Monday, August 5, 2013

Five Illustrious Daughters of St. Clare


I am one of the few souls within the Church who has been blessed enough to not only visit Assisi and see the tomb of the Seraphic Father himself, St. Francis, but also to see the incorrupt body of St. Clare as well.  I have never forgotten the experience.

Given that St. Clare's feast day is soon arriving (if you're new to St. Clare's life, a good starting point is here), and given that she is one of my more well-loved saints (an icon of her hangs on my icon wall), I thought it would be a good idea to show a few examples of her illustrious and royal lineage through the ages - those brides of Christ who followed in her footsteps of holy poverty and total abandonment to Christ.

Not all who occupy this list are necessarily Poor Clares, but all are female saints and blesseds whose lives only caused the world of the Franciscans to shine ever brighter.  

1.  St. Clare of Montefalco

"Our souls are like wood: the more they imbibe the oil of submission and humility the more they are set on fire with divine love."1

I have never forgotten this particular saint, whom I first encountered in the early days of my conversion.  In my insatiable soaking up of all things to do with Christ, the Church, and His saints, I stumbled across this "other St. Clare", who is associated not only with the Franciscans, but also the Augustinians as well.  Though technically an Augustinian later in her religious life for all intents and purposes, she began her journey as a Franciscan tertiary, thus justifying her inclusion on this list.

In depictions of her, I was struck by the bizarre image of Christ placing His Cross into her heart - indeed, after her death, her heart was found to have emblazoned upon it the image of Jesus Crucified.  Though we are called to this, to bear Christ Crucified within us, I wonder how many of us could ever do so in such a true and actual manner.  For the rest of her life, after her mystical experience of Christ placing His Cross within her heart, she was subject to intense suffering and hardship.

St. Clare, in my mind, is an exemplar for our duty as Christians to bear Christ Crucified, to daily meditate on the Passion of our Lord, and to let our lives be ones of imitation of Him.

2.  St. Colette

"We must faithfully keep what we have promised. If through human weakness we fail, we must always without delay arise again by means of holy penance, and give our attention to leading a good life and to dying a holy death."2

One of the more famous saints amongst the order of Poor Clares, St. Colette's life is an incredible one to take the time to read.  A reformer, wonderworker, anchoress, and staunch adherent to the spiritual vision of St. Clare, St. Colette's life was one of incredible hardship.

Denied by several orders, she became a Franciscan tertiary - four years later, after a vision of St. Francis himself telling her to restore the Poor Clare order to its original austerity, she embarked on a sweeping reform of the daughters of St. Clare who had become lax in their observance of their foundresses' original vision.  Not only this, but she aided St. Vincent Ferrer in healing the schism within the Church at the time, with three individuals claiming to be the Vicar of Christ.  In due time, she became the foundress of the branch of the Poor Clares known as the Colettines.

3.  St. Veronica Giuliani

"O sinners... all men and all women, come to Jesus’ heart; come to be cleansed by his most precious blood.... He awaits you with open arms to embrace you."3

St. Veronica was a mystic and Capuchin nun whose life is one of the most remarkable of all the female mystics of the Church.  Notwithstanding this, I rarely ever hear mention of her in the mainstream writings on saints - as to why this is, I haven't a clue.  Her life was marked by intense mystical visions of Christ, as well as the stigmata.  Much like St. Clare of Montefalco, her heart too was found to have the Cross physically impressed upon it.

Despite her being an intense mystic and being subject to such vivid encounters with Christ, St. Veronica was noted for being an exceedingly practical woman - ironically, she did not allow her fellow sisters to read mystical writings!

