(Note: The following post was made previous to my conversion to Eastern Orthodoxy. I very much acknowledge, recognize and understand the problematic nature of Franciscan spirituality in general; however, I remain inspired by the writings of St. Clare in particular.)
Adapted directly and faithfully from Clare’s letter to Ermentrude of Bruges:
Gaze upon Him,
as you desire to imitate Him.
This labor of ours is brief, but the reward is eternal;
do not be disturbed by the clamor of the world, which passes like a shadow;
let the empty specters of the deceiving world not drive you mad;
shut your ears to the whispers of hell and, strong, break down its attempts against you.
Pray and be always vigilant.
Today is the feast day of a Saint that is particularly dear to my heart: St. Clare of Assisi. This post is timely, as M. and I only yesterday discovered the Mount St. Francis Hermitage just outside of town. It’s a 20-30 minute drive, however, but thankfully an ordained Brother makes the journey to St. Mary of the Assumption just a few blocks from us every Sunday to say the Traditional Latin Mass.
St. Clare of Assisi.
Left: After an unknown artist. Right: After a vintage prayer card. From the 2016 series.
St. Clare of Assisi was born in 1194 to the wealthy Favorino Sciffi and his wife Ortolana. It is most likely that Clare was expected to marry a nobleman of similar wealth and prestige- but from a young age, Clare dedicated herself to prayer, and was inspired by the preaching of St. Francis of Assisi. Soon after witnessing him speaking at a Lenten service, Clare left the family home and met Francis in a nearby chapel, where her hair was cut off and she exchanged her gowns for a plain robe and veil.
Initially Clare joined a nearby convent of Benedictine nuns. Later, Francis moved her to a monastery farther away in order to avoid the exhortations of her father that she return home and marry. She was soon joined by her sister Agnes, and the two remained until a place was built for them at San Damiano. After the death of Clare’s father, her mother Ortolana (now Blessed Ortolana of Assisi) joined them as well. More women joined them, and their life of poverty and seclusion led others to refer to them as the “Order of Poor Ladies of San Damiano.”Thus, the Second Order was formed, under the Rule of Life which Francis gave to them.
Clare eventually became the abbess, taking care to defend the order from Popes that would impose a new, less austere rule and lessen their “radical commitment to corporate poverty.” Eventually, Pope Innocent IV declared that Clare’s rule would serve as the governing rule- two days before Clare died. At the request of the Pope, her canonization process began immediately. By 1263, by order of Pope Urban IV, the Order of Poor Ladies was officially changed to the Order of Saint Clare.
St. Clare is often pictured with a monstrance, after the story of her going out to meet attacking soldiers while holding the Blessed Sacrament. She prayed to God to save the Sisters, and lo and behold, the attackers fled, leaving Assisi unharmed.
From Clare’s second letter to Blessed Agnes of Prague:
What you are doing, may you keep on doing
and do not stop.
But with swiftness, agility, and unswerving feet,
may you go forward with joy and security
knowing that you are on the path of wisdom and happiness.
Believe nothing, and agree with nothing
that will turn you away from this commitment.
Nothing should be allowed to prevent you
from offering yourself to the most high
in the perfection
to which the Spirit of God has called you.
Adapted directly and faithfully from her third letter to Blessed Agnes of Prague:
May you cling to his most sweet Mother,
who gave birth to the kind of Son whom the heavens could not contain,
and yet, she carried him in the tiny enclosure of her sacred womb,
and held him on her young girl’s lap.
You can hear some music from the Franciscan Friars, Sisters, and Poor Clares of the Immaculate here. Below are a few pictures from the Friar’s website, including the inside of one of the retreat cabins:
“A Comparison: Francis of Assisi and St. Seraphim of Sarov.” Orthodox Christian Information Center. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Dec. 2017.
Mount Saint Francis Hermitage. Web. 11 Aug. 2017.
“St. Clare – Saints & Angels.” Ed. Catholic Online. Web. 11 Aug. 2017.
Citing this page:
Solomon, Alana. “Let the Empty Specters of the Deceiving World Not Drive You Mad.” Ortolana Studio & Press. Ortolana Studio, 11 August 2017.