eng locOn April 16, 2011, with Evening Prayer I of Palm Sunday, the 8th Centenary of the Consecration of St. Clare along with the Founding of the Order of Poor Clares were both inaugurated in Assisi, Italy.  It began with a celebrative act at the Cathedral of Saint Rufino, the site where the Bishop of Assisi 800 yrs ago handed a palm to the virgin Clare on Palm Sunday.  Right on that same square of the Cathedral also stood her house.  Then, the following day, on Holy Monday, St. Clare, the Little Plant of St. Francis fled to the hermitage of St. Mary of the Angels in order to be consecrated to the Lord through Br. Francis.

From that same square our celebration continued with a candle light procession and in song attended by the Friars Minor, Religious, and the laity all the way to the Porziuncola.  The procession was mingled with readings from the life, writings, and letters of St. Clare done at different Monasteries of the Poor Clares of the city of Assisi, especially at the Basilica of St. Clare which holds her mortal remains.

Upon arriving at the Basilica of the Porziuncola, the Minister General of the Order of Friars Minor, Br. Jose Rodriguez Carballo, OFM, took a relic of the Saint and delivered a homily.  He spoke about how God, at the Porziuncola, raised both the Order of Friars Minor and the Order of St. Clare, so as to live the Holy Gospel.  The Minister General went on to give thanks to God for sister Clare of Assisi whom he described as a free woman in love with Christ, a new woman, a Christian woman, and a “handmaid” of Christ.  Furthermore, as he lifted up his petitions to the Lord, the General wished everyone that this Centenary would be a special time for all the Poor Clares to know and live out their vocation better, so that they may be signs in the transcendent world of the love of God; that all the Friars Minor may intensify their fraternal rapport with the Poor Clares; and that all men and women may admire, not only Clare, but also find in her an example of total union with Christ.

Return to your first love (Cf. 2Ag 11). Opening of the VIII Centenary of the Founding of the Order of Poor Clares at the Porziuncola, Saint Mary of the Angels, 16 April 2011.

Dearest Brothers and Sisters, May the Lord give you Peace!

Magnificat anima mea DominumIt is in the name of the Lord and with deep heartfelt joy and fraternal communion with all the Poor Clares that we open today the VIII centenary of the Consecration of Clare and, therefore, of the Founding of her Order.

We do so as we recall that luminous night when the young Clare abandoned the miserable vanity of that century by leaving behind “house, city, and family” – as she herself confessed in her Testament (cf. Test 8).  She did so in order to espouse Christ “before the Altar of Mary” (LCl 8); embrace the way of life Francis indicated to her (Test 5); and which later on the “Lord Pope” Innocent IV blessed by approving the Rule of the Order of these Poor Sisters.  We do this here at the Porziuncola where 800 years ago the Virgin Clare was received by Francis and his early companions, a gesture which, to this day, we relive with deep meaning as we welcome this venerable relic of the Little Plant of Francis (Rule 1,3).  It is here, through her consecration to the Poor and Crucified Christ, where the Order of Poor Sisters bloomed, instituted by St. Francis as one who “founded, planted, and supported” them (cf. Test 48).  It is here, moreover, that the Orders of both the Friars Minor and St. Clare were born, so that it can been seen that the Mother of Mercy gave birth to both of them in her dwelling (Legend of St. Clare 8).

Magnificat anima mea Dominum. Our hearts and our lips break forth with praise to the Father of Mercies for having inspired Francis to live according to the form of the Holy Gospel (cf. Test 14) and for having called Clare years later and her “little flock whom the Most High Father gave birth to in the Holy Church through the word and example of our Blessed Father Francis” (Test 46), in order “to observe the holy Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ by living in obedience, without property, and in chastity” (Rule 1,1).  At the same time, we give thanks to the Lord for having called many brothers to live the Gospel in the Franciscan Way of Life and many virgin Poor Clares to live the two fundamental notes of the Franciscan/Clarian Charism as indicated either by it name, i.e, Poor Clares, or by the Bull of Approval of the Rule, entitled, Unity in Charity and Highest Poverty, with Clare, the daughter of Ortolana (cf. LCl 1), as “Mother and Mistress” (cf. Preface of the Feast of St. Clare) who is bright by name and even more so by virtue” (LCl 1).

