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, June 28, 2007

St. Peter: The Apostle of Hope

In my last post, I expressed to you all how much I wanted to emulate the humility, self-assurance, and constancy of St. Thomas More…but at the same time, I find it so difficult to attain those virtues. More was indeed a wonderful Saint, but it seemed as though his not caring what others thought of him was a quality came easily to him. In speaking to a loved one last night, I spoke of my desire to find a Saint who really struggled against his/her own pride, self-consciousness, and other personal weaknesses. Right in time for Friday’s solemnity, this person suggested the perfect Saint for those who struggle with personal weaknesses: St. Peter.

St. Peter is a Saint whom I had heretofore taken much for granted. Saint Peter is one of the foremost examples of Saints who through God’s grace wound up living a life of extraordinary holiness in spite of a great deal of personal weaknesses. What were those weaknesses?

One of St. Peter’s greatest weaknesses, and a flaw with which I can commiserate, was his preoccupation with what other people thought of him. For instance, he was always getting in arguments as to who was the greatest apostle. Furthermore, right before he denied Jesus, he was more focused on being suspected and punished by the onlookers rather than on staying true to Our Lord.

In the Gospels, Peter tended to be brash and lacked common sense. It was this brashness that led him to protest Christ’s prediction of death, cut off a servant’s ear in Jesus’ defense, and propose setting up booths at the Transfiguration.

In spite of his many weaknesses, God chose Peter to be the first Pope; it was the grace of the Holy Spirit that molded Peter into a great leader. In a time when we are told that if we are to overcome our weaknesses at all, we must do so on our own or through the use of some worldly method, it’s refreshing to hear Peter’s story which tells us that Our Lord is here to mold our characters into the way that He intends…as long as we let Him. Sometimes, as might have been in Peter’s case, Our Lord chooses for us to simply learn to accept our weaknesses rather than to have our personal flaws disappear entirely. For instance, even though Peter still probably remained naturally brash throughout his whole life, throughout time he learned to tame his natural reactions so that by the time that he writes his Epistles, the gruff fisherman has become a tender shepherd; in 1 Peter 3:4, he advises his readers to “have the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit.”

As Peter’s life demonstrates, God does not give up on people despite our many weaknesses. Instead, God freely imparts His grace upon us to turn us into instruments of His love. Hence, if you become frustrated in trying to overcome a personal weakness, the following verse from 1 Peter 5:10 might provide some encouragement: “And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while will himself restore you and make you strong, firm, and steadfast.” Take hope in this words, for St. Peter himself was the apostle of hope!

Monday, June 25, 2007

St. Thomas More: Model of Confidence

I have been remiss in not making a post about one of my favorite Saints- St. Thomas More! Friday, July 22nd had been his Feast Day. St. Thomas More is probably the Saint whom I most wish that I could emulate; he also happens to be the Saint whose personality is most different from mine. One fruit of the Holy Spirit that St. Thomas More had been especially blessed with was extraordinary humility. On account of his humility, More didn’t care about being liked by everyone and did not fear being disliked by others. Hence, More didn’t change his personality or opinions around different people- he was the same man in every situation. He had what we in the modern era would call self-confidence- yet his self-confidence wasn’t based on self-love, but rather based on a firm knowledge that God’s love for him was all mattered.

It’s often extremely difficult to achieve even a minimum level of self-confidence, much less the level of confidence that More had. However, I’ve found a two helpful prayers from the North American College Manual of Prayers (which I lovingly call my “Nack Book”). The prayers are on adjacent pages; the first was written by St. Thomas More, the second was written by Cardinal Merry del Val. While they might not be instant confidence-boosters, I’ve found that saying them over time has given me a greater inner peace:

A Godly Meditation

Thomas More, 1478-1535

Give me grace, good Lord
To count the world as nothing,
To set my mind firmly on you And not to hang on what people say;
To be content to be alone, Not to long for worldly company, Little by little to throw off the world completely And rid my mind of all its business;
Not to long to hear of any worldly things;
Gladly to be thinking of you, Pitifully to call for your help, To depend on your comfort, Busily to work to love you;
To know my own worthlessness and wretchedness,
To humble and abase myself under your mighty hand,
To lament my past sins,
To suffer adversity patiently, to purge them, Gladly to bear my purgatory here,
To be joyful for troubles;
To walk the narrow way that leads to life,
To bear the Cross with Christ,
To keep the final hour in mind,
To have always before my eyes my death, which is always at hand,
To make death no stranger to me,
To foresee and consider the everlasting fire of hell,
To pray for pardon before the judge comes;
To keep continually in mind the passion that Christ suffered for me, For his benefits unceasingly to give him thanks;
To buy back the time that I have wasted before,
To refrain from futile chatter,
To reject idle frivolity,
To cut out unnecessary entertainments,
To count the loss of worldly possessions, friends, liberty and life itself as absolutely nothing, for the winning of Christ;
To consider my worst enemies my best friends, For Joseph's brothers could never have done him as much good with their love and favor as they did with their malice and hatred.