4.  St. Agnes of Assisi


"I come, O Lord, unto Thy sanctuary to see the life and food of my soul."4

“I come, O Lord, unto Thy sanctuary to see the life and food of my soul. As I hope in Thee, O Lord, inspire me with that confidence which brings me to Thy holy mountain. Permit me, Divine Jesus, to come closer to Thee, that my whole soul may do homage to the greatness of Thy majesty; that my heart, with its tenderest affections, may acknowledge Thine infinite love; that my memory may dwell on the admirable mysteries here renewed every day, and that the sacrifice of my whole being may accompany Thine.” - See more at: http://www.integratedcatholiclife.org/2012/07/daily-quote-from-st-agnes-of-assisi/#sthash.XaEu7Dcg.dpuf
“I come, O Lord, unto Thy sanctuary to see the life and food of my soul. As I hope in Thee, O Lord, inspire me with that confidence which brings me to Thy holy mountain. Permit me, Divine Jesus, to come closer to Thee, that my whole soul may do homage to the greatness of Thy majesty; that my heart, with its tenderest affections, may acknowledge Thine infinite love; that my memory may dwell on the admirable mysteries here renewed every day, and that the sacrifice of my whole being may accompany Thine.” - See more at: http://www.integratedcatholiclife.org/2012/07/daily-quote-from-st-agnes-of-assisi/#sthash.XaEu7Dcg.dpuf
“I come, O Lord, unto Thy sanctuary to see the life and food of my soul. As I hope in Thee, O Lord, inspire me with that confidence which brings me to Thy holy mountain. Permit me, Divine Jesus, to come closer to Thee, that my whole soul may do homage to the greatness of Thy majesty; that my heart, with its tenderest affections, may acknowledge Thine infinite love; that my memory may dwell on the admirable mysteries here renewed every day, and that the sacrifice of my whole being may accompany Thine.” - See more at: http://www.integratedcatholiclife.org/2012/07/daily-quote-from-st-agnes-of-assisi/#sthash.XaEu7Dcg.dpuf
St. Agnes was the younger sister of St. Clare, who had an equally difficult time with following her religious calling.  Much as the devil seeks especially to snatch souls who strive for heaven1, St. Agnes' father sent armed men to force her to return home rather than give herself to a life of religion in the embrace of holy poverty.  However, try as they might, the soldiers who were sent to procure her could not move her, as her entire body became like a leaden weight, nearly impossible to move.  They brutally beat her, and left her in a field after having given up on dragging her back home.  St. Francis himself, inspired by her resistance and staunch refusal to abandon her religious calling, adorned her with the habit that he had likewise given to St. Clare.

St. Agnes was known especially for her kindness and her ability to make even the harshest elements of the rule of life of her and her sisters appear light and attractive.  In this spirit, she fiercely upheld the rule of life that defined the Poor Clares, much like St. Colette who came along roughly two centuries later.  

5.  St. Rose of Viterbo

"Prayer reveals to souls the vanity of earthly goods and pleasures. It fills them with light, strength and consolation; and gives them a foretaste of the calm bliss of our heavenly home."6

St. Rose of Viterbo remains one of my favorite saints of the Church - her life teaches us what amazing feats we can accomplish in a short span of time if only we begin.  Her short life was an exceedingly active one; imagine a young girl such as St. Rose who was able to preach and exhort the people to turn to God with an ability mirroring that of such famous preachers as St. John Chrysostom or St. Vincent Ferrer!  Such was her life, and her courageous nature shines throughout.  One wonders if this young Franciscan tertiary died at such a young age because she had no more work left to do; it is as though she lived an entire lifetime in only 17 years!

In that short time, by her exhortations she brought about the downfall of the corrupt Emperor Frederick II who by his heresies had sought to usurp the authority of the Papacy.  The fire of her zealous words to the people certainly must have been akin to the greatest of the saints who were known for their sermons.

1 - From here.
2 - From her spiritual testament.
3 - Diary, II:16-17
4 - From here.
5 - Bl. Jacobus de Voragine, The Golden Legend, "St. Anthony"
6 - From here.

2 comments:

  1. Thank you for this!

    I just wanted to share that St. Clare of Assisi is my family's patron. It was on her feast that three of our children were baptized, my husband and I received the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony, and I was confirmed and communicated for the first time.

    Amazingly, just this last August on her feast, I was officially transferred from the Roman Catholic Church to the Russian Byzantine Catholic Church. :-D

    She has blessed us yet again with a beautiful gift on her feast. So grateful.

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  2. wow! I didn't know St. Clare produced another 5 saints. this is great.

    ReplyDelete