Magnificat anima mea Dominum for the gift of Clare, a woman who was both free and in love.  The gesture which happened 800 years ago, which we recall today, was marked not only a break from a way of life that is described in the Legend as a “withering and false flower of worldliness” (LCl 4), but also and more so, marked the beginning of a path of total freedom.  This path of total freedom was trodden under the guidance of Francis, who was her “pillar”, “her sole consolation after God”, and the “support” of the Poor Sisters (Test 38; cf LCl 6) until the journey was completed after the “long martyrdom of a serious illness” (LCl 44), “when the temple of the flesh was undone”, and the soul departed well escorted and “rewarded with eternal laurels” in eternal bliss (cf. LCl 46).  At that moment, Clare was truly a free woman.

Since her youth, Clare was drawn by the Spirit, led into the desert where she heard his voice (cf. Hos 2, 14ss), thus discovering his beauty there.  She thus allowed herself to be conquered by the “most beautiful among the children of men” (IICl 20), espousing him forever (Hos 2, 21), and entrusting herself fully to him who gave himself fully to us – as Francis would say (Lord 37).  United to Christ like the branch is to the vine (cf. Jn 15, 4ss), she no longer sees or thinks of anyone else, for her “mind and heart” (cf. IIICl 12-13) are constantly turned toward the Lord (cf. IVCl 15).  Such is the fascination of Clare with Christ, her Spouse with whom she is deeply in love and outside of whom she wishes to contemplate no other.  Christ, for her, is the Spouse of a nobler lineage (ICl 7), whose appearance is more beautiful (ICl 9), whose beauty all the blessed hosts of the heavens unceasingly admire, and whose glorious vision will bless all the citizens of the heavenly Jerusalem (IVCl 10. 13).

Seduced by such beauty, she could not help but write yesterday to Agnes and today to each one of us, saying, “gaze attentively…, consider…, contemplate…” (IVCl 19. 22. 28), “hold fast…see…yearn to follow Christ” (II 18. 20), whose love “makes us happy” (IVCl 11) and “transforms your entire being into the image of the Divine One himself (IIICl 13).  It is clear that Clare’s gaze on Christ is the gaze of a bride toward the bridegroom; it is the gaze of a woman deeply in love, in her case, in love with Christ, the “most beautiful among men”, who became the most vile of men for our salvation (IICl 19).

At this discovery, how can we not hurry on the night of Palm Sunday of 1211 (cf. ICl 8) and embrace the highest poverty?  At such a discovery, what importance does any trial have?  When Br. Rainaldo was inviting her to patience for her sufferings caused by her illness, Clare responded, “Ever since I came to know the grace of Jesus Christ, my Lord, through his servant Francis, no pain has been too burdensome, no penance too heavy, and no illness too unbearable, my dear brother” (Letter of St. Clare 44).  At such a discovery, how can she not resist with firm perseverance to the impetuous violence of family members who sought in vain to dissuade her from her purpose? (cf. LCl 9).  At such a discovery, how can we not be amazed here, in the Porziuncula, where she rejected the “allurings of Babylon”, “fled the world”, “allowed her hair to be cut off by the hand of the Friars, and abandoned her adornments forever”?  This was the strength of the love which she felt for the poor and crucified Christ, which enabled Clare not to vacillate in her spirit or lessen in her fervor, or let herself be snatched from both the service of Christ and her quest for sanctity (cf. LCl 9).  In the life of Clare and of every believer, according to the measure in which Christ gradually takes possession of the heart, everything else is of no account (cf. 2Cor 4, 7ss).

