Saint Clare is this lesser known companion of Saint Francis whose life in some ways surpasses that Seraphic Doctor. Saint Francis’ life was love turned outward towards the world through the blessed prism of Lady Poverty. Saint Clare’s life was the intimate love of the soul alone with its God lived out in a cloistered community of like-minded consecrated women. Love, by the action of grace, is stretched beyond its human limits both outwardly and inwardly. And love, if it remains poor without claiming any dues, can be fully transformed by the divine motion of the Holy Spirit. Saints Francis and Clare were driven to choose lives of radical poverty because the taste of divine love reshaped their entire understanding of what they needed in this world. They came to understand poverty as the way in which their hearts could drink deeply from the fountain of Love. “Blessed are the poor, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.”
Voluntary poverty as the search to live in the Kingdom can only truly become a Christian way of life to the extent that it is supported by faith. It is the act of faith that causes us to draw life from what is invisible. Poverty undertaken as some kind of penance or fanaticism will not lead to the fullness of love and joy of the Kingdom unless faith becomes the main drive. Francis and Clare were led to embrace Lady Poverty by a special grace from the Crucified. They chose Her because His Love shone brightly in Her smile and freedom. We imitate the faith of the Saints, not what they do at a material level. The faith of these Saints led them to embrace something difficult because they discovered the Love of Christ in an extraordinary way. When we are given the grace to discover the Love of Christ, may we also choose even what is difficult in this life so that His Love may bear fruit and draw many hearts to salvation and healing.
CLARE OF ASSISI:
9. Happy, indeed, is she to whom it is given to share this sacred banquet,
10. to cling with all her heart to Him
Whose beauty all the heavenly hosts admire unceasingly,
11. Whose love inflames our love,
Whose contemplation is our refreshment,
Whose graciousness is our joy,
12. Whose gentleness fills us to overflowing,
Whose remembrance brings a gentle light,
13. Whose fragrance will revive the dead,
Whose glorious vision will be the happiness
of all the citizens of the heavenly Jerusalem;1
CAESARIUS OF ARLES:
The entire life of the saints is engaged in this war, for there happens in them what is written: “The flesh lusts against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh.” They, indeed, fight, but they are not overcome. What shall I say about wicked, carnal and dissipated souls who do not struggle but are carried along in subjection? Because they follow willingly, and of their own accord [they] devote themselves to wicked deeds. With such souls the devil does not condescend to fight at all, because they never or only with difficulty oppose his counsels. But with the saints he has daily struggles, because it is written of him, “His food is rich.” This, I repeat, is the life of the saints, and in this war people are always in danger until they die. But what are the saints going to say at the end, that is, in the triumph of victory? “O death, where is your victory?” This will be the word of the triumphant. “O death, where is your sting? The sting of death is sin,” and death arises from its consequences. Sin is like a scorpion: it stings us, and we are dead. But when is it that we may say, “O death, where is your victory?” This is not promised to us in this life but at the resurrection. Then it will be granted to the saints neither to wish to sin nor to be able to do so at all.2
MARTIN OF BRAGA:
Although, in general, this inflation of pride attacks many people, there are none who have to fear it more than those who have reached the perfection of virtues of the spirit or copious riches and highest offices in the flesh. It becomes all the greater in their cases, because the one who shows pride is greater. It is not content to destroy lowly and common people, but it is also present in the wiles of the greatest. The higher their rank, the deeper their fall. Hence Scripture also has this to say about the same spirit of pride: “And his food,” it says, “is rich.” It attacks people who are select and lofty. It suggests to them that they are great, that they need nothing, that whatever they do, think or say is all due to their wisdom and their prudence. If something turns out well for them under God’s direction, they straightaway claim that it was due to their own strength and their own industry, and they shout, “I did this,” “I said it,” “I thought it,” and as if everyone were stunned, they seize the glory of God and offer themselves to be admired in his likeness. By a righteous sentence, God withdraws his protection from them, as the apostle says, “He has given them up to a reprobate sense, so that they do not do or think what is fitting,” because, when they recognize the providence of God in all matters, they do not magnify God or offer thanks, but they boast of themselves and turn aside in their own idle thoughts. Though they claim to be wise, they are foolish; though they boast that they are firm, unconquered, powerful, they are weak, conquered and powerless.3
O truth, you do preside over all things, even those that take counsel with you, and you do answer in the same time all who consult you, however diverse their questions. You do answer clearly, but all do not hear clearly. All seek counsel concerning what they wish, but they do not always hear what they wish. He serves you best who does not so much expect to hear the thing from you that he himself desires, but rather to desire what he hears from you.4
