THE SOLEMNITY OF THE FEAST OF HOLY MOTHER CLARE, 2009
PAX ET BONUM! I WISH YOU ALL A MOST WONDERFUL SOLEMNITY OF THE FEAST OF SAINT CLARE…”SANTA CHIARA”!
This is a particularly appropriate year to be celebrating the Feast of Holy Mother Clare, who turned poverty in a way to become closer to Christ. Whether or not our situations can be described as “poverty,” nearly everyone has been touched in some way by this recession….the loss of a job, savings account, a livelihood. In turn, these losses cause blows to our pride. As dramatically pious as Clare’s cutting off her beautiful hair appeared, it was an act that left her and others uncomfortable. Everything that she had that made her the sweetheart of Assisi was stripped from her….her noble title, wealth, home, family, clothing, jewels, and beauty. Her actions thereafter, in the eyes of the world, were not remarkable….she lived a quiet life of prayer and penance. Despite her poverty and rejection, Clare allowed God’s light to shine through her…and as prophesied before her birth, she became a “light to illumine the whole world.” Like Christ, Clare’s life echoes the words of my favorite scripture passage:
Isaiah 53: 1-12: Who has believed what we have heard? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or comeliness that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that made us whole, and with his stripes we are healed.
I will be the first to admit that I have seldom written blog posts this past year, and the ones that I have written have not been profound….I apologize to those who found the donkey story a bit schmaltzy, but it was a story that had been swimming in my head for years and I finally wanted to write it down. Although the feast days of my favorite Saints used to be huge deals for me in years past….with my two weeks of countdowns, parties, etc…..I’ve let many of the feast days this year peacefully come and go with personal reflection but not a whole lot of to-do.
Nonetheless, I think it might be God’s will that I have taken a short break from His Saints and focused on Him instead. I have run spiritually off-track… and while all my Saints are interceding for me, it is ultimately only Christ who can fix me. My faith had been in a rut long before the economy exploded. Even when the market was stable, the girl who had an “impressive” resume and award-winning credentials from a top-20 school and who was named “most likely to succeed” could not find a job or even a so-called purpose. On the spiritual level, I was a case of a failed vocation and couldn’t even get my Sunday School students to participate. The more assiduous my efforts were to land a job, my hours of cover letters, action verbs, cold calling, “networking,” and other career buzzwords were to no avail. At 24 and without a job, I convinced myself that I was not ‘bearing any fruit.’
In the midst of this “quarter-life crisis,” a spiritual mentor pointed out that my accomplishments, popularity, success, possessions…or lack thereof….did not affect God’s love for me. In fact, the way I based my self-worth on other people’s approval displeased God. Only when I realized that through Christ, I am totally accepted by God- whose opinion is the only one that truly matters- would I be comfortable in my own skin. Why was I trying so hard to prove something to myself and others when I was already totally loved and accepted by Christ?
So, I started to prayerfully reflect on this idea, and if you think about it, Christ’s light shone through the lives of all the Saints- including St. Clare- precisely because they understood that their popularity or achievements in no way affected Christ’s redemptive love. Clare’s life illustrates that even when we are stripped of the things that make us attractive- wealth, social stature, beauty- it has no impact on how God sees us. Clare’s faith was so powerful that even when her family threatened her to return to her old way of life under pain of death, God’s will was the only thing that mattered to her. Even then, God’s will might not have been entirely clear to her….but she let Him lead her by the hand, blindfolded. Slowly and after much prayer, I stopped correlating my career progression with God’s approval and didn’t stress over the fact that I was still jobless and living at home. Sure, my 20s hadn’t turned out to be like my teenage “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” fantasy, but I figured that God would lead me into something else according to His will.
Without getting into details, my newly-found freedom through God’s love ultimately led me into a job. At first, I felt Christ working through my every day in spite of my weaknesses. However, many days I forget that God will be there to take care of me and instead I let perfectionism take control . When I base my self-worth on my achievements, it leaves me worn out and anxious…because it becomes all about me, rather than directed towards God.
Hopefully this holy day can be a turning point for me to once again embrace the testament of Holy Mother Clare- poverty, failure, insignificance, rejection, and shame cannot dissuade God from using us as instruments of His Kingdom! Clare’s life is one more beautiful example of how the Saints ultimately point the way towards Christ. I pray that all of you have a peaceful and prayerful day, and ask you to pray for me too! As Holy Father Francis would say, “Peace and All Good”… “Pax et Bonum!”