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!

Sunday, February 10, 2008


Early February is always a very special time for me, since the feast days of two of my favorite saints fall within days of each other- Servant of God Frank Parater on February 7th and Saint Scholastica on February 10th.

Last year, I had a very late night on the eve of the feast of St. Scholastica. In fact, I almost forgot to wake up in time to go to St. Scholastica Day mass! Not to mention that my alarm was broken…but fortunately another “alarm” came to my rescue: right outside my bedroom window, a beautiful gray dove started to coo very loudly. According to legend, St. Scholastica’s soul ascended into heaven in the form of a dove after she died. Perhaps her soul came back down in the form of a dove in order to wake me up!

We have very little information on Scholastica’s life, beyond the fact that she was the sister of St. Benedict and the founder of the first women’s monasteries in Western Europe. I’ve already shared with you the legend that explains why she is the patroness against rainstorms. A few days after that incident, she supposedly died- and that’s when legend asserts that her soul rose to heaven as a dove. I think that this image of one’s soul rising to heaven as a dove is very powerful, and many Saints have in fact compared the soul to a bird. St. Therese employs this image in one of my favorite excerpts from Story of a Soul:

I look upon myself as a weak little bird, with only a light down as covering. I am not an eagle, but I have only an eagle's EYES AND HEART. In spite of my extreme littleness I still dare to gaze upon the Divine Sun, the Sun of Love, and my heart feels within it all the aspirations of an Eagle.

The little bird wills to fly towards the bright Sun which attracts its eye, imitating its brothers, the eagles, whom it sees climbing up towards the Divine Furnace of the Holy Trinity. But alas! the only thing it can do is raise its little wings; to fly is not within its little power!

What then will become of it? Will it die of sorrow at seeing itself so weak? Oh no! the little bird will not even be troubled. With bold surrender, it wishes to remain gazing upon its Divine Sun. Nothing will frighten it, neither wind nor rain, and if dark clouds come and hide the Star of Love, the little bird will not change its place because it knows that beyond the clouds its bright Sun still shines on and that its brightness is not eclipsed for a single instant.

At times the little bird's heart is assailed by the storm, and it seems it should believe in the existence of no other thing except the clouds surrounding it; this is the moment of perfect joy for the poor little weak creature. And what joy it experiences when remaining there just the same! and gazing at the Invisible Light which remains hidden from its faith!

O Jesus, up until the present moment I can understand Your love for the little bird because it has not strayed far from You. But I know and so do You that very often the imperfect little creature, while remaining in its place (that is, under the Sun's rays), allows itself to be somewhat distracted from its sole occupation. It picks up a piece of grain on the right or on the left; it chases after a little worm; then coming upon a little pool of water, it wets its feathers still hardly formed. It sees an attractive flower and its little mind is occupied with this flower. In a word, being unable to soar like the eagles, the poor little bird is taken up with the trifles of earth.

And yet after all these misdeeds, instead of going and hiding away in a corner, to weep over its misery and to die of sorrow, the little bird turns towards its beloved Sun, presenting its wet wings to its beneficent rays. It cries like a swallow and in its sweet song it recounts in detail all its infidelities, thinking in the boldness of its full trust that it will acquire in even greater fullness the love of Him who came to call not the just but sinners. And even if the Adorable Star remains deaf to the plaintive chirping of the little creature, even if it remains hidden, well, the little one will remain wet, accepting its numbness from the cold and rejoicing in its suffering which it knows it deserves.

O Jesus, Your little bird is happy to be weak and little. What would become of it if it were big? Never would it have the boldness to appear in Your presence, to fall asleep in front of You. Yes, this is still one of the weaknesses of the little bird: when it wants to fix its gaze upon the Divine Sun, and when the clouds prevent it from seeing a single ray of that Sun, in spite of itself, its little eyes close, its little head is hidden beneath its wing, and the poor little thing falls asleep, believing all the time that it is fixing its gaze upon its Dear Star. When it awakens, it doesn't feel desolate; its little heart is at peace and it begins once again its work of love. It calls upon the angels and saints who rise like eagles before the consuming Fire, and since this is the object of the little bird's desire the eagles take pity on it, protecting and defending it, and putting to flight at the same time the vultures who want to devour it. These vultures are the demons whom the little bird doesn't fear, for it is not destined to be their prey but the prey of the Eagle whom it contemplates in the center of the Sun of Love.

O Divine Word! You are the Adored Eagle whom I love and who alone attracts me! Coming into this land of exile, You willed to suffer and to die in order to draw souls to the bosom of the Eternal Fire of the Blessed Trinity. Ascending once again to the Inaccessible Light, henceforth Your abode, You remain still in this "valley of tears," hidden beneath the appearances of a white host. Eternal Eagle, You desire to nourish me with Your divine substance and yet I am but a poor little thing who would return to nothingness if Your divine glance did not give me life from one moment to the next.

O Jesus, allow me in my boundless gratitude to say to You that Your love reaches unto folly. In the presence of this folly, how can You not desire that my heart leap towards You? How can my confidence, then, have any limits? Ah! the saints have committed their follies for You, and they have done great things because they are eagles.

Jesus, I am too little to perform great actions, and my own folly is this: to trust that Your Love will accept me as a victim. My folly consists in begging the eagles, my brothers, to obtain for me the favor of flying towards the Sun of Love with the Divine Eagle's own wings!

As long as You desire it, O my Beloved, Your little bird will remain without strength and without wings and will always stay with its gaze fixed upon You. It wants to be fascinated by Your divine glance. It wants to become the prey of Your Love. One day I hope that You, the Adorable Eagle, will come to fetch me, Your little bird; and ascending with it to the Furnace of Love, You will plunge it for all eternity into the burning Abyss of this Love to which it has offered itself as victim.

St. Therese, LETTER TO SISTER MARIE OF THE SACRED HEART, Chapter IX - My Vocation Is Love (1896), Story of a Soul

Scholastica was a woman who was hidden from the world and has largely been hidden in the pages of history. Like Therese, perhaps Scholastica also felt at times that she wasn’t strong enough to accomplish large things….so instead the invested herself in little acts of love and trusted in God’s mercy. Ultimately, by living a life full of small acts of love, Scholastica was able to ascend as a “little bird” to her true home in heaven!

I am very grateful to Scholastica for interceding on my behalf so many times over the past year. I hope that your prayers are also answered on the feast of this wonderful Saint!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

My seven year old daughter is named Scholastica. thank you for your inspiring words about this beautiful saint.

10:33 PM  

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