“She would deprive her own body of delicate foods and, sending them secretly through intermediaries, she would nourish the bodies of the poor.” —The Legend of St. Clare
St. Clare was known to fast often, even before she left her family home. During the canonization process, one of her sisters said that Clare would fast three days a week. The other days she would subsist on bread and water. Because of her extreme fasting practices at times, at one point St. Francis had to insist that she eat. When we fast during Lent, do we truly see it as a sacrifice or just a rule to follow? For Clare, the purpose behind her fasting was what drove her actions. What is driving our actions?
Gaze | Consider | Contemplate | Imitate
Clare’s acts of self-denial did not begin after her escape from home. Even as a youngster she exhibited a pattern of giving up her own food or comforts to take care of the needy. Once ensconced in San Damiano she fasted in dramatic ways. It is reported that she ate nothing on several days of each week.
On a Sunday, she would allow herself a small repast. This renunciation of food worries us given its parallels with the affliction of anorexia. Was Clare suffering from an illness or making a rational choice? Recent studies show that such extreme fasting was not uncommon among female mystics of the Middle Ages.
Research on the meaning of these female fasting practices gives us a window onto a culture far from our own but one that has its own internal coherence. Many holy women fasted to excess and attracted disciples who accepted their spiritual teaching. Profound self-denial was understood to be participation in the mystery of Christ’s sufferings. —from Light of Assisi: The Story of Saint Clare
May we use your example as a spark
to dig deeper into the meaning of our actions.
In doing so, may we become more attuned to
our Lenten promises.