The liturgical calendar is full of holy days and feast days, marks the seasons and commemorates the heroes. This weekend brings the Feast of St. Clare of Assisi, and that opens up so many possibilities. She was more than a medieval Italian matriarch, and she left her mark on the church as a testimony to the many other women who miraculously did the same in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. She exemplifies today’s ideals of mindfulness and simplicity, and she had the wherewithal to support the dreams of others while conscientiously pursuing her own call.
She asked of herself, and of others, the courage to put God first in life. She heard the Gospel message and embraced it in her own world, the historical context of her own life. In doing that, she invites women of this century to do the same. While she worked within the parameters of an established system and unique time period, she pushed the envelope in creative and challenging ways.
She trusted the movement of the Spirit in Francis of Assisi and his life, and she was able to share the depth of her faith and vision with a community. In other words, she was incredibly attentive to the presence of God in the world and sensitive to the whisper of his presence. She was able to make radical choices without judging others or demanding the same of them. She was confident and unafraid, and she was able to be both confide and be confidant in sharing all that. She exemplified the importance of community living.
She focused on the reality of the Eucharist and famously held the monstrance in defense of her sisters. In that, she wordlessly invites the world to the quiet moment, the time apart the restless busy-ness of the world. She centered her life on what truly mattered for her. She sought simplicity and dependence on God and pursued that relentlessly with the deep assurance that it was simply the right thing to do. Her conscientious pursuit of all that was rewarded with papal approbation on her deathbed. All that encourages fidelity to the search for meaning in life.
Her writings are short and to the point, letters which linked her to those who were so precious to her and by extension, to those who take the time to read them. She speaks of attentiveness, of fidelity and simplicity with strength and conviction. In a sense, she draws back the curtain and reveals that it is possible to live life fully aware of something so much greater than self.
Her tiny habit, preserved in Assisi and on display in Santa Chiara, seems almost child-size. It belies the person, the woman she was and the woman she remains in the life of the church. She is an example, a model for the 21st century. Living her faith in her own time, she invites the same for today. Practicing prayer on a daily basis, she encourages the building of meaningful relationship with God and with others. Living simply, she shows what can be done in the life of one person. And over the centuries, she is reminding new generations of what is possible.