“Her life was an instruction and a lesson to others.”
—Papal Decree of Canonization
When we look back at the life of St. Clare, it’s easy for us to see how everything she did provides a lesson and example to us. She didn’t set out to be a model of faith. At the time, she was only living out what she saw as a call to serve God simply, humbly, and obediently. Knowing her actions would bring others closer to Christ would have brought her even more joy.
Gaze | Consider | Contemplate | Imitate
“Gaze daily upon the mirror of the cross,” Clare writes to Agnes. How is it possible that a suffering, crucified figure on a cross can be the object of our heart’s desire and the center of transformative love? Does this not defy every Western cultural claim to life, beauty, joy, and happiness?
Yet, Clare is not promoting superficial piety. In our contemporary jargon, she “gets it,” she understands the meaning of the cross. She does not understand the cross according to scientific, rational knowledge, as if she might have “figured out” the cross or solved its mystery like a puzzle.
Rather, she understands it with her heart. Gazing upon the cross leads to that penetrating insight where the mind discovers its limits and yields to the heart. Knowledge may take us to the threshold of God but love enters into the mystery. Clare, like many of the saints, understood the power of God in the midst of weak humanity. She, like other saints, realized that only God can bring forth life from death.
As Paul states, “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile, and you are still in your sins” (1 Corinthians 15:17). Clare’s insight into the power of God in the midst of suffering and death turns her heart toward Christ crucified in whom she sees the promise of life:
O holy poverty,
God promises the kingdom of heaven. . .
to those who possess and desire you.
–from Clare of Assisi: A Heart Full of Love
We thank you for all that you have taught us
through your life and utter devotion to Christ.
May those lessons embolden our faith.