Clare, then, is a woman free and in love; Clare, a Christian woman as St. Francis called her; Clare, a new woman as Celano called her.  In fact, in one of her letters to St. Agnes, she wrote, “If you suffer with him, with him you will reign.  If you weep with him, with him you will rejoice.  If you die with him on the Cross of Tribulation, with him you will possess the heavenly dwelling in the splendor of the saints” (IICl 21).  Hence, to suffer with, to condole with, and to die with leads to reigning with, rejoicing with, and possessing with.  Urged by the example of Clare, then, we, too, walk in her footsteps with that same drive and enthusiasm, “with swift steps” (IICl 12) and without letting ourselves be covered with “any shadow of melancholy” (IIICl 11).

Clare, “the handmaid of Christ” (IIICl 2), mother of innumerable daughters, sister and mistress of all of us, left us a great heritage to be appreciated with a grateful and willing heart, so that we may also become truly free out of love for our Lord Jesus Christ.  This heritage, moreover, is about becoming daily true Christians who, in imitation of Clare, place themselves before the mirror so as to become a mirror ourselves for others.

May this Centenary lead the Poor Clares to deepen both their understanding of their own vocation as Clare asked when she said, “know your vocation well” (Test 4)!  May they also deepen the spiritual, nuptial, and mystical experience of Clare in such a way that they, too, live out their own experience each day with greater intensity and be in the world witnesses of both the transcendent and limitless love of the Father of Mercies for us!

May this Centenary aid all the Friars Minor and members of the Franciscan Family to live a deep fraternal relationship with the Poor Clares!  We need one another: the brothers need the sisters and the sisters the brothers.  The Lord, Francis and Clare, all three have thought of us and have willed this complementarity between us.

May this Centenary awaken in all men and women of good will, not only the admiration for the Little Plant of Francis as a “clear mirror of example” (Bull of Canonization, 3), but also strengthen the desire to imitate her adhesion to Christ who “became our life” and of whom our blessed father Francis taught (Test 5)!

May the intercession of the Queen of Angels, Francis, and Clare obtain for us from the Most High, Omnipotent, and Good Lord, the grace of being men and women who are free from all that separates us from our Lord Jesus Christ!

  • http://www.ofm.org/ofm/wp-content/themes/outoforder/images/PostBullets.png); margin-top: 0.5em; margin-right: 0px; margin-bottom: 0.3em; margin-left: 1em; color: rgb(117, 117, 92); background-repeat: no-repeat no-repeat; ">Clare, Christian Woman, obtain for us from the Lord the gift of a faith in him that involves who we are.  May it be the source of our joy, hope, discipleship of Christ and of our witness in the world!
  • http://www.ofm.org/ofm/wp-content/themes/outoforder/images/PostBullets.png); margin-top: 0.5em; margin-right: 0px; margin-bottom: 0.3em; margin-left: 1em; color: rgb(117, 117, 92); background-repeat: no-repeat no-repeat; ">Clare, New Woman, obtain for us from Him who became our way the gift of true conversion and belief in the Gospel, so as to follow Jesus Christ with a life that is deeply evangelical and thus become new persons ourselves.
  • http://www.ofm.org/ofm/wp-content/themes/outoforder/images/PostBullets.png); margin-top: 0.5em; margin-right: 0px; margin-bottom: 0.3em; margin-left: 1em; color: rgb(117, 117, 92); background-repeat: no-repeat no-repeat; ">Clare, Little Plant of Francis, obtain for us from your Spouse the gift of knowing how to be persons free from every form of idolatry and slavery, so that each one may live passionately for Christ and humanity in accordance with his/her vocation as Francis and you lived out your vocations.
  • http://www.ofm.org/ofm/wp-content/themes/outoforder/images/PostBullets.png); margin-top: 0.5em; margin-right: 0px; margin-bottom: 0.3em; margin-left: 1em; color: rgb(117, 117, 92); background-repeat: no-repeat no-repeat; ">Clare, Mother and Sister, watch over us constantly with our Blessed Father Francis!  Watch constantly over your brothers and sisters, so that, with creative fidelity, we, too, at every moment and circumstance, as disciples of Jesus, missionaries, witnesses, and bearers of the Gospel to every part of the earth.  Fiat! Fiat! Amen!

Br. José Rodriguez Carballo, ofm