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

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Location: Virginia, United States

Chiara Offreduccio (St. Clare) was born in 1194. It is said that when her mother had Chiara in her womb, an angel appeared to her and said, "your child will be a light that will illuminate the world!" Hence, her mother named the child Chiara, which means "light. As G.K. Chesterton put it, St. Clare was a romantic figure just like Juliet was. However, instead of running away from her family in order to be with an earthly man, Clare gave up everything and ran away from her family for the love of her Savior!

Wednesday, April 25, 2007


Dear Friends of "Canticle of Chiara"

Since you haven't heard from me in a while, many of you might be wondering whether I made like St. Clare and became cloistered! In fact, the real reason for my lack of posting has been that I'm in the process of moving to a new city and haven't had internet access for the past couple of weeks (which also explains why the title bar and side bar pictures were down).

I'm still getting settled in, but should be able to make a post soon! In the meantime, please check out the latest additions to my sidebar; I've added some new blogs to the "Chiara's Friend's" section, added more of my favorite books and movies, and updated the Religious Orders section.

Thank you so much for your love and prayers, and I look forward to posting again soon!

Pax et Bonum,

Chiara :-)

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

St. Clare and Hot Cross Buns

Happy Easter, everyone!

I hope that everyone had a most wonderful Triduum! I was most fortunate to attend Holy Thursday Mass and Easter Sunday Mass with my Poor Clares, both which were absolutely beautiful. The homilies were especially moving, as they were said by Fr. Russell Murray, a wonderful Franciscan priest.

In past years, I attended the Triduum at Notre Dame. After Easter Sunday mass, everyone would gather in the dining hall in order relax (especially all of us in the Liturgical Choir) to feast on a wonderful meal. My favorite dining hall Easter fare of all was the delicious hot cross buns. Needless to say, it wasn’t until after I graduated from Notre Dame that I discovered that my favorite Easter treats were actually “invented” by my favorite Saint!

Apparently the Pope came to visit St. Clare and her sisters and asked her to bless some buns that she had baked. When she blessed them, crosses appeared on the buns! In addition, the blessed buns had supposedly carried sacramental healing power. Hence, each year the Poor Clares bake replicas of these little sacramental hot cross buns to hand out to those of us in the public chapel.

Below is the legend of St. Clare and the Hot Cross Buns, excerpted from The Little Flowers of St. Francis. I hope that you enjoy the story and get a chance to bake some hot cross buns of your own!



St Clare, a most devout servant of the Cross of Christ, and one of the sweetest flowers of St Francis, was so holy, that not only the Bishops and Cardinals but the Pope himself wished to see and hear her, and went often to visit her in person. One day, amongst others, the holy Father went to her convent to hear her speak of things celestial; and having long reasoned together, St Clare ordered the table to be laid and bread to be placed upon it, in order that the holy Father might bless it. Their spiritual conclave being at an end, St Clare, kneeling down with great reverence, begged him to bless the bread which had been placed on the table. To whom the holy Father answered: "Most faithful sister, I will that thou bless this bread by the sign of the cross to which thou hast devoted thyself." St Clare said: "Most holy Father, excuse me. I should indeed by worthy of reproof if I, a miserable woman, should presume to give such a blessing in the presence of the Vicar of Christ." Then the Pope answered: "In order that such an act be not looked upon as presumptuous, but that it may bear on it the marks of obedience, I command thee, in the name of holy obedience, to make on this bread the sign of the cross, and to bless it in the name of God." At this St Clare, like a true daughter of obedience, blessed the loaves most devoutly, making over them the sign of the holy cross; and, wonderful to relate, on all those loaves appeared a cross, most clearly marked; and some of them were eaten, but the rest were put aside, in order to testify of the miracle. And the holy Father, having seen the miracle, thanked God; and taking some of the bread, went away, leaving his blessing with Sister Clare. At that time Sister Ortolana, mother of St Clare, and Sister Agnes, her sister, were living together in the convent with St Clare, both most virtuous women, full of the Holy Spirit, likewise many other nuns; to whom St Francis sent a great number of sick persons, who were all healed by their prayers and by the sign of the most holy cross.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Struggling with Faith and Solidarity with Christ

In conducting research for my posts on the history of nuns’ habits, I read excerpts from a book in which many nuns claimed that non-religious people tend to overlook the fact that nuns were once everyday laypeople, too! Not only did nuns have regular occupations, but they have shared in the same struggles with faith.