Litany of Humility
Rafael Cardinal Merry del Val (1865-1930),Secretary of State for Pope Saint Pius X
O Jesus! meek and humble of heart, Hear me.
From the desire of being esteemed,Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being loved...
From the desire of being extolled ...
From the desire of being honored ...
From the desire of being praised ...
From the desire of being preferred to others...
From the desire of being consulted ...
From the desire of being approved ...
From the fear of being humiliated ...
From the fear of being despised...
From the fear of suffering rebukes ...
From the fear of being calumniated ...
From the fear of being forgotten ...
From the fear of being ridiculed ...
From the fear of being wronged ...
From the fear of being suspected ...
That others may be loved more than I,Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be esteemed more than I ...
That, in the opinion of the world,others may increase and I may decrease ...
That others may be chosen and I set aside ...
That others may be praised and I unnoticed ...
That others may be preferred to me in everything...
That others may become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should…

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Poor Clares' "Covenant Day"

Friday, June 22nd is Covenant Day, which is an extremely important day for Poor Clares all over the world. Not only does Covenant Day commemorate St. Clare and Our Lord rescuing Assisi from the Saracens, but it is also the day that Poor Clare monasteries around the world typically bring new postulants into the cloister. It's understandable how postulants are brought in on this day...just as Clare and her sisters must have been frightened out of their wits as the Saracens attacked, postulants also must be very frightened as they move into this entirely new phase of their lives. However, trust in God pulled St. Clare and her sisters through the darkness of their fear and so it will be for the new postulants. Please pray for them!

Below is the story of St. Clare and the Saracens:

In 1244, Emperor Frederick II, then at war with the Pope, was ravaging the valley of Spoleto, which was part of the patrimony of the Holy See. He employed many Saracens in his army, and a troop of these infidels came in a body to plunder Assisi. St. Damien's church, standing outside the city walls, was one of the first objectives. While the marauders were scaling the convent walls, Clare, ill as she was, had herself carried out to the gate and there the Sacrament was set up in sight of the enemy. Prostrating herself before it, she prayed aloud: "Does it please Thee, O God, to deliver into the hands of these beasts the defenseless children whom I have nourished with Thy love? I beseech Thee, good Lord, protect these whom now I am not able to protect." Whereupon she heard a voice like the voice of a little child saying, "I will have them always in My care." She prayed again, for the city, and again the voice came, reassuring her. She then turned to the trembling nuns and said, "Have no fear, little daughters; trust in Jesus." At this, a sudden terror seized their assailants and they fled in haste. Shortly afterward one of Frederick's generals laid siege to Assisi itself for many days. Clare told her nuns that they, who had received their bodily necessities from the city, now owed it all the assistance in their power. She bade them cover their heads with ashes and beseech Christ as suppliants for its deliverance. For a whole day and night they prayed with all their might- and with many tears, and then "God in his mercy so made issue with temptation that the besiegers melted away and their proud leader with them, for all he had sworn an oath to take the city."

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Fresh Eggs + Poor Clares = A Sunny Wedding Day?

It's that time of year....wedding season! With all of these tropical storms coming through every other weekend, what bride wouldn't want to ensure a way of having good weather on that special day? Now there's a way that she can, and all she needs are fresh eggs and Poor Clares!

It's been an age-old Spanish tradition for brides to bring fresh eggs to Poor Clare monasteries prior to their weddings as a gift for the nuns. Even though the nuns aren't required to do so, they usually pray to St. Clare- the patroness of good weather- that the bride have a gorgeous wedding day! And even though she isn't required to do so, St. Clare usually intercedes and good weather is said to almost always follow! More importantly, the nuns also pray that the couple have a blessed and fruitful marriage. Of course, it is also said that in order for the prayer to be answered, the bride must offer the nuns the eggs (or even a simple prayer request) with sincerity...not with the expectation of getting something back in return.

Whether or not you have balmy wedding-day weather, my prayers are with all couples who are getting married! As the Poor Clares would say, May God reward you!

