Tuesday, October 4, 2022

Homilies

St. Clare of Assisi
Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M.
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St. Clare of Assisi

Homily for the Feast of St. Clare

Any reading of the history of humankind will reveal that much of human existence is spent in the pursuit of glory. We see this reflected in the life of St. Francis who desired to distinguish himself as a knight whose glory lay in his prowess in combat. We see it also revealed in the life of St. Paul who, before his encounter with Christ on the road to Damascus, sought glory in distinguishing himself as one who upheld the Jewish faith and way of life. Men and women of every walk of life have pursued glory in some way or another, seeking to be remembered in the history of humankind. This is particularly true of the people of the Mediterranean world whose entire existence was driven by the need for honor and glory and the avoidance of shame or dishonor.

One person who does not pursue personal glory is the woman that we honor today, St. Clare of Assisi. While St. Francis became a great saint, his holiness was the result of a radical conversion of life. On the other side of the spectrum, we find that holiness was already clearly evident in the life of St. Clare. While the two of these great saints from Assisi were instrumental in establishing a movement that eventually changed the way of life in the Middle Ages, St. Clare came to this movement as a woman who was already steeped in the life of charity and intense prayer. When she gave up her life as a noblewoman of her family line, her conversion of life involved a deepening of her already evident holiness. By her example, she led many other women in the pursuit of the privilege of poverty which brought glory to a life already characterized by charity and prayer.

In the Second Letter to the Corinthians, we hear the familiar words, “We hold a treasure in earthen vessels to make it clear that it’s surpassing power comes from God and not from us.” The person or committee that shows this reading for this feast day must have had St. Clare’s name in mind, for the Latin word from which her name is derived “clarior,” means more clear or clearer. Indeed, St. Clare was a clear light burning brightly in the city of Assisi. Though not the head of her family, she imbued her sisters, mother, and servants with all the virtues that she possessed. As they spent their time with their needlework, she led them in prayer. They also prepared bandages for the sick and for the lepers of that region. Her charity and life of prayer became their charity and life of prayer. Is it any wonder that many of these women, her mother, her sisters, and the servants of her home, followed her to San Damiano shortly after her own decision to join her cousin Francis in the pursuit of God’s glory, rather than human glory.

Name any virtue, and it will not be difficult to find it exemplified in the life of St. Clare of Assisi. They almost came naturally. It was not necessary for her to be compelled to care for her sisters, to look after those unfortunate lepers, to feed the hungry, and to pursue the privilege of poverty which marks her Rule of Life. As we celebrate her today, we ourselves hunger for the kind of connection that this little plant had with Jesus, the vine, and Francis, her inspiration.

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