Indeed, when I hear the “call stories” of various nuns and sisters, many of them admit that they tried to talk themselves out of a vocation by telling themselves, “I thought that girls who become nuns/sisters were perfect ‘cradle Catholic’ girls who never once questioned their faith. That certainly wasn’t me, so I told myself that I shouldn’t become a nun.” Fortunately, those women came to their senses and realized that many Catholics- religious and non-religious- have had periods in their life where they have questioned their faith. Indeed, I am a person who had gone through several long years of being away from the Church and simply not believing anything.

I was raised in the Catholic faith and practiced it during my childhood and early adolescence. However, I’ve always been a philosophical type and when I hit High School, I started reading the wrong type of authors- people like Bertrand Russell, Rousseau, Thomas Paine’s “Age of Reason.” Since I read these books on my own, I didn’t have anyone to steer me towards intellectual books in favor of God’s existence and the Catholic Church. By the time I was to be confirmed, I considered myself a “deist”: a person who believes in an impersonal God who simply made the world and decided to let it run according to its own design without interacting in any human events. Before long, the deism gave way to agnosticism.

I wasn’t personally fulfilled by being a deist/agnostic, although this worldview seemed to be the only thing that “made sense” to me. Indeed, I was in spiritual darkness....I wanted to “shut on the light”, except I had trouble finding the light switch. My first year at Notre Dame, I remember seeing how joyful my Catholic friends were as they went to daily mass, Stations of the Cross, and other Catholic devotions. I wanted their happiness, but somehow I didn’t want to sacrifice my “rational worldview” for what I thought was an outdated religion. Nonetheless, I made seminal attempts to have my apologetics-savvy Catholic friends answer some of my questions. However, each time I thought that one of their rebuttals “violated reason,” I became more frustrated with my inability to believe. My problem was that I felt that in order for me to come back to the Church, absolutely everything needed to be rational and make perfect sense to me. The harder I tried to make sense of everything, the more miserable I became. Perhaps, I thought to myself, God chooses only a select number of people to have faith. Perhaps I was one of those people who weren’t supposed to have faith. Indeed, I was miserably wrong. The truth is that God wants everyone to believe in Him….He has His own time table as to when that happens.

Needless to say, I was miserable in my own struggle with trying to have everything about Catholicism make sense. One day, I remember breaking down in tears and making a quiet prayer to God (which was one of the first prayers that I ever made to Him since I had left the Church) and said, “God, maybe everything doesn’t have to make sense. I just want to believe in You, even if nothing makes sense to me. You’re a lot smarter than I am…You were the one who created reason, so who am I to say that it doesn’t make sense to me? Perhaps You have Reasons beyond my flawed human understanding.”

After I made that desperate little prayer, my faith journey became so much easier. Now that everything didn’t have to make perfect sense anymore, I was much more open to the faith. I began to pay attention to the text of the songs that my Liturgical Choir sang on Sundays; I was more willing to attend Daily Mass and other devotions; I was more willing to listen to what my Catholic friends had to say about the faith. You can read more about that particular section of my faith journey in this blogpost from last year. Nearly one year after I opened myself to God’s graces by putting my faith struggles into His hands, I was finally able to say “Yes” to everything in the profession of faith at the following year’s Easter Vigil. I remember looking straight at the tabernacle and saying to Jesus within my heart, “Lord, THANK you for giving me to grace of returning to your Church! I am SO GLAD to have You in my life!”

So, why am writing about my own faith struggles? It is because I want to let those of you who might also be having dryness of faith that God loves you, and He is in solidarity with you. Indeed, the moment of coming back to the Church at the Easter Vigil was joyful….but I had to go through a lot of pain and tears in order to get to that point. Similarly, Our Lord has walked that same painful road with each of us via His Passion and Death on Good Friday. He understands our tears, our struggles, our failings, because He has been there. Every time we are feeling miserable and dry in our faith life, Christ is there with us and Our Lady is there to support us. However, I want each and every one of you out there to know one thing: Christ wants YOU to believe in Him and he wants YOU to be a part of His Church. Even during the times when it seems like you just can’t believe, simply look at a crucifix or an image of the Holy Face in order to see the sufferings that He bore so that You could believe in Him. Those bruises and scars on His face are simply signs of how much He loves you and wants you.

I will remember in my prayers during this Holy Week each and every one of you who might be going through spiritual dryness or struggles in their faith life. May the Easter Triduum be prayerful, peaceful, and most of all, joyful!

“Upon Him was the chastisement that makes us whole; by His stripes we were healed.”
- Isaiah 53:5

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