An amazing story unfolds...
A Lamp Lit…
Almost 800 years ago, on Palm Sunday evening in the year 1212, a young
girl from an aristocratic Umbrian family dramatically fled her family home
under cover of darkness to join Francis of Assisi and his brothers. In the
valley below the town of Assisi in the tiny church Francis had repaired after
his conversion, she met them. She was ritually welcomed into this family of
brothers, and promised herself, that very night, to God. Her hair was cut and
she was clothed in the simple tunic that identified her as part of the group, the
minores - the ‘little ones’. Clare di Offreduccio, later known simply as Clare of
Assisi, risked everything that night to respond to the compelling call to seek
God, to leave everything behind – status, security, family name, home, wealth
- for the one thing necessary.
Wealthy and beautiful, this lady Clare could have had her choice of suitors.
However, over a comfortable and prosperous lifestyle, Clare chose the rigors
of an enclosed convent living. Her decision seemed irrational to her family,
but Clare understood that God had a different vision for her life, one with real
costs but filled with innumerable graces as well. As Jesus promised, she
‘lost’ her life but ‘found’ it in him. (Matthew 10:39)
Clare sought a manner of living that was relational, a search for God and the
Spirit that was honest, simple, poor, rigorous, gentle, sometimes extreme,
joyful, a way of peace based in mutuality and respect that emanated from the
primary spiritual experience of Jesus as Incarnate. This was life in the Trinity.
For Francis and for Clare, the Christ-life was an embodied life and the only
way into the Christ-life, the gospel life, was through poverty.
Clare was fully aware of what she had lost and what she was gaining. In a
letter to Agnes of Prague, princess of Bohemia, who had abandoned earthly
honours to join Clare’s new order, she told: ‘What a great, praiseworthy
exchange: to leave the things of time for those of eternity, to choose the
things of heaven rather than the goods of earth, to receive the hundredfold in
place of one, and to possess a blessed and eternal life’.
The myriad of attractions of the world tempt us to stray from the life that Jesus offers
us. Even if they don’t persuade us to give up, they can stir up dissatisfaction in us.
Too often we see more clearly the tangible things we are relinquishing than the less
tangible joy of life in Christ. Without an intimate relationship with Jesus, without his
nourishment and consolation, we simply cannot put our lives aside. But immersed in
his love, we really can find ourselves in the life that God offers. That is what Saint
Clare of Assisi discovered!
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