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, May 12, 2007

Comments on "20/20's" Cloistered Nuns News Segment

I wouldn’t be fulfilling my “Canticle of Chiara” duties unless I commented on Friday evening’s 20/20 segment on cloistered nuns! For those who didn’t see the show, a written story can be found here along with a shorter video synopsis of the segment.

The bottom line is that I was slightly disappointed. I think that I was so incredibly excited that my Poor Clares were going to be on TV that my initial expectations were a bit too high. Needless to say, there were parts of the segment that were really well done, especially for a secular news program. However, I think that 20/20 angled the story as to not focus enough on the joy associated with cloistered life….instead, it seemed to take a sensationalist “Oh my goodness, look at how severe this way of life is!” approach! When the late Mother Mary Francis of Roswell, NM tried to respond to Diane Sawyer’s question as to how cloistered nuns are helping those in the world, Sawyer seemed to respond with skepticism. To make matters worse, 20/20 didn’t seem to be interested in exploring the power of prayer by the cloistered nuns….it rather focused on the negative aspects of cloistered life. Indeed, negativity was abundant throughout the segment; in one conversation, Sawyer accused the nuns of running to the cloister because they had somehow failed in the outside world. Obviously Sawyer neglected to research the life of the Poor Clares’ Foundress! Kudos to the nun who responded to Sawyer by saying, “in most cases, it is success that leads us to the cloister.”

I did like the various interviews with the four or five wonderful girls who went on the vocation retreat with the nuns. Their candid answers to Sawyer’s queries evoked the many emotions that come with discerning the religious life. If any of those retretants happen to be reading this blog right now, I’d like to welcome you to the “Canticle of Chiara” community!

Even though the segment had its flaws, ABC at least made a good effort at trying to explore the factors behind the growing number of cloistered vocations; thank you very much for airing the segment and for choosing to interview the wonderful Poor Clare Colettines!

I would now like to share with my readers some of the most insightful comments that were left in response to the article associated with this news segment. Also, further comments here regarding the show/article are welcomed and encouraged!

"If you believe in the power of prayer, then contemplatives heal the world by praying for it just as those who minister materially. And through their writings and artwork and by providing a place of retreat for lay people, they do teach and heal. I have also noticed that people object much more to women living the monastic life than they do to men who do the same thing. Living in the world is easy; giving your life wholly to God is not, and not everyone has a vocation for it.
Posted by:
StMaugham May-11"

"It is women like these that keep this world a little safer. their prayers are needed and make huge differences in lives. God Bless them!
Posted by:
salaswell May-11"
"Think how much better this world would be if we all took time to pray for one another. Even if you don't believe in God or the power of prayer, at the very least, it forces us to think of someone else and takes outside of our own selfish wants and desires for a bit. For anyone who believes this vocation is a selfish one, I challenge you to sit very still and in silence, think of someone you know who is in need, consider what might help them, consider how you might enable that help, do nothing for 15 minutes but concentrate on what this OTHER person needs. I dare say you will be changed by the experience. Rather than speaking off the cuff, give their life a teeny, tiny try... in other words, walk in their world for only 15 minutes. Then see if you don't have a different sort of feeling about what they do with their lives.
Posted by:
Delouwa May-11"

"...I can tell you that many do indeed do much to help the poor and otherwise. I am very proud of those women, I've met some of them and they are very grounded, in fact my Aunt is one of them from that location, I've been there. They are very cool and have wonderful spirits. We should be so lucky as to have so much faith and purity in our lives. These are not fanatics self mutilating, and doing other cult things, these are women who have devoted their lives to serving.
Posted by:KMart1977 12:11 AM"

"OM! I thoroughly enjoyed this story because of its deep spiritual content. Spirituality is all too often taken up as a fad or fashion when one feels a fancy for it and then dropped as quickly. If we take God to be real then we must act on it, giving our all in order to serve/attain Him or Her. Those who are critical of cloistered nuns, wanting them to be like Mother Teresa, should understand that there are many, many different kinds of callings, all equally holy. Of course the prayers and sacrifices of these nuns help the world! That teaching has been in the East since time immemorial. This two hour special was the best 20/20 ever did.
Posted by:
Upasani_Dass 2:17 AM"

