It’s late afternoon here in the Northeast of the USA and I might normally skip the daily blog post on a day this far spent but today is the feast of St. Clare and I want to say a word (or more) about her.
Clare was only 15 years old when she escaped her home against her parents’ will and begged Francis of Assisi to accept her as a member of his small band of itinerant monks. Clare’s parents dragged her away, locking her in the house, but she was having none of it. She sneaked out under cover of darkness, went to Francis and made him cut off her beautiful hair as a symbol of her desire to renounce all worldly things to serve God.
The stories of Francis and Clare have been romanticized in movies and books, but the reality is that Francis installed Clare in the church of San Damiano where she remained all her life and saw him rarely. After her first “falling in love with God” years, life for her was very circumscribed, daily and desperately poor. She rarely left San Damiano; her living was in every moment and her focus was on God. Here is what she says:
Happy is the person who clings with all her heart to our Lord and shares in God’s sacred banquet. God is the one whose kindness electrifies, whose contemplation refreshes, whose love satisfies, whose joy replenishes, whose celebration illuminates the world, whose fragrance resurrects the dead, whose splendid vision blesses, whose eternal glory shines, whose everlasting light burns brightest, whose mirror reflects all things flawlessly.
One could spend a very long time reflecting on those phrases. Clare spent almost 45 years doing so in quiet contemplation and communal prayer with her Sisters in community. In her later years she was visited by all manner of people, including bishops and other high officials who sought her counsel. For almost 800 years her simple message has endured and her advice to us speaks again of God’s Mirror: Look into that mirror each and every day. Study your face in it forever. Then you will put on the most beautiful clothes and wear them and every one of virtue’s flowers, because happy poverty, holy humility and indescribable kindness are reflected in that Mirror as you contemplate them there.