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!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The Book of Saints and Heroes

With All Saints Day coming up next week, I've been reminiscing on the many saint stories that were told to me when I was a kid. In fact, I enjoyed the saint stories more than fairy tales. Hagiographies that are designed for children are often the most enjoyable accounts of the lives of saints- they couch everything in simple terms, contain beautiful pictures, and they don't shy away from pious legends. It's no wonder that I developed devotions to many of my favorite Saints- including St. Clare- after reading these stories as a child.

In surfing the internet this evening, I found a website dedicated to the online preservation of antique childerns' books. Included on this website was a 1912 childrens' book about the Saints- The Book of Saints and Heroes. This book vividly captures the lives of many well-known Saints.

Check out this story on St. Colette! It's probably the best account of her life that I've come across.

The above picture was also taken from this book's chapter on St. Francis. It's one of the most beautiful pictures of him that I've seen!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Happy 110th Birthday, Frank!

Today is the 110th Birthday of the Servant of God Francis Joseph Parater….whom I lovingly refer to as “Frank.” For those of you who recently started reading my blog, I have a HUUUUGGGGE devotion to Frank.

Here is my post from his Feast Day this past February

This is my post from the year before, which happens to be one of my personal favorite posts.

I attribute my coming back to the Church a few years ago to Frank’s intercession. In fact, if God ever blesses me with children some day I plan on naming my first born son “Francis Joseph Parater.” Had I become a nun, I would have wanted my name to be Sister Francis Joseph of the Sacred Heart….nonetheless, Poor Clares can’t choose their own names although I believe the postulants can “drop hints.”

Since Frank’s Feast Day last February, I have read most of Therese’s Story of a Soul. Given that Frank’s own spirituality greatly resembled that of Therese, it is no wonder that Story of a Soul was one of his favorite books. The stories of their lives are eerily similar, too. Both Frank and Therese were very attached to their loving families, but both made the courageous choice to ultimately leave their homes in favor of God’s call. Both saints struggled with that choice- Therese felt almost guilty about leaving her ill father, and Frank was very sad to leave his physically weak mother. However, Frank and Therese both turned to Our Lord for their strength in times of trouble….right until the very end of their lives.

The most striking similarity between Frank and Therese are their courageous early deaths. Both died of very painful illnesses, which took its toll on them physically, mentally, and spiritually. In spite of all this, Frank and Therese vowed to offer up their great suffering for the souls of others. They even promised to give themselves to others in heaven; Therese remarked “I will spend my time in heaven doing good on earth,” and Frank’s last testament states “I shall not leave my dear ones. I will always be near them and be able to help them more than I can here below. I shall be of more service to my diocese in heaven than I could ever be on earth.”

Indeed, both saints have proven to be powerful and loving intercessors, which is a testament that they have both lived up to their earthly promises to help others while they are in heaven.

Happy Birthday, Frank! Thank you, Therese! I love you both!

Saturday, October 06, 2007

St. Francis and St. Clare

I hope that everyone had a WONDERFUL St. Francis Day!

Many thanks to one of my friends who sent me the link to the following article. It perfectly elaborates on the relationship between St. Clare and St. Francis. As one correction to the article, I don't think that the film Brother Sun, Sister Moon depicts the Saints' relationship as romantic at all. But let the article speak for itself!

ROME, OCT. 4, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is the text of a commentary written by Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa, preacher of the Pontifical Household, on the relationship between Sts. Francis and Clare.* * *

It has become commonplace to speak of the friendship between Clare and Francis in terms of falling in love. In his essay "Falling in Love and Loving," the sociologist F. Alberoni says that "the relationship between St. Clare and St. Francis has all the characteristics of falling in love, sublimated or transferred to the Godhead."Francis, like any man even if he is a saint, may well have experienced the attraction of woman and the call of sex. The sources tell us that in order to overcome a temptation of this kind the saint once rolled around in the snow in the depths of winter.But it was not Clare who was the object of the temptation!

When a man and woman are united in God, this bond, if it is authentic, excludes all attraction of an erotic kind, without even a struggle. He or she is, as it were, sheltered. It is another kind of relationship. Between Clare and Francis there was certainly a very strong human bond, but it was paternal or fraternal in kind, not spousal. They were like two trees joined by their foliage, not by their roots.