BASIL THE GREAT:
You are perhaps distressed that you are driven outside the walls, but you shall dwell under the protection of the God of heaven. The angel who watches over the church has gone out with you. So they lie down in empty places day by day, bringing upon themselves heavy judgment as seen in the dispersion of the people. And, if in all this there is sorrow to be borne, I trust in the Lord that it will not be without its use to you. Therefore, the more have been your trials, look for a more perfect reward from your last judge. Do not take your present troubles ill. Do not lose hope. Yet a little while and your helper will come to you and will not tarry.5
For it is not simply the enduring of such things that is advantageous, but the bearing of such things for the name of Christ not only with a tranquil mind, even with exultation. For many heretics, deceiving souls under the Christian name, endure many such things; but they are excluded from that reward on this account, that it is not said merely, “Blessed are they which endure persecution,” but it is added, “for righteousness’ sake.” Now, where there is not sound faith, there can be no righteousness, for the just man lives by faith. Neither let schismatics promise themselves anything of that reward; for similarly, where there is no love there cannot be righteousness, for “love works no ill to his neighbor.” And if they had it, they would not tear in pieces Christ’s body, which is the church.6
If every disease and weakness which our Savior cured at that time among the people represents different symptoms in the soul, it stands to reason that by the paralytics are symbolized the palsied in soul, who keep it lying paralyzed in the body. By those who are blind are symbolized those who are blind in respect of things seen by the soul alone, and these are really blind. And by the deaf are symbolized those who are deaf in regard to the reception of the word of salvation. On the same principle it will be necessary that the matters regarding the epileptic should be investigated. This disease attacks those who suffer from it at considerable intervals, during which time he who suffers from it seems in no way to differ from the man in good health, at the season when the epilepsy is not working on him. You will find some souls that are often considered to be healthy suffering from symptoms like these in their chastity and the other virtues. But there comes a time when they are attacked by a kind of epilepsy, and then they seem to fall from their solid foundation and are seized by the deceits and other desires of this world.7
When the Savior says, “O faithless and perverse generation,” he shows that wickedness has entered us through perversity, that it is contrary to nature and makes us perverse. And I think that he was irked at the whole human race on earth for its wickedness. So he said, “How long am I to bear with you?”8
In this chapter the Lord urged us to pray when he said, “Because of your little faith you could not cast out this demon.” For urging us to prayer he thus concluded, “This kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.” If a man prays so that he may throw out someone else’s demon, how much more so that he may cast out his own avarice? How much more so that he may cast out his own drunkenness? How much more so that he may cast out his own dissipation? How much more so that he may cast out his own impurity? How great are the sins in human beings! If they persevere in them, they do not allow them to enter the kingdom of heaven!9
What, then, does Christ say? “Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you.” But if you say “Where did they move a mountain?” I will say that they did things much greater than that in raising up innumerable dead. For moving a mountain and moving death from a body are not at all comparable. After them other saints, far inferior to the disciples, are said to have moved mountains when necessity demanded. It is clear that the disciples also would have done so had necessity demanded. But if there was never need at that time, do not find fault with them.10
- Francis and Clare. (1982). Francis and Clare: The Complete Works. (R. J. Payne, Ed., R. J. Armstrong & I. C. Brady, Trans.) (p. 204). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.
- SERMON 177.3. Ferreiro, A. (2003). Introduction to the Twelve Prophets. In A. Ferreiro (Ed.), The Twelve Prophets (p. 189). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
- ON PRIDE 8. Ferreiro, A. (2003). Introduction to the Twelve Prophets. In A. Ferreiro (Ed.), The Twelve Prophets (p. 189). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
- Confessions 10.26. Ferreiro, A. (2003). Introduction to the Twelve Prophets. In A. Ferreiro (Ed.), The Twelve Prophets (p. 190). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
- LETTER 238. Ferreiro, A. (2003). Introduction to the Twelve Prophets. In A. Ferreiro (Ed.), The Twelve Prophets (p. 191). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
- SERMON ON THE MOUNT 5.13. Ferreiro, A. (2003). Introduction to the Twelve Prophets. In A. Ferreiro (Ed.), The Twelve Prophets (p. 194). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
- COMMENTARY ON MATTHEW 13.4. Simonetti, M. (Ed.). (2002). Matthew 14-28 (pp. 59–60). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
- COMMENTARY ON MATTHEW 13.7. Simonetti, M. (Ed.). (2002). Matthew 14-28 (p. 60). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
- SERMON 80.3. Simonetti, M. (Ed.). (2002). Matthew 14-28 (p. 61). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
- THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW, HOMILY 57.4. Simonetti, M. (Ed.). (2002). Matthew 14-28 (p. 62). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.