Search This Blog

Friday, August 10, 2012

August 11th - Feast day of St. Clare of Assisi and 800th Celebration for the Poor Clares

From the Divine Office, Matins (Office of Readings) Second Reading:

A letter of St Clare to Blessed Agnes of Prague:

Consider the poverty, humility and charity of Christ

Happy the soul to whom it is given to attain this life with Christ, to cleave with all one’s heart to him whose beauty all the heavenly hosts behold forever, whose love inflames our love, the contemplation of whom is our refreshment, whose graciousness is our delight, whose gentleness fills us to overflowing, whose remembrance makes us glow with happiness, whose fragrance revives the dead, the glorious vision of whom will be the happiness of all the citizens of the heavenly Jerusalem. For he is the brightness of eternal glory, the splendour of eternal light, the mirror without spot.
Look into that mirror daily, O queen and spouse of Jesus Christ, and ever study therein your countenance, that within and without you may adorn yourself with all manner of virtues, and clothe yourself with the flowers and garments that become the daughter and chaste spouse of the most high King. In that mirror are reflected poverty, holy humility and ineffable charity, as, with the grace of God, you may perceive.
Gaze first upon the poverty of Jesus, placed in a manger, wrapped in swaddling clothes. What marvellous humility! What astounding poverty! The King of angels, Lord of heaven and earth, is laid in a manger. Consider next the humility, the blessed poverty, the untold labours and burdens which he endured for the redemption of the human race. Then look upon the unutterable charity with which he willed to suffer on the tree of the cross and to die thereon the most shameful kind of death. This mirror, Christ himself, fixed upon the wood of the cross, bade the passers-by consider these things: ‘All you who pass this way look and see if there is any sorrow like my sorrow.’ With one voice and one mind let us answer him as he cries and laments, saying in his own words: ‘I will be mindful and remember and my soul shall languish within me.’ Thus, O queen of the heavenly King, may you ever burn more ardently with the fire of this love.
Contemplate further the indescribable joys, the wealth and unending honours of the King, and sighing after them with great longing, cry to him: ‘Draw me after you: we shall run to the fragrance of your perfumes, O heavenly bridegroom.’ I will run and faint not until you bring me into the wine cellar, until your left hand be under my head and your right hand happily embrace me and you kiss me with the kiss of your mouth.
In such contemplation be mindful of your poor little mother and know that I have inscribed your happy memory indelibly on the tablets of my heart, holding you dearer than all others.

Lord God, in your mercy
you led Saint Clare to the love of poverty.
Help us, by her intercession,
to follow Christ in poverty of spirit,
so that, in the kingdom of heaven,
we may see you in your glory.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.


Saint Clare (1193/4 - 1253)

She was born at Assisi and came under the influence of Saint Francis. She left home at the age of 18 and, under Francis’s guidance, began a community that grew to become the order of the Poor Clares (she was later joined both by her sister and by her widowed mother). In its radical attachment to poverty the Rule of the order was much more severe than that of any other order of nuns. In 1215 Clare obtained from the Pope the privilege of owning nothing, so that the nuns of the order were to be sustained by alms and nothing else. Such a rule was (like the Franciscan rule) both a challenge to established structures and a risk to those who followed it, and successive Popes tried to modify it. In 1247 Pope Innocent IV promulgated a new Rule that allowed the ownership of communal property: Clare rewrote it. A later attempt at mitigation in 1263 partly succeeded (perhaps because Clare was dead by then): some communities followed the old, strict rule and some followed the new.
Clare was a noted contemplative and a caring mother to her nuns. She died at Assisi in 1253.
See the articles in the Catholic Encyclopaedia and Wikipedia.
The drift towards laxity and the desire for strictness are part of the history of every religious order. In the history of most monasteries, for example, one can find both a steady relaxation of the rule and a desire on the part of some members of the community to be more severe and ascetic – possibly even to become hermits. The Maronist Saint Sharbel Makhluf is one example; the Trappist Thomas Merton is another. In our own lives, too, we are always oscillating between being too strict and being too lax. It seems to be a universal tension in the human race.
                          Preserved tunic and cape worn by St. Clare of Assisi

Litany of St. Clare of Assisi - for her feast day August 11th

Lord, have mercy upon us.
Christ, have mercy upon us.
Lord, have mercy upon us.

O Christ, hear us.
O Christ, graciously hear us.

O God the Father, of Heaven:
have mercy upon us.
O God the Son, Redeemer of the world:
O God, the Holy Ghost:
O Holy Trinity, one God:
have mercy upon us.

Holy Mary:
Pray for us.
Immaculate Virgin:
Mother and Mistress of our Order:
Pray for us.

