Perfection of the Holy Gospel
In the sixth chapter of her Rule, St. Clare bequeathed to
posterity something very precious -- a fragment of the original Form of
Life which St. Francis wrote for her and the first Poor Sisters at the
beginning of their evangelical venture.
The passage begins: Since
by divine inspiration you have made yourselves daughters and handmaids
of the most high sovereign King, the heavenly Father, and have espoused
yourselves to the Holy Spirit by choosing to live according to the
perfection of the Holy Gospel…
Franciscan scholars are quick to point out that the entire Marian
dimension of St. Clare’s spirituality is contained in these words.
Indeed, this passage is a perfect parallel with the antiphon to
Our Lady that St. Francis composed for his devotional Office of the
But there is more.
These words, scholars tell us, also give us the Trinitarian
“key” to the Franciscan-Clarian-Christian life of prayer.
On first reading, it is easy enough to see the references to God
the Father and God the Holy Spirit.
But where, we may ask, is the reference to God the Son?
To answer that question, we need to recall that for the Seraphic
saints the foundation of their lives was to
observe the Holy Gospel.
It was not simply a matter of hearing the Gospel
(although that is very important, especially within the context of the
Nor were St. Francis and St. Clare concerned with merely reading
Neither were they content with only studying the Gospel,
at least in an academic sense.
What St. Francis and St. Clare sought was to observe the
Gospel, or, to use a phrase dear to the Secular Franciscans of today, to
lift the Gospel off the written page and bring it into life.
Because for the Seraphic saints, the Gospel was not primarily something
but Someone -- JESUS CHRIST who is
Himself the Perfection of the Holy
Thus, to live
the perfection of the Holy Gospel is to live Christ.
It is to give Christ flesh
by incarnating the Gospel in our daily lives (Lainati).
It is to bring forth Christ in the Church and in the world.
And in order to live Christ, to bring forth Christ, we must know
Christ, we must observe Christ, we must BEHOLD HIM as the
Perfection of the Holy Gospel.
And, anticipating the conclusion of the Clarian prayer
“formula,” we must desire to imitate Him.
St. Clare of
So fruitful and efficacious is this holy beholding that ever so
gradually, if we are faithfully and humbly responsive to its grace, the
features of Jesus begin to be imprinted upon our lives.
Is it any wonder then that St. Clare exhorted her Sisters, Never let the
thought of Him leave your mind?
Let us then BEHOLD HIM who is the
Perfection of the Holy Gospel in prayer that is grounded and
enriched by His living Word and by His saving example.
This is prayer, as St. Clare well knew, that is truly life-giving
Clare Monastery of Our Lady of Mercy