Skip to comments.Sunday, 12/12/18: [Catholic Caucus] Saint Clare, Virgin (Gueranger)
Posted on 08/11/2018 7:47:59 AM PDT by CMRosary
THE SAME YEAR in which St. Dominic, before making any project with regard to his sons, founded the first establishment of the Sisters of his Order, the companion destined for him by heaven received his mission from the Crucifix in the church of St. Damian, in these words: “Go, Francis, repair my house which is falling to ruin.” The new patriarch inaugurated his work, as Dominic had done, by preparing a dwelling for his future daughters, whose sacrifice might obtain every grace for the great Order he was about to found. The house of the Poor Ladies occupied the thoughts of the seraph of Assisi, even before St. Mary of the Portiuncula, the cradle of the Friars Minor. Thus, for a second time this month, Eternal Wisdom shows us that the fruit of salvation, though it may seem to proceed from the word and from action, springs first from silent contemplation.
Clare was to Francis the help like unto himself, who begot to the Lord that multitude of heroic virgins and illustrious penitents soon reckoned by the Order in all lands, coming from the humblest condition and from the steps of the throne. In the new chivalry of Christ, Poverty, the chosen Lady of St. Francis, was to be the queen also of her whom God had given him as a rival and a daughter. Following to the utmost limits the Man-God humbled and stripped of all things for us, she nevertheless felt that she and her sisters were already queens in the kingdom of heaven: “In the little nest of poverty,” she used to say, “what jewel could the bride esteem so much as conformity with a God possessing nothing, become a little One whom the poorest of mothers wrapped in humble swathing bands and laid in a narrow crib?” And she bravely defended against the highest authorities the privilege of absolute poverty, which the great Pope Innocent III feared to grant. Its definitive confirmation, obtained two days before the Saint’s death, came as the long-desired reward of forty years of prayer and suffering for the Church of God.
This noble daughter of Assisi had justified the prophecy, whereby sixty years previously, her mother Hortulana had learned that the child would enlighten the world; the choice of the name given her at her birth had been well inspired. “Oh! how powerful was the virgin’s light,” said the sovereign Pontiff in the Bull of her Canonization; “how penetrating were her rays! She hid herself in the depth of the cloister, and her brightness transpiring filled the house of God.” From her poor solitude which she never quitted, the very name of Clare seemed to carry grace and light everywhere, and made far-off cities yield fruit to God and to her father, St. Francis.
Embracing the whole world where her virginal family was being multiplied, her motherly heart overflowed with affection for the daughters she had never seen. Let those who think that austerity embraced for God’s sake dries up the soul read these lines from her correspondence with Blessed Agnes of Bohemia. Agnes, daughter of Ottacar I, had rejected the offer of an imperial marriage to take the religious Habit, and was renewing at Prague the wonders of St. Damian’s. “O my mother and my daughter,” said our Saint, “if I have not written to you as often as my soul and yours would wish, be not surprised: as your mother’s heart loved you, so do I cherish you; but messengers are scarce, and the roads full of danger. As an opportunity offers today, I am full of gladness, and I rejoice with you in the joy of the Holy Ghost. As the first Agnes united herself to the immaculate Lamb, so it is given to you, O fortunate one, to enjoy this union (the wonder of heaven) with him, the desire of whom ravishes every soul; whose goodness is all sweetness, whose vision is beatitude, who is the light of the eternal light, the mirror without spot! Look at yourself in this mirror, O queen! O bride! unceasingly by its reflection enhance your charms; without and within adorn yourself with virtues; clothe yourself as beseems the daughter and the spouse of the supreme King. O beloved, with your eyes on this mirror, what delight it will be given you to enjoy in the divine grace! … Remember, however, your poor Mother, and know that for my part your blessed memory is for ever graven on my heart.”