St. Clare, first-born of thy Order:
Pray for us.
St. Clare, spouse of the Crucified:
St. Clare, lover of the Blessed Sacrament:
St. Clare, lover of the Sacred Heart:
St. Clare, lover of the Sacred Wounds:
St. Clare, lover of the Sacred Name:
St. Clare, lover of the Sacred Gospel:
St. Clare, to thy mother forenamed "resplendent":
St. Clare, resplendent with the light of Jesus:
St. Clare, resplendent in thy noble heritage:
St. Clare, resplendent in thy renunciation thereof:
St. Clare, resplendent in clinging to the altar as thy portion:
St. Clare, resplendent as first abbess of a great Order:
St. Clare, resplendent in putting the Saracens to flight:
St. Clare, resplendent in reparation for the sins of the world:
St. Clare, resplendent in wondrous miracles:
St. Clare, little plant of St. Francis:
St. Clare, princess of the poor:
St. Clare, duchess of the humble:
St. Clare, mistress of the chaste:
St. Clare, abbess of the penitent:
St. Clare, alabaster box of ointment broken at the feet of Jesus:
St. Clare, received at death by a choir of virgins:
St. Clare, censer of sweet perfume filling heaven and earth:
Pray for us.

O Lamb of God, that takest away the sins of the world:
spare us, O Lord.
O Lamb of God, that takest away the sins of the world:
graciously hear us, O Lord.
O Lamb of God, that takest away the sins of the world:
have mercy upon us.

V. Pray for us, O blessed Clare. Alleluia.
R. That we may be worthy of the promises of Christ. Alleluia.

Let us pray.
Choose one of the following Collects.
O God Who hast raised up blessed Clare as a shining lamp of holiness to lighten the way before a multitude of virgins: by her merits and prayers grant to us who do call to mind her commemoration, that in this life we may walk in Thy light, and in the life to come, may forever enjoy the light of Thy countenance. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
We beseech Thee, O Lord, that like as we do celebrate the memory of blessed Clare thy Virgin: so she may intercede for us; and that we may become partakers with her of eternal joy and joint heirs of Thy Only-Begotten Son. Who livest and reignest forever and ever. Amen.
O God, Who hast filled the world with the splendid virtues of blessed Clare, Thy Virgin, by whom Thou hast also increased Thy Church with a new offspring: be pleased to grant; that we may so follow in her steps as to attain unto the splendor of her eternal glory. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Discovering our Saints - St Clare of Assisi

If this were a television series, the scene might look like this:

A towering crowded cathedral, a grand organ filling the air with heavenly sounds, it's Palm Sunday, the Bishop is presiding, Solemn High Mass!
The featured family in their Easter finery, having just arrived from their palace is occupying the front pew. The mother, first daughter of a noble family, always devout and pius, the father, a wealthy Count, an ancient Roman family, head bowed in thanksgiving for his aristocratic family, his beautiful daughter sitting alongside in her designer outfit...

The Bishop is at the altar, the congregation gathers, receiving their palms, but, the girl is unable to approach, she is transfixed, bathed in blinding bright light, all eyes upon her.

The Bishop leaves his sanctuary and places the branch of palm in the hand of the girl.

The cameras fades to black, the girl is never seen again...

The story does continue, but not as a television series, as a true story.
The country is Italy, the town is Assisi, the family is that of Flavorino Scifi and the young girl, is St Clare of Assisi.

She is now hidden away in a monastery outside of town, in a rough, thick veil and a plain brown tunic, her head has been shaven and she has tossed away her Easter finery, and the hopes and dreams of her family.
It is time for her to follow her own dreams, those which allow her to walk in the steps of Jesus Christ, as did her spiritual mentor and First Saint of Assisi, St Francis.

Clare had met him when he came to preach at a Lenten service. She realized her calling was not the high life of upscale Rome, but the right to abandon all of her worldly goods, to be distributed to the poor in the name of Him, who was the Way, the Truth and the Light!

St Francis had immediately recognized her as a 'chosen soul' and agreed to help her begin her life with Christ. He placed her in a humble chapel in Sam Damiano, her dedication attracted others, and thus, began the the Poor Ladies of St Clare, a monastic life for women, honoring the life and word of their Lord by living in poverty, manual labor and prayer.

St Clare spent her life dedicated to the Order, from abyss to superior, forty long years. She was instrumental in writing the Rite of the Clares, a rule of governing cloistered life.

Although St Clare spent many years in poor health she was said to be able to see and hear the Mass on the walls of her austere room. This encouraged Pope Pius XII to award her the title of Patron Saint of Television in 1958.

St Clare died in 1253 at age 59 on August 11th and was canonized in Rome by Pope Alexander IV on September 26, 1255.We celebrate her Feast Day on August 1  

Spirituality of Francis and Clare of Assisi

Spirituality of Francis and Clare of Assisi
Br. Bill Short, O.F.M.
Franciscan School of Theology &
Graduate Union - Berkeley, CA

Brother Bill Short is professor of spirituality at the Franciscan School of Theology. With a special love of things medieval, is a scholar equally comfortable in the fields of spirituality, Christian history and the Franciscan tradition. He researches, writes, lectures and translates in four languages. His frequent lectures, retreats and workshops outside the school educate the wider community about the Franciscan tradition. Throughout his tenure at FST, he has been a long time member of the Board of Trustees, former dean and president of the school.