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!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Reclaiming Mary Magdalene's Reputation

Today is the Feast Day of one of my favourite Saints….Saint Mary Magdalene. St. Mary Magdalene is officially the patroness of penitents, hairdressers, pharmacists, perfumers, and reformed prostitutes, among other things. After coming up with a few more ideas of my own, I’m sure Mary Magdalene would be happy to take these other causes under her belt:

Fear of being judged: Whether or not she was the actual woman caught in adultery (John 7:53-8:11), Mary Magdalene has often been associated with this story. At the end of the story, Jesus asks the woman “has no one condemned you?” After she responds “No one, Lord,” He tells her, “Neither do I condemn you; go and do not sin again.” We can presume that the woman (aka, Mary Magdalene) followed Our Lord’s command and gave up her sinful life to follow Him. This was probably difficult enough. However, I can imagine that she probably had to contend with others judging her even after she had long given up her sinful ways. A former prostitute probably didn’t fit with many people’s idea of the “ideal” disciple. Chances are people whispered about her behind her back and made uncharitable remarks about her shady past. Or, perhaps Mary Magdalene feared that people would pass judgment on her, regardless of whether they were actually doing so.

I’ll admit that I’m one of those people who constantly fear others judging me. Sometimes I just don’t see myself as the archetypical “Catholic girl”…I often wear a bit more makeup and pink clothes than some of the jumper-clad girls at mass; I’m unable to tell you much about the latest Papal Encyclical, and other minor discrepancies. Oftentimes, I get down on myself and convince myself that others are disapproving of my spiritual style. There have been very dark times in my life in which I have stopped saying the rosary, attending adoration, etc. out of fear that I “just don’t fit in.”

Despite the many insecurities that Mary Magdalene may have felt, she was able to put aside her misgivings and be a staunch follower of Christ. Whether or not people disapproved of her, she moved ahead and lead a life of courage, penitence, and was one of the few followers at the foot of the cross. I’m sure that Mary Magdalene is a Saint upon whom we can call when we feel a bit insecure and when we feel as though we don’t quite fit in.

Victims of Gossip: Everyone dislikes being the subject of gossip, especially when the things being said about us are false. Indeed, Mary Magdalene was the subject of false gossip during both her earthly and heavenly life. Needless to say, the media has brazenly continued to make completely false claims about Mary Magdalene’s identity. Thus, I’m sure that Mary Magdalene is a perfect Saint to call upon when people are saying false things about us and our loved ones.

People in grief: At the Notre Dame Basilica, beautiful paintings of the Stations of the Cross encircled the church. In the final stations, I couldn’t help but notice the beautifully poignant representation of Mary Magdalene: her expression of tearful grief is almost tangible. Many of us have had times of grieving in our lives when we simply cannot hold back our emotions and we feel completely alone. The image of Mary Magdalene clinging to the foot of her cross in her emotional anguish is a powerful representation of her placing her own grief in union with the sufferings of Christ. It was in that same cross that Mary Magdalene ultimately found Easter joy.
On a less serious note, Mary Magdalene is usually depicted as a blonde….perhaps she is the unofficial patron Saint of blondes!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Nuns in Australia: Jamberoo Abbey

I was just watching World Youth Day 2008 in Sydney on EWTN. May God reward all the dedicated people who were present in Sydney for WYD, especially the Holy Father and others who came from distant parts of the world; I had the chance to visit Australia when I was eleven, and the change of weather and jet-lag really put a damper on my visit. It looks like the Holy Spirit had infused the Holy Father with stamina!

It's so inspiring to see so many young people on-fire with their faith, and I'm thoroughly convinced that the Catholic Church is alive and well in Australia!

As witnessed by the large turnout of religious men and women at WYD, there are many vibrant religious communities in Australia. After doing some research, the Benedictine Nuns of Jamberoo Abbey in New South Wales seem like an especially inspired community. This section of their website eloquently outlines the charism of contemplative nuns as part of the greater mission of the Body of Christ. Props to the sisters for also including this nice reflection on Sts. Benedict and Scholastica. The website also includes a tour of their abbey, which is a perfect example of how sacred architecture can be both modern and reverent.

If any of you know of other religious communities in Australia, let me know! To those who travelled to Sydney, have a safe trip home!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Sisters of the Visitation in Rockville, VA

About a year and a half ago, I had moved to an area of Virginia not too far from a Sisters of the Visitation monastery. When I told one of the Poor Clare sisters that I planned to visit the Visitation Sisters (no pun intended), she jokingly said, “now don’t go cheatin' on us!” Perhaps God, with His sense of humor, answered her request; the following July 4th, a friend and I decided to drive to the Visitation Monastery, only to find that the public chapel was locked! All joking aside, I’ve heard that the Visitation Sisters of Monte Maria Monastery in Rockville, VA are a wonderful group of ladies; in fact, during a hurricane about five years ago, the Visitation Sisters let the Poor Clares stay with them. Also, before the sisters moved to Rockville, their monastery was located very close to where Frank Parater lived. Frank served as an altar boy for the sisters, and he was very much influenced by the order’s spirituality.

Even though I wasn’t able to explore Monte Maria last year, I was able to make a vicarious visit by reading a profile of the monastery that was just written up in the Catholic Virginian. You can read the article here. Also, I have a link to Monte Maria in the “Religious Orders” sidebar. According to the article, there are only twelve sisters at Monte Maria, but perhaps the article will inspire some vocations!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Blessed Marie Celine of the Presentation

I just picked up the mail, and my Poor Clares had sent me a holy card of the Blessed Marie Celine of the Presentation. I hadn't heard of her before, but after reading this short biography, I learned about her short but saintly life. Fun fact: After her death, she appeared to many via fragrances, which earned her the nickname: "Saint of the Perfumes!" Maybe I should go looking for that old Chanel bottle....

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