HAPPY FEAST OF THE SOLEMNITY OF THE SERAPHIC MOTHER, HOLY MOTHER CLARE! PAX ET BONUM!
This is pretty much the biggest day of the year for my blog, and deservedly so, since St. Clare of Assisi was such a wonderful Saint.
Instead of posting to a link to an external website like I often do, I’d like to make this year’s St. Clare post come from the heart….forgive me in advance if I seem a bit rambling.
July of 2007 stands out as one of the most painful months for me. A character from one of my favorite books, Brideshead Revisited, describes to a friend the meaning of a vocation: “It means you can be a nun. If you haven't a vocation it's no good however much you want to be; and if you have a vocation, you can't get away from it, however much you hate it.” After a weekend-long retreat last year with my beloved Poor Clare Colettines, I became pretty sure that I fell into the former category; I loved the Poor Clares so much and especially loved St. Clare….but I simply didn’t have the strength to give up other loved ones in my life. God was calling me to simply remain in the world. I tearfully explained my turmoil to the wonderful Mother Abbess, who was very understanding. We agreed that it would be best if I not visit until I was at a point where the Poor Clares wouldn’t be a distraction for me….sort of like a person who is engaged refusing to visit an ex boyfriend/girlfriend.
The ensuing few months were rather difficult, especially since the Feast of St. Clare fell three weeks afterwards and I wouldn’t be able to celebrate with my Poor Clares at the monastery. At first, I felt rather estranged from St. Clare- I thought to myself, what right do I have to be devoted to St. Clare when I can’t even measure up to her ideals? In spite of all this, I have ironically strengthened my devotion to St. Clare since that difficult weekend in July.
I realize now more than ever that St. Clare chose a life of enclosure and poverty not for the spiritual advancement of herself and her fellow Poor Ladies, but rather to devote herself to us in the world. Her piety is not exclusively for cloistered religious, but rather a faith that can be practiced by everyone no matter their state in life.
By embracing poverty, Holy Mother Clare placed herself in solidarity with those who struggle to make ends meet and have economic anxieties. This is especially pertinent during these tough economic times…St. Clare and her daughters can pray for us in a special way, because they understand the harsh realities of poverty. To put it in more positive terms, St. Clare’s love of poverty has shown me that there are other ways to build Christ’s kingdom beyond our society’s traditional definitions of “success.” It is when we fail to attain “success” by our own merits that we realize that we can do nothing without God.
St. Clare lived in rather tumultuous times. The church had its various struggles, her region of Italy was plagued by warfare, and Saracens unsuccessfully tried to raid her humble monastery of San Damiano two times. On a more personal level, St. Clare’s choice to follow St. Francis invoked the anger of her family, she was plagued by illness, and the subsistence of her monastery relied solely on the generosity of others. Clare surely would have had a reason to be constantly “stressed out!” However, the Rule of St. Clare emphasized the importance of being silent in order to listen to the calm voice of God. Furthermore, St. Clare wholeheartedly trusted in God’s promise that “I will care for you always” (read this post for the full story) even when the Saracens tried to plunder her monastery and Assisi.
I’ll honestly admit that I lack Clare’s staunch faith and composure. Indeed, I’ve given myself over to worrying more than a few times over the past year. Several months ago, there was a day when I was frantically worrying about everything in my life that seemed to be amiss- serious family health issues, uncertainty about my future, worries regarding widespread problems facing our country, etc. I was so “on edge” that I simply couldn’t focus. So, I decided to say a prayer to my beloved St. Clare. Moments later, I was reminded of the following excerpt from Clare’s writings:
'Place your mind before the mirror of eternity!
Place your soul in the brilliance of glory!
Place your heart in the figure of the divine substance
And transform your whole being into the image of the Godhead Itself
So that you too may feel what His friends feel
as they taste the hidden sweetness
which God Himself has reserved from the
beginning for those who love Him'.
You might have to read it over a few times, as it seems a bit abstract at first glance. I find it rather difficult to interpret the meaning of it by using words….but whenever I read this passage, I know in my heart what it is that Clare is trying to tell us. I especially love the first line: “Place your mind before the mirror of eternity.” I interpret it as Clare telling us that our mind should really only be concerned with eternal matters, namely matters dealing with our faith. Furthermore, she exhorts us to offer up our anxieties to God and surrender to His peace through prayer and contemplation. Whenever I worry, I remember those words and I become a bit more peaceful.
Through Clare’s intercession, I have been reminded that we should not let disappointments or shortcomings hold us back from pursuing God. Clare shows us that as Christians, we are simply called to love and trust in God whether we are in the religious life or building the Kingdom in the world.
Thank you all so much for your readership and support. May God reward you on this most special day!
I love you so much, Santa Chiara! Happy Feast Day! Please pray for us!