The extraordinarily profound understanding between Francis and Clare, which features so strongly in the Franciscan epic, does not come from "flesh and blood," like that between Eloise and Abelard, or Dante and Beatrice (to quote two equally famous examples). If it had done so, it might have left some trace in the literature, but not in the history of sanctity. In one of Goethe's well-known expressions, we could call the friendship of Francis and Clare an "elective affinity," as long as we understand "elective" not only in the sense of people who have chosen each other, but who have made the same choice.Antoine de Saint-Exupéry wrote that "being in love does not mean looking at each other, but looking together in the same direction."
Clare and Francis really didn't spend their whole lives gazing at each other and feeling good together. They exchanged the fewest of words, probably only those reported in the sources. There was a tremendous reserve between them, so much so that at times the saint was affectionately chided by his brothers for being too harsh with Clare.

Only at the end of his life do we see this rigor in the relationship soften, and Francis visits his "little plant" more and more frequently in search of comfort and confirmation. As death draws near and sickness consumes him, San Damiano becomes his refuge, and it is at her side that he intones the Canticle of Brother Son and Sister Moon, with its praise of "Sister Water," "useful, humble, precious and chaste," which might have been written with Clare in mind.

Instead of looking at each other, Clare and Francis looked in the same direction, and we know what "direction" that was in their case. Clare and Francis were like two eyes always looking in the same direction. Two eyes are not just two eyes, I mean, not just one eye repeated. Neither of the two eyes is just an extra or a spare eye. Two eyes looking at an object from different angles give depth and relief to the object, enabling us to enfold it in our gaze. That is how it was for Clare and Francis.They looked at the same God, the same Lord Jesus, the same crucified one, the same Eucharist, but from different "angles," each with their own gifts and the sensitivity proper to a man and a woman: masculine and feminine. Together, they understood more than two Francises or two Clares could have done.

Recently, a good television film was made, called "Francis and Clare," produced by Fabrizio Costa. It will run on Channel 1 of Italian Television (RAI Uno) on Oct. 6 and 7, and will soon be seen on English-language television, as it was originally shot in English. Better than Franco Zeffirelli's "Brother Sun and Sister Moon," it manages to avoid the romantic charm of a human love story.
In the past there was often a tendency to present the personality of Clare as too subordinate to that of Francis, exactly like a "sister Moon" who lives in the reflected light of "brother Sun." The latest example of this is John M. Sweeney's study "Light in the Dark Age: the Friendship of Francis and Clare of Assisi."All the more praiseworthy, then, the fact that the authors of this television fiction have chosen to present Francis and Clare as two parallel lives, interweaving and unfolding synchronically, with equal space given to the one and the other. This has never been done in this form before, and it echoes the sensitivities of today and contemporary efforts to highlight the important presence of women in history. But in this case, it is not a matter of ideological spin, but a portrayal of reality.

Watching the preview of the film "Francis and Clare," what struck me most was the symbolic opening scene. Francis is walking through a meadow and Clare follows him, almost playfully putting her feet in the footsteps left by Francis. He, asks her: "Are you following in my footsteps?" She replies brightly: "No, much deeper ones."

Thursday, October 04, 2007



In the week or so leading up to today, I had been listening to a mix-CD that I made of songs that remind me of St. Francis. Included on this CD are songs like “All Creatures of Our God and King,” “Alleluia, Sing to Jesus,” “All Good Gifts,” “Brother Sun, Sister Moon,” “On This Lovely Day,” and “I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say.” After listening to these Francis-inspired songs, I began to contemplate the immense faith that Francis had.

