and Most Beloved
Rule of St. Clare is the fruit of forty years of enclosed,
contemplative, community living. In its brief pages, we can hear the
voice of St. Clare the discerning legislator and St. Clare the wise
religious formator. We meet St. Clare the abbess and St. Clare the
mother, St. Clare the teacher and even St. Clare the Franciscan
historian. But there are places in her Rule where these voices are
dimmed, and one is privileged to catch a whisper of the
“essential" St. Clare - St. Clare the Mystic, St. Clare the
passionate lover of the Poor Christ.
The end of the second chapter of her Rule is one of these places.
After setting out guidelines for receiving new members into her
community and outlining the plan for their formation, the Lady Clare
declares: For the love of THE MOST
HOLY AND MOST BELOVED CHILD,
in such poor little swaddling clothes and laid in a manger, and of His
most holy Mother, I direct, pray and exhort my Sisters that they be
always clothed in the garments of the lowly.
This, decidedly, is not the way founders of orders usually give
directives concerning the garb their followers are to wear. Yet this
lyrical expression of an otherwise pragmatic instruction gives us a deep
insight not only into St. Clare's understanding of the significance of
the religious habit, but also into her relationship with the Lord who
made Himself poor for our sake.
It is said that only two thoughts occupied the mind of St.
Francis - the humility of the Incarnation and the charity of the
Passion. It is just as true to say that these were the two thoughts that
filled the mind and prayer of St. Clare. If she admonishes her Sisters
to see even the garments they wear as an expression of love for and
identification with JESUS. THE MOST HOLY AND MOST BELOVED CHILD, she
likewise invites them to see their garments as a port of entry into the
mystery of Christ's self-emptying.
the mind of St. Clare, to be always clothed in the garments of the lowly
applies not only to the outward form of one's dress, but even more to
one's interior raiment. Adorn
yourself within and without with beautiful robes and cover yourself with
the flowers and garments of all virtues, St. Clare wrote to St.
Agnes of Prague.
In JESUS, THE MOST HOLY AND MOST BELOVED CHILD, the Seraphic
Mother saw what happened when God took on the lowly garb of human flesh.
He who is THE MOST HOLY AND MOST BELOVED Son of God the Father descended
to earth on a pilgrimage of love and redemption. The more St. Clare
contemplated this mystery, the more she was filled with wonder and
tenderness, love and adoration. This coming of Jesus among us was no
longer simply an event confined to the Christmas season.
The mystery of the Incarnation is meant to touch and transform
every part of every day of a Christian's life. And great things happened
when St. Clare allowed it to touch and transform her life. She did not
even notice, wrote Pope John Paul II, that through her contemplation and
transformation, her womb as a poor virgin attached to the poor Christ
had become a cradle of the Son of God.
St. Clare invites us to join her by the Crib of the Lord, to
behold with her this MOST HOLY AND MOST BELOVED CHILD
in such poor little swaddling clothes. May we know with her what the
heart of Christmas really is -- and bring that Good News to everyone we
Clare Monastery of Our Lady of Mercy