Saturday, August 11, 2012

Saint Clare

Clare was a beautiful Italian noblewoman who became the Foundress of an order of nuns now called "Poor Clares." When she heard St. Francis of Assisi preach, her heart burned with a great desire to imitate Francis and to live a poor humble life for Jesus. So one evening, she ran away from home, and in a little chapel outside Assisi, gave herself to God. St. Francis cut off her hair and gave her a rough brown habit to wear, tied with a plain cord around her waist. Her parents tried in every way to make her return home, but Clare would not.
Soon her sister Agnes joined her, as well as other young women who wanted to be brides of Jesus, and live without any money. St. Clare and her sisters wore no shoes, ate no meat, lived in a poor house, and kept silent most of the time. Yet they were very happy, because Our Lord was close to them all the time. Once, He saved them from a great danger in answer to St. Clare's prayer. An army of rough soldiers came to attack Assisi and they planned to raid the convent first. Although very sick, St. Clare had herself carried to the wall and right there, where the enemies could see it, she had the Blessed Sacrament placed. Then on her knees, she begged God to save the Sisters. "O Lord, protect these Sisters whom I cannot protect now," she prayed. A voice seemed to answer: "I will keep them always in My care."
At the same time a sudden fright struck the attackers and they fled as fast as they could. St. Clare was sick and suffered great pains for many years, but she said that no pain could trouble her. So great was her joy in serving the Lord that she once exclaimed: "They say that we are too poor, but can a heart which possesses the infinite God be truly called poor?"                                    
Many stories and allegorical tales have been created with St Francis and St Clare, including the popular movie and phrase “Brother Sun, Sister Moon.” But the fact is that both St Clare and St Francis laid a foundation for what to become one of the most influential orders of priests, friars and sisters, the Franciscans. Many other Orders splintered from the original Franciscans, but the foundation of each group remained always a life of poverty and good Christian example, a life detached from the materialism of this world.

The Poor Clares at St Julian's Monastery, Malta
In my hometown of St Julian’s, Malta, there is a monastery of cloistered nuns, St Clare’s Monastery and they have had the respect and admiration of everyone who gets to know them. I’ve served and said many Masses in their chapel, they crafted my priestly chasubles, and other vestments and have been close to my family, in prayer and support that both of us needed. This is what they say on their website: “We are an enclosed contemplative fraternity of Poor Clare sisters whose monastery is in Regional Road, St Julian’s. Our life is centered on daily prolonged silent prayer, the celebration of the Holy Eucharist and Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. As contemplatives we dedicate more time to praise of God. Our deep spiritual life enables us to enter deeply into silent conversation with Him. Meditation on the Scripture, as well as other spiritual reading, provides the foundation for this prayer.”

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