"But I loved how the sisters stood up to Diane Sawyer though, the sisters rocked! She tried to say they only became nuns after bad experiences and then she tried to throw in a bible story to gain rapport, too little too late. She kept trying to portray them as unhappy to serve God and they gave her nothing, it was awesome. And then she was going on and on about how chastity is unheard of because it's 2007, sad, God is timeless and so is virtue. There are millions of people being virtuous and I wish the media would stop pretending like chaste people don't exist.
Posted by:
reddiamondfilms 3:04 AM"
"Diane Sawyer may have presumably forgotten some Sunday school lessons. Hopefully, the following scriptural excerpts will jog her memory: Matthew 4:1-2 "Then Jesus was led into the desert by the Spirit to be tempted by the devil. He fasted forty days and forty nights..." Luke 9:18 "One day when Jesus was praying in seclusion and his disciples were with him..." Matthew 6:6 "Whenever you pray, go to your room, close your door, and pray to your Father in private."
Posted by:
IndyProdigalSon 8:17 AM"

"I admire their dedication to prayer and to worshipping and serving God full heartedly - it may not be a lifestyle we all understand - but one has to admire their all out commitment to God & prayer - at cost of self comfort - self pleasure - which in this day and age of selfishlessness/greed/material overabundance and disgregard for God - prayer - faith and others - is inspiring to dedicate oneself - even if in just a small and modest way - more seriously to prayer - a relationship with God - and serving others (through prayer, service, kindness) whether they know or appreciate it or not.
Posted by:
LBpry4lly 10:39 AM"

These women are doing an extremely noble thing. Christians are all supposed to answer to the call of God with a particular vocation that we have been given. The Church is the body of believers and just like a human body, each member has a particular function to keep the whole body running efficiently. Each person has a certain calling and these women were called to a life of prayer and sacrifice. In the Bible Jesus speaks about prayer and fasting playing a HUGE part in regards to the sanctity of the world and the fulfillment of God's kingdom. He said if one has enough faith, prays and fasts then one has the power to move mountains. Just think of the amount of mercy God has granted to this world because of people such as these nuns. God bless them ! Only in heaven will we then get to see how much their prayers and sacrifices have benefited the world !
Posted by:
mortonil 8:25 PM

"As a family member of a Poor Clare nun, I can tell you first hand she wasn't running away from anything, and the life she lives is a very selfless life. The goodness we get from their prayers and sacrifice is amazing. These ladies come from all types of families, they have likes and dislikes, they are human after all. The big difference is they make the choice to respond to the call to live solely for God and prayer. The Foundress of the Roswell Foundation was a beautiful woman of life and love, she lived, died and is buried there and we are blessed to have known her. Seeing things through the words and thoughts of a Poor Clare makes you appreciate what you take for granted, nothing goes unnoticed because they are so focused and at peace with the beauty of everything that comes through God. FYI, they also appreciate prayers said for them. Thanks ABC for doing this story. hardevibri
Posted by:
PCNun 1:36 PM"

"I was one of the retreatants interviewed during this segment, and was very struck by Diane Sawyer's question about turning to the monastery because of something the world has broken. I loved the response - it's not just failure that leads people to God, but also success ! I can tell you from experience that the Church is prudent, and that part of the mission of a vocations director or novice mistress is to discern the heart of the discerning postulant. I believe there are very *few* religious who have gone all the way to solemn profession as a flight from the world - that kind of vocation is pretty easy to see through, and does not endure. This world breaks a lot of things, and this world puts a lot of things whole. In some ways, we might say the same about God. Many of us spend our lives raging against God for answers about the "broken" things inside us, without taking the time to listen in stillness to His answers. One thing the retreat weekend taught me, from listening to other nuns' spiritual journeys, as well as spending a lot of time in silence with the Lord, is that God's call is greater than any brokenness, and His love and wisdom supply what our feeble human strength lacks. e.e. cummings wrote, "it's always ourselves that we find in the sea." I would say, it's always ourselves that we find in the monastery. The best and the worst of ourselves. There is no running away from God. Even if a woman enters the monastery full of rage, or doubt or depression or dreaminess, if God wants her there, all of that other stuff becomes a lot easier to bear, and far less important. Thank you, 20/20, for showing this face of Catholicism, a face of love and dedication beyond most human comprehension, to a wounded world, that can really only reflect brokenness because it itself is broken.
Posted by:
romaryka 2:50 AM"


