers, but also because of the concrete factor of distance, because during much of the time her family was in the neighboring town of Perugia to which they fled because of social strife in Assisi.
It is not easy to say just who Francis was: merchant’s son, troubadour of sorts, military dreamer, cloth seller, ambitious young man with dreams of adventure. In the young years of his life he was tied tightly to the earth because he liked the bright things of the world and because he had dreams of being a knight. His father also had a whole career of business and selling laid out for Francis, his son. But Francis broke out on a great spiritual adventure. Clare saw all this and shared the great spiritual quest. When she heard the voice of Francis, she mind quickened to better things.
Francis, as all said, had gone far. Francis, some said, had gone too far. In Assisi, families with sons who were about to chart their life course held their breath lest their young men look up and say: “Behold the perilous path,” — and then follow it! Families with daughters who were coming to years of choice were less apprehensive, because surely no girl would think of such things. One did!
Yes, Clare, daughter of Favarone, and born to good estate, was reared in the gentle arts of the women folk of the nobility. There were likely ways before her, and well-thought plans for the future! There were no fears that Clare would follow any but the well-trod path until, at the age of eighteen, she heard Francis speak as he gave the Lenten course in the cathedral of San Rufino. She understood well what the Gospel life meant, and she knew in her heart what she would do.
When, in determination to follow the new calling, she left her father’s house all the doors were locked. But Clare would not be locked out of the dream she had glimpsed in Francis, and broke one door open, and she continued opening doors all her life. Clare struck out by leaving her father’s house after midnight on Palm Sunday, 1212. She went in a bridal dress so that she might be surrendered to the Lord and because she was intent on a spiritual espousal. To her and to Francis it seemed clear that for complete self-surrender to the Gospel life a total dedication to God in a place apart would be the most effective step. Thus she would be absolutely committed to God in prayer and in sacrifice. Francis felt that his part was to be the best man for Christ, the groom who could draw such a bride in a mighty attraction. All this happened very quietly but in absolute truth as Francis led her apart and finally settled her at the little church of San Damiano.
Clare’s going forth was startlingly quick to all who heard and saw. When Clare turned totally to God, she fixed her resolve completely on the Gospel life. Ever since she took her first little steps as a child turning to God, she had been eager in following the way of Jesus. But now the pace became quick, and the way in which she gave herself was complete.
The manner in which Clare dedicated herself was surprising to many. The way of her self-giving was complete. She not only went apart from the world, she also shut the door after herself. The result was not only a seclusion, it was a total occupation with God. She prayed through the day, and the hours of prayer were interlaced through the night. She was totally absorbed with the never-ending praise of God. For her it was never routine because it was always exciting.
She had a way of being total, and this was the strong stamp on the way in which she gave herself to Christ. As she looked forward to life’s processes and purposes, she could see nothing brighter than the prospect of giving herself totally to the praise of God. Her project of praise was absolute: in a bare place, and at the mid-hours of the night, and through the hours of the day, she wished to be totally turned toward God. Her praise was clean and complete. Poverty was for Clare the best position from which to send forth praise. Then there was nothing that could get in the way of it.
Prayer became the very heart of living for Saint Clare. With prayer she joined a great desire to work. Work was a true part of the Gospel life for her. It was the fulfilling of the call to the totality of her human person, and she responded not only with her heart but also with her hands. There were hours of work that supported the praise. Hard work. And the prayer supported the labor. Clare and her companions worked with their hands, even as they kept vigil with their hearts. They lived in complete poverty, totally dependent on the providence of God. They slept on the floor in the attic of the church.
Some were surprised when Clare began to turn to God in total prayer and in complete surrender. Her family was shocked. But soon the whole Church was lifted up by the trueness and the rightness of the one who could continue with full face and with all of her heart intent on God.
Saint Clare had absolute confidence that God would do anything for her. The “anything” came to a point when the Sisters had no food for their community. Saint Clare blessed the half loaf, and it fed all. The “anything” came to the fore again when the Saracens were attacking the monastery of San Damiano and were swarming toward the door. Clare placed herself at the door with the Blessed Sacrament. Because of the promise that the Lord would do “anything,” the Saracens fled.
The flower of the young woman­hood of Assisi came to join Clare. Soon they were spreading out in choirs of praise through the whole Church. These singers of the praise of God were totally turned to Him, and they were completely committed to Christ. They were attracted by the total turning to God as they saw it in Clare. They were fascinated by the truth of what was there before their eyes. They wanted to give themselves absolutely to the Absolute. When they first heard of the life it seemed to them to be a bare thing, hard and yielding only the sort of spark that comes from a sharp blow on flint. But when they approached close, they came to know that the fire was the fruit of love. They understood that, if they loved enough, they could do it all — and be very happy.
The income of the first Poor Clares was the generosity of the faithful. The Sisters were sure it would never run out. This assurance has continued through all the centuries. From the very first, the name of the Poor Ladies, as they were first called, began to spread throughout the whole Christian world. Three Popes came to visit Clare. The whole Papal Curia was present for her last days and for her burial in August l253. At her canonization two years later, the Church declared that it understood that the name Clare signifies “bright” and that this has significance for the whole people of God in which she was indeed “light.”
The strains of the song of Clare and her companions began to sound and to resound more and more through the whole of Christendom. Prayer and work and praise and high spiritual joy were transmitted to Christians everywhere. These went into the song, and the dedication of the singers spread through Italy and on into Spain, and throughout France and into Ireland and all the lands about. The song and the march in total dedication and in joy carried through the centuries.
Saint Clare of Assisi was a saint who lived in the thirteenth century. Saint Clare is a saint who lives today. There are eighteen thousand Sisters who follow in the way of Saint Clare in our day. The ideal of Saint Clare is preserved today by the Poor Clares who follow in her footsteps. They live in continual praise and in sacrifice. They are a light to all the people of God in our day. Their continuing spirit of sacrifice sustains all the faith­ful. Their prayer helps to support the whole Church.
So, the life of Saint Clare lives on in this day. It draws its vitality from the roots of faith. It flourishes in prayer. It keeps the praise of God sounding and resounding. It gives freely, and it is nourished by sacrifice. It never leaves off stretching and reaching with the desire of Saint Francis and the eagerness of Saint Clare.
Some observers, standing in very shallow water, ventured to observe that this high-minded and spirited life would not flourish in the twentieth century. As it turned out, the twentieth century needed it most. When the modern Church met in the sessions of Vatican II, the work-a-day and practical planners, who were peering in from the outside, guessed that the contemplative ideal would be plucked, and the dream of Saint Clare would be shot through with shafts of twentieth century light. But Vatican II was serious about the Church, and the contemplative ideal was canonized. The Poor Clares and all those dedicated to a life of full commitment were charged to go on and to continue forward so that enclosure was not a forbidding wall but a rampart behind which beat the heart of the Church.
So the consecrated life goes on. The enclosure walls of the Poor Clares are intact. The prayer of praise continues to lift up the day and to bless the night. The daughters of Saint Clare press on in praise as they know very well what they are about. The name of Saint Clare is still “bright,” and those who come from warm homes and fair jobs and from bright prospects are intent upon the full turning to God. They are not afraid that they are doing too much. They are concerned lest they do too little.
If the daughters of Saint Clare are asked whether all this is not over­demanding, they answer quickly that none of it is too much if your heart is big enough.

