Saint Clare by Bret Thoman, SFO
St. Clare is known as the first Franciscan woman. Having witnessed the way Francis and the first Brothers in Assisi were living out the Gospel, known as the Vita Evangelica (a largely lay ecclesial movement from the 12th and 13th centuries based on itinerant preaching and gospel poverty) she became inspired and sought to participate in the movement. She would become the impetus for another way of life for women who wished to follow her and Francis. Her form of life would eventually become an officially recognized Rule for cloistered women (the Poor Clares in English) within the Franciscan family and Church. However, her way of life would take a lifetime to take shape (and not without much struggle) – mostly due to the radicality of her proposed way of life.
Unfortunately, the beginnings of the Claretian movement are rather obscure. We do know that at 18 years of age she left her home in the middle of the night on Palm Sunday in 1212 (accompanied by a maid servant) in order to meet Francis and the brothers at the Porziuncula. There Francis would give her the tonsure, signing her departure from the world (and entrance into Religious life), and promptly send her to a Benedictine monastery for noble women in Bastia – San Paolo delle Abbedesse. As the monastery was under papal protection (thus granting sanctuary), she would be safe from any attempts by her father or the knights of her noble family to draw her away. Francis and Clare were successful. After a brief time (perhaps a week), she left and spent a short period of time in another religious house (Benedictine or perhaps Beguine) on the slopes of Mount Subasio – Sant’Angelo in Panzo. Then she would eventually settle in San Damiano, one of the three churches Francis personally rebuilt, and where Jesus (through the Crucifix) had spoken to him to rebuild His house which had fallen into ruin. Click Here for the Rest of the Article
Reflections From the Cloister
†The following article was written specifically for this newsletter by Mother Chiara Laura Serboli, a Poor Clare Abbess from Camerino, Italy; it was translated from Italian by Bret Thoman. She can be reached at: email@example.com.
†Once again, we find ourselves together – moved by the desire to follow an itinerary in the discovery of the profundity of the human vocation that calls us all to look to that which is ‘beyond’ and lives within and moves us. Some of you already know us – the Poor Clare Sisters of Camerino – others, perhaps not; so this will be an occasion to meet us perhaps for the first time, or to meet us once again and listen together to a reflection of the freshness of the Gospel, in the hope that these ‘Newsletters’ might become ‘Good News-letters’!
Lately, the word ‘crisis’ unfortunately continues to return with an insistence that penetrates the mind and heart to the point of practically blocking out every hope. Just the same, I am convinced that we are living a time in which it is still possible to cultivate a true faith. If, in fact, on the one hand this ‘collapse’ – fruit of the idolatry of money (fast and at any cost) – revealed the inconsistencies of consumerism; on the other hand, it made the need for authentic values to re-emerge with force. In this time of crisis, therefore, it will help us to listen to that insatiable thirst – so long remained sleepy – that inhabits our heart. Today we stand in front of a “kairos” – an historic opportunity for re-discovering the Power of the Gospel.
We have proposed ‘studying in the school’ of Mary, a woman radically Evangelical who in life learned how to face difficult situations without getting lost, caring for the ‘certain hope’ of Good, a woman who – the Church teaches us – “lived on Earth a life common to all, full of solicitudes toward family and work.”
Yes – because Mary lived on Earth and not in the clouds. Her thoughts and gestures were concentrated around concreteness. Even if God often called her to ecstasy, she kept her feet planted firmly on the Earth. Far from the abstractions of visionaries or the evasions of mal-contents, she stubbornly planted herself in the routine of daily-ness.
But she also lived a life common to all – similar to that of her neighbor. She drank from the same well, she sat in the coolness of the same courtyard, she returned tired in the evening after having worked in the fields. She even had problems – both health and financial – and with relationships. Like all wives, she surely had moments of fatigue with her husband; as with all mothers, she would have vacillated between fears and hopes over the life of her son; as with all women, she would have experienced suffering for not feeling understood, the fear of disappointing the persons dear to her and not being good enough.
All this makes Mary a person with human frailties and makes us consider that just possibly our painful daily-ness may not be as painfully unique as we think.
Saint Mary, woman of daily-ness, if for an instant we dare take off your halo and bring you back to the limits of the daily experience in which we live, and because we desire to see how beautiful you are with your head uncovered, and because seeing you so close to our own discouragements, we would like to learn to venture into the oceans of freedom.
Woman of few words, so grasped by the Eternal Word, help us in our difficult moments to respond like you did. Teach us that language made of quick single syllables like “Yes”; of brief whisperings like “fiat”; of total abandonment like “Amen”; or of fertile silences rooted in an ancient hope. Help us to understand that the most fecund chapter of your life is that in which you were inside the house of Nazareth, where, between dishes and spinning-looms, among tears and prayers, between rolls of wool and scrolls of Scripture, you tasted joys without deceptions and bitterness without desperation.
Saint Mary, woman of daily-ness, free us from the desire for “everything perfect”, and teach us to consider our daily-ness as a worksite where our story of salvation is constructed; accompany us by the hand along the twists and turns of our poor life; pray for us – ill from fear, so that we may experiment, like you, a true abandonment to the Will of God; make our lives, reduced to the bare essential, fragrant with the sweetness of hope. Come back and walk discreetly with us, you extraordinary creature in love with normality, who, before being crowned Queen of Heaven, swallowed the dust of our poor Earth.