Blogger Kelly Joyce Neff said...

Thank you, Chiara, for this wonderful wonderful posting.

11:51 PM  
Anonymous Candice said...


Hi. I watched 20/20, too, and I agree with you about the fact that Diana Sawyer did not seem receptive to the positive sides of the cloistered life. I thought someone should have told her about the Mary and Martha story in the New Testament. I wanted to scream, "the cloistered nuns are the Marys of the church and the active ones are our Marthas." We need both--I for one am so thankful that there are people willing to stay up all night and pray for the rest of us lazy bums! I know that those people who don't understand any of this will probably never understand it, but I wish it had been a more indepth and more "receptive" (can't think of another word for this) story.


9:38 AM  
Blogger Chiara said...

Welcome, Candice! Thank you for your input!

"We need both--I for one am so thankful that there are people willing to stay up all night and pray for the rest of us lazy bums!"- Well said! I completely agree with you!

- Chiara :-)

6:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I had a life altering religious experience in the past year. Among the insights I obtained as a result was knowledge of the incredibly important work accomplished by people who pray constantly. Essentially, I became aware that there is not only far more evil in the world than I had ever realized but also much more grace. Please know that much of the grace everyone alive today receives comes to us through the intercession of devoted prayerful people. The militaries, economies, and physical realities of our present time impart far less to our well being than the grace obtained by prayers. That sounds radicle and shocking but how many instances in the Old Testament was Israel saved by the actions of or even religious dispositions of a few individuals? You wont find many OT stories where large percentages of the population worked together cooperatively to resolve some pressing matter. Isnt that strange? Second, if you read the Psalms, you'll catch a glimpse of the perspective of someone who understands how utterly dependent we are on God all of the time for our safety and prosperity. More importantly, you'll see what it's like to experience God--what would one say after such an experience? Read the Psalms. Try Psalm 47 for starters. This theme takes a sharper focus obviously in the life of Christ. In particular, I would point to what Jesus said in many places about Faith. A good summary via thematic arrangement can be found here:


The life of the cloistered nun is at least an act of faith. I hope it's fairly noncontroversial to say that what such a nun prays for is prayed for with much more faith than ordinary. As Jesus said, it's not enough to simply ask--you have to believe. How many times did he heal someone and then said to them, "your faith has healed you." One minute they're standing there blind. The next they can see. Jesus is with them and has either rubbed mud on their eyes or waived his hand or whatever but once they're healed, Jesus says "your faith has healed you." He didnt say, "I healed you" although obviously the healing occured via his effort. But what caused Jesus to get involved? Faith.
A few supporting quotes:
Possessing faith the size of a mustard seed, they shall say to the mountains: "Be removed and cast into the sea."

If you believe all things to be possible, and leave no room for doubt, what you ask or command will be done. This is why I tell you: whatever it is that you desire, when you pray, believe that you will receive it, and you will.

As you live your life invigorated by the breath of God, the conflicts of this earth will be overcome by heaven's power: and whatever you allocate on earth will be that which is in accordance to heaven's plan.

Do not be afraid any longer, but believe. Everything is possible to the one who believes.


I was one of those who once looked at a religious life with suspicion as to what actual work it accomplishes. Now I understand that such a life has the potential to accomplish orders of magnitude more good than one where someone simply devotes themselves to a single cause or movement. The Saints taught us to expand our vision of what is possible with God's movement in our life. Grow your faith around this vision, and you will never be dissappointed.

2:13 PM  

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