Feast of Saint Clare

Illustration by Mark Balma

Saint Clare of Assisi was born in 1194. A daughter of a noble Italian family of the city of Assisi. This young lady, who was not particularly interested in entering a noble marriage, heard Saint Francis preaching, and wanted to live the Gospel life he espoused. Because of the social strictures of her times, she began living the Gospel life behind the walls of a monastery.

From behind those walls, she was still able to inspire people to follow Christ. Women came to be admitted to her community located around the chapel of San Damiano, one of the first churches Francis repaired. They lived a simple life of prayer and work. They claimed nothing for their own, no dowries, no financial endowments. People came from all around Assisi, seeking her advice and guidance.

Her influence could be felt beyond the Italian borders; when a noble woman, Agnes of Prague, inspired by lives of Franciscan friars in Hungary, sought Clare’s advice. Agnes would herself establish a Franciscan monastery. Clare, would advise her in several letters. In her second letter to Agnes, she wrote:

O most noble Queen,
gaze upon Him,
consider Him,
contemplate Him,
as you desire to imitate Him.
If you suffer with Him, you will reign with Him.
If you weep with Him, you shall rejoice with Him;
If you die with Him on the cross of tribulation, you shall possess heavenly mansions in the splendor of the saints and,in the Book of Life, your name shall be called glorious among men.

Saint Clare died on August 11,1253.

“Where is the Newborn King…?”

On this January 6, 2019, many Christians will be in church, celebrating the Epiphany of the Lord. We are celebrating the moment, when three magi, wise men, came from the east and proclaimed to the leaders of Jerusalem that the birth of the Messiah had been revealed to them. They had traveled from a far land, to see with their own eyes, this wonder. Their belief in this revelation was so strong, that they were willing to make this risky journey, guided only by a unique star, to a foreign land. And the Gospel gives no indication that they were disappointed at what they found. Finding a small child, with his peasant mother, in a simple village house; they “did him homage.”

We are all seeking that intimate encounter with Jesus Christ, with our God and Savior. Sometimes, that life journey may take many years; sometimes, the encounter can happen in just an instant. We find that we need to give up our own preconceived images of Christ; let the Holy Spirit guide us on our journey; and be open to what the Scriptures will reveal to us. And above all, open ourselves to the experience, the wonder of the Eucharist; which in a real sense, is food for the journey we are on.

There have been others, who have also been on this journey before, who, by sharing their own experiences, can help guide us on ours. Some of my favorites, Francis and Clare of Assisi, who made living the Gospel of Jesus Christ an intimate part of their lives. Teresa of Avila, founder of monasteries and mystic. Caryll Houselander, laywoman, artist and mystic; who had a vision of Christ in every passenger of a train she was on. Thomas Merton, author, monk, and mystic. Despite being in a monastery, he was always on a journey, seeking our Risen Lord. And finally, I would recommend Sister Wendy Beckett, who recently passed away. Hermit, art historian, media star; she brought a fresh look at art, with both a scholar’s and mystic’s eye.

I am still very much on journey, seeking the Lord. I have sometimes gone off course, sometimes felt like not going any further. But always, I feel that tugging to continue on; something many pilgrims feel, to finish the journey. I still am not sure what I will find; I have faith that when I truly see the Lord, with eyes of faith; I will bow and do him homage.

Feast of St. Clare of Assisi – 2016

Today, the Franciscan Family, with rest of the Catholic Church, celebrates the memory of Clare of Assisi.  A young noblewoman of the medieval city of Assisi, she was inspired by St. Francis of Assisi, to leave a life of wealth and influence, and follow the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Inspired by the Holy Spirit, guided by Francis, she and a group of liked minded Assisian women, formed a community of prayer, and evangelical poverty.  Living a hidden life of contemplation, with very few known writings in existence; she has been a source of inspiration to many to seek a more intimate relationship with God.

The Order she confounded with Francis still exists, now known as the Poor Clares.