Wednesday, June 13, 2007



I hope that each one of you all have the chance to celebrate the feast day of this wonderful Saint in your own special way. Why is St. Anthony one of my favorite Saints? In addition to his inspiring life, which is certainly a lesson as to how to offer up feelings of loneliness and disappointment, St. Anthony is probably the most powerful intercessory Saint I've come across. Not only is he wonderful at helping me find lost keys, sunglasses, papers, etc., but his intercession is very powerful in spiritual matters as well. For instance, whenever I start to feel overly timid, I say the powerful "St. Anthony's Brief" to myself:

Behold the cross of the Lord!
Fly, ye powers of darkness!
Jesus, the Lion of the Tribe of Judah
Jesus, the Root of David
Has Conquered

Begone Satan!

St. Anthony is also a very powerful intercessor for overcoming feelings of inadequacy that might overtake us at times. For that purpose, here are some prayers that might help:


Dear St. Anthony, how tongue-tied I can be when I should be praising God and defending the oppressed. My cowardice often strikes me dumb; I am afraid to open my mouth. St. Anthony, Restorer of Speech to the Mute, release me from my fears. Teach me to praise God and to champion the rights of those unjustly treated. Please remember also all my intentions.

[Name them.] SAINT ANTHONY, CONSOLER OF THE AFFLICTED Dear St. Anthony, comforting the sorrowful is a Christian duty and a work of mercy. By word, attitude, and deed I should try to brighten their days and make their burden easier to bear. St. Anthony, Consoler of the Afflicted, may I remember when helping someone in sorrow that I am helping Christ Himself. Kindly mention my pressing needs to Him. [Name your special intentions].

Dear St. Anthony, thou didst become a Franciscan with the hope of shedding thy blood for Christ. In God's plan for thee, thy thirst for Martyrdom was never to be satisfied. St. Anthony, Martyr of Desire, pray that I may become less afraid to stand up and be counted as a follower of the Lord Jesus. Intercede also for my other intentions.
[Name them.]

Dear St. Anthony, thy prayers obtained miracles during thy lifetime. Thou still seemest to move at ease in the realm of minor and major miracles. St. Anthony, Performer of Miracles, please obtain for me the blessings God holds in reserve who serve Him. Pray that I may be worthy of the promises my Lord Jesus attaches to confident prayer.
[Mention your special intentions.]

PRAYER TO ST. ANTHONY FOR LOST ARTICLESDear Saint Anthony, thou art the patron of the poor and the helper of all who seek lost articles. Help me to find the object I have lost so that I will be able to make better use of the time I will gain for God's greater honor and glory. Grant thy gracious aid to all people who seek what they have lost-----especially those who seek to regain God's grace. Amen.

Finally, it's important to remember that even when we don't have any intentions in particular, St. Anthony always loves it when we pray to him as our intercessor before Our Lord whom he loved so much!

Monday, June 11, 2007

The Sacred Heart of Jesus

Today is the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus! So many people often think that the Sacred Heart is an antiquated devotion, but I've found devotion to the Sacred Heart to be ever more relevant in this day and age. In today's fast paced world, there's a tendency to become overstressed over certain things....I'm certainly guilty of that at times. Conversely, there can also be a tendency to go at too slow of a pace and not do enough. This lack of balance can affect all areas of life, whether it be work, prayer, or our personal lives. I've found that praying to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is a wonderful way of trying to get back in balance. After all, if you think about it, a heart cannot function if it beats too slowly and it will experience problems if it beats too rapidly....why not rely on the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the perfect heart, to give us the pace that we so very need? For that purpose, I've included a prayer to the Sacred Heart written by St. Margaret Mary Alacoque:

I, N... N ... give myself and consecrate to the Sacred Heart of our Lord Jesus Christ, my person and my life, my actions, pains and sufferings, so that I may be unwilling to make use of any part of my being, save to honor, love and glorify the Sacred Heart. This is my unchanging purpose, namely, to be all His, and to do all things for the love of Him, at the same time renouncing with all my heart whatever is displeasing to Him. I therefore take Thee, O Sacred Heart, to be the only object of my love, the guardian of my life, my assurance of salvation, the remedy of my weakness and inconstancy, the atonement for all the faults of my life and my sure refuge at the hour of death. Be then, O Heart of goodness, my justification before God Thy Father, and turn away from me the strokes of His righteous anger. O Heart of love, I put all my confidence in Thee, for I fear everything from my own wickedness and frailty, but I hope for all things from Thy goodness and bounty. Do Thou consume in me all that can displease Thee or resist Thy holy will; let Thy pure love imprint Thee so deeply upon my heart, that I shall nevermore be able to forget Thee or to be separated from Thee; may I obtain from all Thy loving kindness the grace of having my name written in Thee, for in Thee I desire to place all my happiness and all my glory, living and dying in very bondage to Thee.