by Rev. Father David Temple, O.F.M.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Chiara Countdown: St. Clare's Canonization

A beautiful quote about St. Clare from Pope Alexander IV, the Pontiff who canonized her as a Saint:

“O Clare, whom God showered with dazzling gifts, you are a clear mirror given to the world….Blessed Clare and splendid light, we look on you with great admiration…During your life, you were resplendent; after your death, you still enlighten us.”

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Chiara Countdown: Critique of Clare's Role in "Brother Sun, Sister Moon"

I mentioned a few posts back that I’d do a review of the 1972 film “Brother Sun, Sister Moon” (“Fratello Sole, Sorella Luna”)….but I was wrong. Not only will there be a review, but I’ve decided to do two reviews! This review will be a critique of how the film depicts Clare, and around the Feast of St. Francis, I’ll do a much lengthier review that focuses on the film’s portrayal of the early life of Francis.

The bottom line is that for me, this movie is sort of like eating cotton candy….it’s not very substantial, but eating it puts you in a light-hearted mood. Thus, when I first saw the movie, I liked it. I even hosted a screening of the film last October on St. Francis Day. Honestly, only about three people showed up, even with the free pizza- it’s true that most of the Catholics that I’ve met don’t really like the movie. In fact, nearly all of the Franciscans that I’ve ever met in person can’t stand the movie!

