Clare

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“Clare was a beautiful Italian noblewoman who became the Foundress of an order of nuns now called “Poor Clares.” When she heard St. Francis of Assisi preach, her heart burned with a great desire to imitate Francis and to live a poor humble life for Jesus. So one evening, she ran away from home, and in a little chapel outside Assisi, gave herself to God. St. Francis cut off her hair and gave her a rough brown habit to wear, tied with a plain cord around her waist. Her parents tried in every way to make her return home, but Clare would not.” [-from  Catholic online]

“The nobility is a social class distinguished by high hereditary or honorary rank that possesses privileges, or eminence, and certain rights not granted to members of other classes in a society, such as Commoners. The privileges of the nobility often comprise substantial real advantages, including rights of access, that vary from country to country and era to era. Traditional membership in the nobility is highly regulated by monarchist governments, which grant the ranks and titles to members of the elite. However, the noble class is not a closed order, and throughout history, membership has been perpetually renewed.” [-from Wikipedia]

When Clare decided to follow St. Francis and his little group; she had to renounce,give up, part with certain things; money, wealth, privilege. She left her estate, turned away from a marriage to a nobleman; a marriage that would have guaranteed a continued life of privilege. In life Clare was given quite a bit, yet she renounced her worldly possessions and privileges to live in poverty to follow the way of Francis in following  Jesus Christ. For this inspirational devotion we remember her. While she gave up everything to be a follower of Christ, and her transformation was obvious: is it necessary to “give up” everything to follow Christ? What about those who don’t possess anything to “give up”? Is the only way to renounce earthly possessions to part with them? Many people do not have the privilege that Francis and Claire had, the privilege of making a choice to become poor. They are born poor and have little chance of gaining enough wealth to feed themselves, let alone give enough to the “poor”.Yet many times it is these people do not have faith the size of a mustard seed, they have faith the size of a mountain. Many times it is the faith that these people possess that moves the little mustard seeds of the world, the Claire’s of the world; to sell all they have to possess it. In looking at all that inspires us in St. Clare, what was it that she looked at for inspiration? Was it St. Francis devotion and his preaching that inspired her, or is that what motivated her?  In Francis supposedly it was the sight of a leper, the sight of a crumbling church in the light of an injury that sent him in a new direction and I suppose  through his preaching he could impart his vision on others such as Clare. Perhaps to though what Francis’s preaching did was get Clare to open her own eyes to see those people that possessed  faith the size of a mountain, many times because they possessed little else. Perhaps the inspiration in Clare is not to seek to imitate her, few have that privilege of giving up everything and embracing an austere poverty. The inspiration of Clare might better be realized by actively seeking that which “inspired Clare” to make such a dramatic move; to seek the signs of faith that allow people to move mountains. Many times they are subtle, a quick sign of the cross , quiet prayer or an inconspicuous act of charity; not dramatic but signs that faith is alive in ones life.

During the Olympics, in competition, one such sign was given that I think might have gotten Clare’s approval. It was the 5000 meter women’s track race. At the starting line as the racers prepared for their race one of the runners, an Ethiopian woman quietly made the sign of the cross three times before the gun went off. As the race proceeded this same runner,Meseret Defar ,went about her task of running her race; she is a world class runner who was expected to do well. It was no surprise that Meseret  did indeed win the race, the surprise was what she did immediately after that victory.With her hands still shaking from the race, she tried to undo something from inside her singlet; it was an icon of the Madonna and Child. Thrilled with her victory she held that image up  to the cameras and ran about the track giving thanks for that victory. It seemed that was faith that could move mountains, or at least win a gold medal…

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