It was certainly rash, and even foolish, for a man like Francis to suddenly forsake the plans that had been in store for him since his youth….he was raised to eventually become a merchant, like his father. When he finally decided to give his life to God, his future was very unclear. Where would he live? Where would Francis get his clothing and food from? What would he “do” for a living?
These are questions that plague many young people. In a time when there is so much pressure put on teens and young adults to define rather nebulous futures, many young people- myself included- spend a large amount of time worrying. In high school, we worry whether we’ll be able to get into a choice college, be able to pay for college, and also worry about our choice of college. After those problems are resolved and we have made it into college, we worry about new issues. What subject will we major in? Will we be able to pass a particular class? Will we be able to find gainful summer employment? As graduation draws near, a whole new set of questions arise. Will we find jobs? Will we get into grad school? The biggest question of all, “What do we want to do with our lives?”

About a month ago, I had a conversation with a young women from one of my church groups. She noted how important it is to place such worries and questions God’s hands, trusting that He will lead us in the right direction. She said something like, ‘a year from now, you’ll be looking back and wondering why you were so worried about your future when God eventually worked everything out for you.”

Francis is the embodiment of this simple trust in God’s love and providence. At first glance, it seems foolish to place one’s livelihood in God’s hands….but Francis understood that when we spend less time worrying about ourselves and trust in God’s providence, we’re able to spend more time loving and living for God and our neighbors. I pray that eventually- through St. Francis’ intercession- I will be able to embrace such a faith-filled mentality!

Below is a prayer by St. Francis:

Almighty, eternal, just and merciful Godgive us miserable ones
the grace to do for You alone
what we know You want us to do
and always to desire what pleases You.

Inwardly cleansed,Interiorly enlightened
and inflamed by the fire of the Holy Spirit,May we be able to follow
in the footprints of Your beloved Son,our Lord Jesus Christ,and, by Your grace alone,may we make our way to You,Most High,Who live and rule
in perfect Trinity and simple Unity,and are glorified
God almighty,forever and ever. Amen

Our Father, Who art in heaven
Hallowed be Thy Name;
Thy kingdom come,Thy will be done,on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our trespasses,as we forgive those who trespass against us;
and lead us not into temptation,but deliver us from evil.

We adore You, Lord Jesus Christ,
in all Your churches throughout the whole world
and we bless You because by Your holy cross You have redeemed the world

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

St. Francis Countdown: The Transitus

I received the following notice about a very special event held by the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal (CFR's) in commemoration of the Transitus of St. Francis!

Don't know what the Transitus is? The Transitus of St. Francis is the night of October 3rd, the eve of his Feast Day! It commemorates the night that Francis passed from death into the arms of God. Many Franciscan communities all over the world celebrate the Transitus in various ways. The CFR's perform a play about the life and death of St. Francis...I hear that it's very beautiful and entertaining. Below is the information:

LOCATION:St. Adalbert's Church (next to St. Crispin Friary) 420 East 156 St.Bronx, NY 10455(718) 665-2441

Here are two articles with pictures from the play they put on last year and the year before:

No matter where you are in the world, I hope that everyone has a wonderful and prayerful Transitus!

Be on the lookout for my St. Francis Day post on Thursday!

Monday, October 01, 2007

St. Francis Countdown: The Seraphic Father

The next day came, that is, the Feast of the Cross. And St. Francis, sometime before dawn, began to pray outside the entrance of his cell, turning his face toward the east. And he prayed in this way:

"My Lord Jesus Christ, I pray for you to grant me two graces before I die: the first is that during my life I may feel in my soul and in my body, as much as possible, that pain which You, dear Jesus, sustained in the hour of Your most bitter passion. The second is that I may feel in my heart, as much as possible, that excessive love with which You, O Son of God, were inflamed in willingly enduring such suffering for us sinners."

And remaining for a long time in that prayer, he understood that God would grant it to him, and that it would soon be conceded to him to feel those things as much as is possible for a mere creature.

Having received this promise, St. Francis began to contemplate with intense devotion the Passion of Christ and His infinite charity. And the fervour of his devotion increased so much within him that he utterly transformed himself in Jesus through love and compassion. And while he was thus inflaming himself in this contemplation, on that same morning he saw coming down from heaven a seraph with six resplendent and flaming wings. As the seraph, flying swiftly, came closer to St. Francis, so that he could perceive him clearly, he noticed that He had the likeness of a crucified man, and his wings were so disposed that two wings extended aobve his head, two were spread out to fly, and the other two covered his entire body.
(Brown, 190-191)

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