For instance, I’ll never forget when I went on retreat with the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration last year and I mentioned that I liked the movie. One of the Sisters- a truly spiritually beautiful and vibrant woman- vehemently protested- “Sorry to diss your movie,” she said, “but ‘Brother Sun, Sister Moon’ is a total hippie flick.” Much to my amusement, she then went on to do impressions of the way the film portrays Francis and Clare- “Holy Father Francis is like ‘peeeeeeaaaccce, man,’ in the movie” (she waved a ‘peace’ sign with her fingers as she said it). “Holy Mother Clare is a hyperactive flower-child who’s like, ‘wheeeeeeee!!!!’” she said, as she flailed her arms up in the air. I thought it was hilarious. Also, the thing is……I agreed with her. But like I said, the film is cotton candy.

Judi Bowker is the actress who plays Clare, and according to the International Movie Database, “Brother Sun, Sister Moon” was her acting debut. The only other movie with Ms. Bowker that I’ve seen is “In This House of Brede,” in which she plays a young Benedictine nun- her performance in that movie is about as pleasant as hearing fingernails screech against a blackboard….you can read my review of that movie here. Judi Bowker does a much better job in “Brother Sun, Sister Moon”- that is, she’s very convincing as a flighty teenager. However, if Franco Zefirelli ever completes his second film about St. Francis’ later years, Judi Bowker would be completely inadequate for the role. Also, I’m glad that “Brother Sun, Sister Moon” doesn’t delve into Clare’s actual discernment process, because I don’t think that Ms. Bowker would have done a very good job of portraying Clare’s more thoughtful and spiritual personality.

A. What I Like About the Movie’s Portrayal of Clare

· She’s blonde (not that I’m biased or anything!)

· The movie does a very good job at establishing that the relationship between Clare and St. Francis was platonic. As a contrast, I’ve seen a documentary on St. Clare that I bought at a traditional Catholic bookstore. I won’t bother providing you with the actual title of the documentary, but I had a major problem with it because one of the narrators implied that Francis and Clare were sexually attracted to each other (read this post if you want to know my opinion on that ludicrous claim). Thus, “Brother Sun, Sister Moon” portrays Clare as a young girl who falls in love with the ideals of Francis and his way of life, rather than the man himself. For instance, when she makes the decision to join Francis’ movement, she joyfully paraphrases the “Prayer of St. Francis”: ‘Where there is hatred, I want to sow love. Where there is sadness, let me show joy!’ Whether or not the film accurately shows Clare as subsequently doing that, the real St. Clare certainly showed joy and love to the world!

· The director, Franco Zeffirelli, effectively uses beautiful imagery during the scenes that involve Clare. Since Clare’s name means “light,” Zeffirelli associates her with brightness and beauty- the first time that she appears on screen, Clare is running through a field of lilies. In another scene, Clare is standing in front of a lovely waterfall. In her final scene, Clare is shown holding a beautiful white lamb in her arms; perhaps this is a foreshadowing of later on in Clare’s life when she would hold in her arms the Blessed Sacrament (the Lamb of God).

· In this movie, Clare is the first person who truly understands Francis’ conversion. Her understanding and support of Francis is what gives him the strength to continue in his mission- a role that Clare would play for the rest of her life.

B. What I Don’t Like about how Clare is Presented in this Movie

. “Brother Sun, Sister Moon” is in no way an accurate portrayal of the life of St. Clare. In the movie, Clare is a peasant girl; Francis’ father remarks, “Clare isn’t much of a catch…her father can’t even give enough dowry to pay for a wedding.” Not that it really matters all that much whether Clare was poor before her conversion, but it’s completely untrue! Clare Offreduccio’s noble family was one of the wealthiest dynasties in Italy.

. Probably the biggest problem that I have with this movie is the inaccurate way in which it portrays the way Clare joined Francis and his followers. In the film, Clare joyfully runs towards Francis in broad daylight and tells him that she wants to join him. He cuts off her hair in the middle of the day as well. Also, the film doesn’t even indicate that Clare had to literally run away from her family in order to join Francis. The way that it really happened back in 1212 was much more dramatic…..Clare had to sneak out of a side door in her family’s castle in the middle of the night, and ran through the dark forest in order to meet Francis and his followers who were carrying torches. I guess it just would have taken too much screen time to show the way Clare’s investiture really happened, and it would have taken the focus off of Francis.

