“I judge you to be a co-worker of God Himself and a support for the weak members of His ineffable Body.” —Third Letter to Agnes of Prague
St. Clare did not let chronic illness deter her from taking care of her fellow sisters who were ill, as well as some of Francis’ brothers in their times of need. Clare also cared for Francis near the end of his life. It was, for her, the ultimate act of service on behalf of Christ. Later, she herself became the recipient of such care from others. Both she and her sisters provide us with a wonderful example of serving as Christ’s hands and raising up those who are weak.
Gaze | Consider | Contemplate | Imitate
Clare’s fasting, even if motivated by spiritual ideals, was not supported by those closest to her. Francis, along with the bishop, visited her to demand that she alter her practice. The fact that he invoked the authority of the church in this instruction indicates how very worried he was and how determined he was to make sure that she would comply. In other words, his own efforts prior to this meeting had not been successful.
Clare’s illnesses that seem to be omnipresent from early on appear to have their roots in this excessive fasting. She used a physical garment called a hair shirt worn against her skin. These were vest-like garments fashioned of the skin of a pig or horse with the bristles intact so that they lacerated the flesh they rubbed against. This was a practice of many ascetics.
That a woman born among nobles would be capable of enduring such continual torment astounded not only her sisters, but the brothers as well. One account describes a sister asking Clare’s permission to wear a similar penitential garment. She gave up quickly and declared that she could not believe that Clare could endure such pain and maintain her good disposition. How might we show such surrender to God in less extreme ways? —from Light of Assisi: The Story of Saint Clare
Your care for those in need provides us
a wonderful reminder to do the same for others.
May we offer strength and comfort to them.