Saturday, August 11, 2012

Loving support

     In the late 1100's in a small town in the Umbrian mountians of Italy called Assisi, a tremendous conversion took place in a wealthy young man.  He renounced everything that others had given him and he relied in great simplicity on the providence of God.  He began a monumental spiritual awakening and transformation of the Church at the invitation of the Lord to "rebuild my Church".  He became known, very simply, as Francis of Assisi.

     In the early days of his conversion, as he listened to the message of the Gospel and proclaimed that message by words and actions, he would often preach in the square before the "new" cathedral church.  Living just off of that square, and listening intently, was a young woman by the name of Clare.  His words touched her heart, his example moved her deeply, and she probably became infatuated with Francis and his way of simplicity, which led her to fall more deeply in love with the Lord.   Soon she wanted to dedicate her life to the Lord, and approached Francis regarding entering Religious Life.  He took her to the Benedictine Sisters, who welcomed her and began the process.

    Mom, dad and brothers were outraged, and forcefully took her home and set watch over her.  Determined, she escaped and returned to the convent.  Eventually she stayed, eventually she accepted the simple life of Francis and founded the Poor Clares, eventually she and her Sisters took over the small church that Francis had rebuilt - San Damiano -  and established a community of women religious.  She became a spiritual powerhouse in her own right, and was always faithful and loyal to Francis, providing loving support.

     Clare's body is found in the Basilica of Saint Clare in Assisi, as is the image of Christ on the cross that spoke to Francis at San Damiano.  Clare is one of those saints called "incorruptible".  After 800 years, her body remains intact.  On my first visit to Assisi I saw her remains, dressed in her habit.  At that time her face was not covered (now it is by a wax mask with beautiful facial features).  It had a "mummified" texture to the face, but you could clearly see the facial features.  Not bad for someone over 800 years old.  Francis is nothing but bones ... oh, the power of women.  You could also see the locks of her hair that had been cut when she entered religious life.  It was amazing.  I have include a picture of the square directly in front of Sancta Chiara Basilica from one of my visits.

     I mention this today, because the Church honors Clare of Assisi on this date.

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