. After Clare’s conversion, the film shows her as being very active, rather than cloistered. According to actual events, Francis immediately took her to live with Benedictine nuns for a while before he brought her back to San Damiano. I’m honestly not sure how long is was before Clare took a vow of enclosure, but the film seems to indicate that her vocation was as an active sister.

. We never get to see Clare in any kind of habit! After her conversion, she pretty much wears the same clothes that she was wearing before, only with a headscarf to cover her shorn head.

C. The Bottom Line

In all honesty, Clare has a very small role in “Brother Sun, Sister Moon” and is a very flat character. Zefirelli merely uses her as an illustrative device in order to show that both men and women were drawn to Francis’ new perspective on and way of living life. Moreover, it’s nice that Clare’s major role is to serve as the strongest supporter of Francis’ movement. While there are many inaccuracies about Clare’s conversion, Zeffirelli doesn’t seem to have a revisionist agenda or intend to disrespect her; he avoids presenting things as they really happened for the sake of artistic consistency and in order to keep the focus on Francis. However, if anyone wants to get together and write a good screenplay that delves into St. Clare’s life, let me know!

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Chiara Countdown: G.K. Chesterton's Insight on St. Clare

In preparation for the big day on August 11th, I would like to share with you all an excerpt from a text from which this blog has drawn great inspiration: G.K. Chesterton’s St. Francis of Assisi. In the following passage, Chesterton gives us a very insightful reflection on Holy Mother Clare and her contribution to the Seraphic Order:
This rough outline can only be rounded off here with some description of the Second and Third Orders, though they were founded later and at separate times. The former was an order for women and owed its existence, of course, to the beautiful friendship of St. Francis and St. Clare. There is no story about which even the most sympathetic critics of another creed have been more bewildered and misleading. For there is no story that more clearly turns on that simple test which I have taken as crucial throughout this criticism. I mean that what is the matter with these critics is that they will not believe that a heavenly love can be as real as an earthly love. The moment it is treated as real, like an earthly love, their whole riddle is easily resolved. A girl of seventeen, named Clare and belonging to one of the noble families of Assisi, was filled with an enthusiasm for the conventual life; and Francis helped her to escape from her home and to take up the conventual life. If we like to put it so, he helped her to elope into the cloister, defying her parents as he had defied his father. Indeed the scene had many of the elements of a regular romantic elopement; for she escaped through a hole in the wall, fled through a wood and was received at midnight by the light of torches. Even Mrs. Oliphant, in her fine and delicate study of St. Francis, calls it "an incident which we can hardly record with satisfaction."
Now about that incident I will here only say this. If it had really been a romantic elopement and the girl had become a bride instead of a nun, practically the whole modern world would have made her a heroine. If the action of the Friar towards Clare had been the action of the Friar towards Juliet, everybody would be sympathising with her exactly as they sympathise with Juliet. It is not conclusive to say that Clare was only seventeen. Juliet was only fourteen. Girls married and boys fought in battles at such early ages in mediaeval times; and a girl of seventeen in the thirteenth century was certainly old enough to know her own mind. There cannot be the shadow of a doubt, for any sane person considering subsequent events, that St. Clare did know her own mind. But the point for the moment is that modern romanticism entirely encourages such defiance of parents when it is done in the name of romantic love. For it knows that romantic love is a reality, but it does not know that divine love is a reality. There may have been something to be said for the parents of Clare; there may have been something to be said for Peter Bernardone. So there may have been a great deal to be said for the Montagues or the Capulets; but the modern world does not want it said; and does not say it. The fact is that as soon as we assume for a moment as a hypothesis, what St. Francis and St. Clare assumed all the time as an absolute, that there is a direct divine relation more glorious than any romance, the story of St. Clare's elopement is simply a romance with a happy ending; and St. Francis is the St. George or knight-errant who gave it a happy ending. And seeing that some millions of men and women have lived and died treating this relation as a reality, a man is not much of a philosopher if he cannot even treat it as a hypothesis.
For the rest, we may at least assume that no friend of what is called the emancipation of women will regret the revolt of St. Clare. She did most truly, in the modern jargon, live her own life, the life that she herself wanted to lead, as distinct from the life into which parental commands and conventional arrangements would have forced her. She became the foundress of a great feminine movement which still profoundly affects the world; and her place is with the powerful women of history. It is not clear that she would have been so great or so useful if she had made a runaway match, or even stopped at home and made a mariage de convenance. So much any sensible man may well say considering the matter merely from the outside; and I have no intention of attempting to consider it from the inside. If a man may well doubt whether he is worthy to write a word about St. Francis, he will certainly want words better than his own to speak of the friendship of St. Francis and St. Clare. I have often remarked that the mysteries of this story are best expressed symbolically in certain silent attitudes and actions. And I know no better symbol than that found by the felicity of popular legend, which says that one night the people of Assisi thought the trees and the holy house 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. It would be hard to find a more imaginative image, for some sort of utterly pure and disembodied passion, than that red halo round the unconscious figures on the hill; a flame feeding on nothing and setting the very air on fire.