Written by St. Margaret Mary Alacoque

Sunday, June 10, 2007

St. Anthony Countdown: Prayer for Control of the Tongue

Happy Corpus Christi, everyone!

If you ever have the chance to visit Padua in Italy, you must stop by the Basilica, because it houses the preserved vocal chords and tongue of St. Anthony. The summer after I graduated from High School, I had taken a trip to Italy, but since I was an atheist at the time, I didn't really enjoy the A-B-C tour...(aka, "Another Basilica or Cathedral" tour). I was of the view that everything could be explained via science and anything that fell out of that realm was pure superstition. At first I didn't believe my ears when I was told that St. Anthony's vocal chords were "miraculously" preserved....but when I was begrudingly taken into the Basilica and my family coerced me to pass by the Holy Relic, my incredulity was suspended. Perhaps it was through divine grace and St. Anthony's intervention that I came to consider that perhaps some things in this world can't be explained by science. Even though it would be two years before I came to accept Christ as my savior once again and came back to the Church, I did begin to believe in a God by the end of that trip to Italy. I can't help but think that it was via St. Anthony's intercession (not to mention the invercession of Sts. Clare and Francis, for I also visited Assisi on that trip) that I began my faith journey back to the Church. Hence, related to St. Anthony's tongue, here is a prayer to St. Anthony for control of the tongue. This is a prayer which I plan on using quite frequently!


Dear St. Anthony, once again I greet thee and thank thee for thy readiness to come to my aid in my necessity. Slowly and surely my disposition improves. Thou has helped me to understand that my real fault lay in pride, preoccupation with myself, and lack of real concern for others. Now that I see this more clearly, thanks be to God, I do not think of myself as so hopeless. Thou used thy tongue to give praise to God, to preach in defense of the Faith and bring His message of salvation to sinners and to call down the blessings of Heaven on others. Please continue to help me so that I may use my tongue rightly, to be charitable when speaking of others and to others, to be ever ready to support them rather than wound them.

Because of thy powerful intercession with God, I am confident that thou wilt continue to assist me in my daily work. In the Name of Our Lord, Jesus, I ask thy aid. Amen.

Pray for us, St. Anthony, that we may be made worthy of Christ.

Friday, June 08, 2007

St. Anthony Countdown: His Life and Times

Dear "Chiara" friends....

I'm so sorry for not posting as frequently as usual! You see, between moving to a new town here in Virginia and starting a new job, I haven't been able to post as often as I'd like to. However, thank you so much for your prayers, thoughts, comments, etc. As a note, there was a comment regarding my St. Clare photo gallery: it's been defunct for a long time, but over the course of the next month I'll work on getting a brand new one set up. Perhaps in time for Covenant Day on the 22nd! (Covenant Day is the day that commemorates St. Clare's rescuing her monastery from the Saracens).

Also, I'd be remiss if I neglected to count down to the Feast Day of St. Anthony of Padua on the 13th! Not only is St. Anthony one of my favorite Saints on account of his uncanny ability to help me find lost keys, earrings, paperwork, cars in the parking lot, etc.....but St. Anthony is also a powerful heavenly intercessor when it comes to spiritual matters. I'll do another post on his spirituality, but first I would like to introduce you to his life and times:

St. Anthony of Padua is one of the most famous disciples of St. Francis of Assisi. He was a famous preacher and worker of miracles in his own day, and throughout the eight centuries since his death he has so generously come to the assistance of the faithful who invoke him, that he is known throughout the world.

St. Anthony's Youth & Conversion

St. Anthony was born in the year 1195 A. D. at Lisbon (Portugal) where his father was a captain in the royal army. Already at the age of fifteen years, he had entered the Congregation of Canons Regular of St. Augustine and devoted himself with great earnestness both to study and to the practice of piety in the Monastery at Coimbra (Portugal).

About that time some of the first members of the Order of Friars Minor, which St. Francis has founded in 1206 A. D. came to Coimbra. They begged from the Canons Regular a small and very poor place, from which by their evangelical poverty and simplicity they edified everyone in the region. Then in 1219 A. D. some of these friars, moved by divine inspiration, went as missionaries to preach the Gospel of Christ to the inhabitants of Morocco. There they were brutally martyred for the Faith. Some Christian merchants succeeded in recovering their remains; and so brought their relics in triumph back to Coimbra.

