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Friday, July 6, 2012

Writings of St. Clare - Letter to Ermentrude of Bruges

Clare's letter to Ermentrude of Bruges

The Irish Franciscan scholar, Luke Wadding, in his "Annales Minorum", ad. ann. 1257, supplement 20, states that Clare wrote two letters to Ermentrude of Bruges. Ermentrude was the daughter of the bailiff of Köln. In 1240 she left on a pilgrimage. She arrived in Bruges, Belgium, where she lived for twelve years in a hermitage. Upon hearing about Clare and the Poor Ladies she left for a pilgrimage to Assisi and Rome, but found that Clare was already dead. When she returned to Bruges she transformed her small hermitage into a monastery of Poor Ladies and then instituted other monasteries in Flanders. The text given in "Annales Minorum" is a fusion of the two letters, and its authenticity has been questioned by various scholars. However, its contents are widely accepted as echoing Clare's thoughts as written down to Ermentrude. 

To Ermentrude, dearest sister, Clare of Assisi, humble handmaid of Jesus Christ, greetings and peace.

I know that you, o dearest sister, have fled the filth of the world, with the help of God's grace; for which I rejoice and give thanks with you and again rejoice that you tread the paths of virtue strenuously with your daughters. Be faithful, dearest, to him to whom you are promised until death, and you will be crowned by him with the laurel of life.

This labour of ours is brief, but the reward is eternal; let the noises of the fleeting world and its shadow not confound you; let the empty spectres of the deceiving world not drive you mad; shut your ears to the whispers of hell and, strong, break down its attempts [against you]; willingly bear adverse evils and let provident goods not puff you up; for the one requires faith, the other demands it; what you promised God, faithfully render, and he will repay you.

O dearest, look on heaven that invites us, and bear the cross and follow Christ who preceded us; indeed, after various and many tribulations we shall enter through him into his glory. Love with your whole heart God and Jesus, his son, crucified for our sins, and never let his memory escape your mind; make yourself mediate continually on the mysteries of the cross and the anguish of the mother standing beneath the cross.

Pray and be always vigilant. And the work that you began well, finish and the ministry you assumed, fulfil in holy poverty and sincere humility. Do not fear, daughter, God is faithful in all his words and holy in all his works, he will pour out his blessing on you and your daughters; and he will be your helper and your best consoler; he is our redeemer and our eternal reward.

Let us pray God for each other, for in bearing each other's burden of charity we shall fulfil the law of Christ.  Amen.

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