Not only did the Franciscan family benefit by a charity which extended to all the worthy interests of this world. Assisi, delivered from the lieutenants of the excommunicated Frederick II and from the Saracen horde in his pay, understood how a holy woman is a safeguard to her earthly city. But our Lord loved especially to make the princes of holy Church and the Vicar of Christ experience the humble power, the mysterious ascendancy, wherewith he had endowed his chosen one. St. Francis himself, the first of all, had in one of those critical moments known to the Saints, sought from her direction and light for his seraphic soul. From the ancients of Israel, there came to this virgin, not yet thirty years old, such messages as this: “To his very dear Sister in Jesus Christ, to his mother the Lady Clare, handmaid of Christ, Hugolin of Ostia, unworthy bishop and sinner. Ever since the hour when I had to deprive myself of your holy conversation, to snatch myself from that heavenly joy, such bitterness of heart causes my tears to flow, that if I did not find at the feet of Jesus the consolation which his love never refuses, my mind would fail and my soul would melt away. Where is the glorious joy of that Easter spent in your company and that of the other handmaids of Christ? … I knew that I was a sinner; but at the remembrance of your supereminent virtue, my misery overpowers me, and I believe myself unworthy ever to enjoy again that conversation of the Saints, unless your tears and prayers obtain pardon for my sins. I put my soul, then, into your hands; to you I intrust my mind, that you may answer for me on the day of judgment. The Lord Pope will soon be going to Assisi; Oh! that I may accompany him, and see you once more! Salute my sister Agnes (i.e. St. Clare’s own sister and first daughter in God); salute all your sisters in Christ.”
The great Cardinal Hugolin, though more than eighty years of age, became soon after Gregory IX. During his fourteen years’ pontificate, which was one of the most brilliant as well as most laborious of the thirteenth century, he was always soliciting Clare’s interest in the perils of the Church, and the immense cares which threatened to crush his weakness. For, says the contemporaneous historian of our Saint, Luke Wadding: “He knew very well what love can do, and that virgins have free access to the sacred court: for what could the King of heaven refuse to those, to whom he has given himself?”
At length her exile, which had been prolonged twenty-seven years after the death of Francis, was about to close. Her daughters beheld wings of fire over her head and covering her shoulders, indicating that she to had reached seraphic perfection. On hearing that a loss which so concerned the whole Church was imminent, the Pope, Innocent IV, came from Perugia with the Cardinals of his suite. He imposed a last trial on the Saint’s humility, by commanding her to bless, in his presence, the bread which had been presented for the blessing of the sovereign Pontiff; heaven approved the invitation of the Pontiff and the obedience of the Saint, for no sooner had the virgin blessed the loaves than each was found to be marked with a cross.
A prediction that Clare was not to die without receiving a visit from the Lord surrounded by his disciples was now fulfilled. The Vicar of Jesus Christ presided at the solemn funeral rites paid by Assisi to her who was its second glory before God and men. When they were beginning the usual chants for the dead, Innocent would have had them substitute the Office for holy Virgins; but on being advised that such a canonization, before the body was interred, would be considered premature, the Pontiff allowed them to continue the accustomed chants. The insertion, however, of the Virgin’s name in the catalogue of the Saints was only deferred for two years.
The following lines are consecrated by the Church to her memory:
O Clare, the reflection of the Spouse which adorns the Church in this world no longer suffices thee; thou now beholdest the light with open face. The brightness of the Lord plays with delight in the pure crystal of thy soul, increasing the happiness of heaven, and giving joy this day to our valley of exile. Heavenly beacon, with thy gentle shining enlighten our darkness. May we, like thee, by purity of heart, by uprightness of thought, by simplicity of gaze, fix upon ourselves the divine ray, which flickers in a wavering soul, is dimmed by our waywardness, is interrupted or put out by a double life divided between God and the world.
Thy life, O Virgin, was never thus divided. The most high poverty, which was thy mistress and guide, preserved thy mind from that bewitching of vanity which takes off the bloom of all true goods for us mortal.s Detachment from all passing things kept thine eye fixed upon eternal realities; it opened thy soul to that seraphic ardor wherein thou didst emulate thy father Francis. Like the Seraphim, whose gaze is ever fixed on God, thou hadst immense influence over the earth; and St. Damian’s, during thy lifetime, was a source of strength to the world.
Deign to continue giving us thine aid. Multiply thy daughters; keep them faithful in following their Mother’s example, so as to be a strong support to the Church. May the various branches of the Franciscan family be ever fostered by thy rays, and may all Religious Orders be enlightened by thy gentle brightness. Shine upon us all, O Clare, and show us the worth of this transitory life and of that which never ends.
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