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asandomianoSome years ago I had the privilege of visiting the town of Assisi in Italy. The visit was brief and the focus was, as one might think, the holy places associated with St. Francis. It was an extraordinary six hours, and I often long to return for a longer visit. One of my most vivid memories, however, was not of the places and stories of Francis alone – although those remain as well – but of walking down the path to the Church of San Damiano. Somehow, the olive trees that lined the path seemed to shimmer in the sunlight as if they were saying to me, “Pay attention, for this place you are approaching is extraordinarily holy.” San Damiano became the home of St. Clare and her followers in 1212 and she never left but died there on August 11, 1253. The intense holiness of the saint and her Sisters, who lived a poor and very simple life of prayer, can be felt in the walls of the refectory, in the oratory where they prayed and the dormitory where a cross marks the spot of Clare’s death. What, one wonders, creates such a living vibration in a place where life was so “daily?” Intention and motivation, I suspect. A famous quote of St. Clare gives a hint of an answer.

We become what we love, she says, and what we love shapes what we become. If we love things, we become a thing. If we love nothing, we become nothing. Imitation is not a literal mimicking of Christ, rather it means becoming the image of the beloved, an image disclosed through transformation. This means we are to become vessels of God’s compassionate love for others.