The relics of St. Bernard and companions, the first martyrs of the Franciscan Order, seized St. Anthony with an intense desire to suffer martyrdom in a like manner. So moved by their heroic example he repeatedly begged and petitioned his superiors to be given leave to join the Franciscan Order. In the quiet little Franciscan convent at Coimbra he received a friendly reception, and in the same year his earnest wish to be sent to the missions in Africa was fulfilled.
St. Anthony's Arrival in Italy

But God had decreed otherwise. And so, St. Anthony scarcely set foot on African soil when he was seized with a grievous illness. Even after recovering from it, he was so weak that, resigning himself to the will of God, he boarded a boat back to Portugal. Unexpectedly a storm came upon them and drove the ship to the east where it found refuge on coast of Sicily. St. Anthony was greeted and given shelter by the Franciscans of that island, and thus came to be sent to Assisi, where the general chapter of the Order was held in May, 1221 A. D..

Since he still looked weak and sickly, and gave no evidence of his scholarship, no one paid any attention to the stranger until Father Gratian, the Provincial of friars living in the region of Romagna (Italy), had compassion on him and sent him to the quiet little convent near Forli (also in Italy). There St. Anthony remained nine months as chaplain to the hermits, occupied in the lowliest duties of the kitchen and convent, and to his heart's content he practiced interior as well as exterior mortification.

St. Anthony, Preacher and Teacher

But the hidden jewel was soon to appear in all its brilliance. For the occasion of a ceremony of ordination some of the hermits along with St. Anthony were sent to the town of Forli. Before the ceremony was to begin, however, it was announced that the priest who was to give the sermon had fallen sick. The local superior, to avert the embarrassment of the moment, quickly asked the friars in attendance to volunteer. Each excused himself, saying that he was not prepared, until finally, St. Anthony was asked to give it. When he too, excused himself in a most humble manner, his superior ordered him by virtue of the vow of obedience to give the sermon. St. Anthony began to speak in a very reserved manner; but soon holy animation seized him, and he spoke with such eloquence, learning and unction that everybody was fairly amazed.

When St. Francis was informed of the event, he gave St. Anthony the mission to preach throughout Italy. At the request of the brethren, St. Anthony was later commissioned also to teach theology, "but in such a manner," St. Francis distinctly wrote, " that the spirit of prayer be not extinguished either in yourself or in the other brethren." St. Anthony himself placed greater value in the salvation of souls than on learning. For that reason he never ceased to exercise his office as preacher despite his work of teaching.

The number of those who came to hear him was sometimes so great that no church was large enough to accommodate and so he had to preach in the open air. Frequently St. Anthony wrought veritable miracles of conversion. Deadly enemies were reconciled. Thieves and usurers made restitution. Calumniators and detractors recanted and apologized. He was so energetic in defending the truths of the Catholic Faith that many heretics returned to the Church. This occasioned the epitaph given him by Pope Gregory IX "the ark of the covenant."
In all his labors he never forgot the admonition of his spiritual father, St. Francis, that the spirit of prayer must not be extinguished. If he spent the day in teaching and heard the confession of sinners till late in the evening, then many hours of the night were spent in intimate union with God.

Once a man, at whose home St. Anthony was spending the night, came upon the saint and found him holding in his arms the Child Jesus, unspeakably beautiful and surrounded with heavenly light. For this reason St. Anthony is often depicted holding the Child Jesus.

St. Anthony's Death

In 1227 A. D., St. Anthony was elected Minister Provincial of the friars living in northern Italy. Thus he resumed the work of preaching. Due to his taxing labors and his austere penance, he soon felt his strength so spent that he prepared himself for death. After receiving the last sacraments he kept looking upward with a smile on his countenance. When he was asked what he saw there, he answered: "I see my Lord." He breathed forth his soul on June 13, 1231 A. D., being only thirty six year old. Soon the children in the streets of the city of Padua were crying: "The saint is dead, Anthony is dead."

Pope Gregory IX enrolled him among the saints in the very next year. At Padua, a magnificent basilica was built in his honor, his holy relics were entombed there in 1263 A. D. From the time of his death up to the present day, countless miracles have occurred through St. Anthony's intercession, so that he is known as the Wonder-Worker. In 1946 A. D. St. Anthony was declared a Doctor of the Church.

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