Friday, August 04, 2006

St. Clare T-Shirts Now Available!

****Drum roll****...........In honor of St. Clare's feast a week from now, I've designed a t-shirt with her image on it! The t-shirts are available at the following link:


I've bought a number of other t-shirts from CafePress.com, and they're surprisingly very high quality. My particular St. Clare design features a "Santa Clara" logo on the front pocket, and a large icon of the Seraphic Mother on the back with the caption "Shining in Name, More Shining in Life!" The design is available in all shapes and sizes for both men and women. There's even a baseball shirt in case you want to showcase your athletic prowess on the field!

If you have any questions about the shirt, feel free to e-mail me at chiara1194@yahoo.com. Enjoy!

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Chiara Countdown: St. Clare Comic Book

Alright, so I had promised months ago that I would provide a review of Pauline Books' "St. Clare of Assisi" Comic Book. I was very impressed by the comic on the life of St. Therese that they published, so you won't believe how excited I was to have found that they made a comic on the life of St. Clare! Being that the St. Clare comic is out of print, it took me more time than money to track down- for about $5, I ordered it used off of amazon.com. First of all, I'd like to thank the generous person who put it up for sale and made it available to a Clare-nerd like me!

Now the representation of Clare in this comic isn't as inaccurate as other media sources such as the film Brother Sun Sister Moon (of which I'll prob. do a review in the next day or so). Nonetheless, I did have my qualms about a few things in the comic. First, it doesn't clearly establish the fact that Clare and her sisters were cloistered- in fact, it almost tries to skirt around the issue. At one point in the comic, Clare says something like she wishes that she was a missionary out in the world. As Mother Mary Francis, PCC, says, if Clare had wanted to be a missionary out in the world, she would have done just that! However, she became a cloistered contemplative for a very valid reason, as did her sisters.

Another problem that I have with the comic is the way it represents the incident of Clare chasing away the Saracan marauders by taking the monstrance with the Blessed Sacrament to the walls of her cloister and holding the monstrance high in the air for the invaders to see. Instead of portraying this miracle as it actually happened, the comic illustrates Clare and her sisters inside the cloister praying and the Saracens subsequently deciding to go away. It kind of takes away the drama of the matter, and downplays Clare's radical faith and trust in Our Lord.

Nonetheless, I think that the story itself gives a pretty good overview of Clare's life and her love of prayer. The comic frequently depicts Clare deep in prayer and she often talks about the importance of emptying your entire self before Our Lord. The comic also emphasizes Clare's love of poverty, so much to the point where she specifically asked the Pope for the "privelage to own nothing."

From an aesthetic perspective, the graphics were fine. However, during the portion of the comic that depicts Clare before she became a nun, the people kind of resemble characters from an 80s Medeival Fantasy movie like Willow or The Princess Bride. Also, Clare herself vaguely looks like Paris Hilton, which was something that I got a real kick out of (although wouldn't it be AWESOME if Paris Hilton decided to embrace a life of poverty in the manner of St. Clare?! Nothing is impossible for God.)

In summary, I'm very fortunate to have acquired this rare piece of Clare-kitsch. I certainly wouldn't have any real hesitation in showing it to children or anyone else who wanted to gain an elementary understanding of Clare's life.

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