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!

Friday, February 23, 2007

"Merry" Mother Mary Francis

It was almost a year ago at this time that Jesus called one of his spouses, Mother Mary Francis, a Poor Clare Colettine, to be with Him. Unfortunately, I didn't find out about her passing until about five months after it had occurred! Thus, I wanted to take this opportunity to make you all aware of this beautiful woman who, although I have never met her, has been very influential in my life.

You'll see in my sidebar that I link to a book called "A Right to Be Merry." This book is the definitive book about the Poor Clare Colettines and has helped countless young women, including the Abbess at the Barhamsville Monastery, to discern their vocation to the Poor Clare life. One friend once said to me, "how can anyone read that book and not want to be a Poor Clare?!" Just as the title suggests, Mother Mary Francis (who wrote the book when she was Sister Mary Francis) describes the joys, tears, sacrifices, and laughter that comes with being a Poor Clare. She perfectly explains the concept of enclosure and the contemplative life in simple but very poetical language.

If the Poor Clare Colettines have had any "celebrities," Mother Mary Francis is as close to one as you can get. She was instrumental in founding the Roswell, NM monastery and re-founding the monastery outside of Chicago. She's also written the beautiful play "Candle in Umbria," a play about St. Juan Diego, reflections on the Beatitudes and Poor Clare life, poetry, and countless other books. Pouring through each one of her written works is a great sense of love for her sisters and the outside world, charity, patience, as well as a tremendous sense of humour which is prevalent in all of the Poor Clares that I've met. Here is a link to Ignatius Press' page about her many works.

Below is a biography on her written by the Institute of Religious Life:

Mother Mary Francis, P.C.C., Passes to Eternal Reward

In 2002, Mother Mary Francis, P.C.C., was given the IRL's Pro Fidelitate et Virtute Award, in recognition of her contributions to the consecrated life by her books, poetry and the inspiring example of her life of contemplative prayer. During her forty-plus years as abbess of the Roswell monastery, six Poor Clare foundations were made from it. This faithful bride of Christ was called to her eternal reward on February 11, just three days before what would have been Mother's 84th birthday.

Born on St. Valentine's Day in 1921 in St. Louis, Missouri, Alberta Aschmann knew at the age of 16 that she had to be a nun. After high school she joined the School Sisters of Notre Dame and attended St. Louis University. But her time there ended quickly when God's call sounded in her heart again. In 1942 she left everything and entered the Poor Clares. On June 26, 1943, she received the holy habit and her new religious name, Sister Mary Francis of Our Lady.
Her abbess, Mother Immaculata, permitted her to develop her gift of writing poetry and a first volume, Whom I Have Loved , was published while Sister Francis was still in the novitiate. This brought her visits from well-known poets and from Eleanor Belloc Jebb, who was sent by her father, Hilaire Belloc, to meet this rising literary star.

In 1948, a year after her final profession, Sister Francis was included among the Poor Clares sent to Roswell, New Mexico, to begin a new foundation. A few years later, the abbess commissioned her to enter a book contest. When Sister Francis asked what to write about, Mother Immaculata replied, “I don't care, just win the prize. The roof needs to be fixed.” Sister Francis wrote about what she knew best, the Poor Clare life, and the result was A Right to Be Merry . Circumstances intervened to prevent entry in the contest, but the book was published and become the Catholic best seller of 1956. And the roof was fixed.

In 1964, the community chose her as its new abbess and the next year she was elected head of federation of Colettine Poor Clare monasteries in the United States. Mother served in this capacity for sixteen years. Through her writings and now through her spiritual daughters, Mother Mary Francis worked tirelessly to encourage religious on every continent to stand firm in preserving the ideals of religious life. May God now richly reward her for these efforts.
Read more about the
Roswell, NM Poor Clares, and these daughter communities: Alexandria, VA; Chicago, IL; Belleville, IL; and Los Altos Hills, CA,

In closing, I'll just mention that sometimes when I'm feeling blue, I'll google her picture and looking at her sweet and pleasant smile always makes me "merry"!


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