“Therefore, beloved sisters, we must consider the immense gifts that God has bestowed on us.”
—The Testament of St. Clare
St. Clare’s reference to “immense gifts” seems a contradiction to the humble and simple lives of her community. Most of us would expect those gifts to be more tactile and straightforward. For Clare, however, Christ’s love was the greatest gift that anyone could have received. She always looked to praise God for the many blessings bestowed on her, even if they didn’t seem obvious. We may need to search a bit deeper to discover the gifts that we have been given.
Gaze | Consider | Contemplate | Imitate
Living with a large number of women who are not kin is its own call to penance. While the major impression of the San Damiano community is one of concord, joyful obedience, and humility, the opposite vices were not unknown. Why else would Clare have found it necessary to outline specific punishments for those who transgressed? She writes that the sisters must beware of “pride, vainglory, envy, avarice, care and anxiety about this world, detraction and murmuring, dissension and division” (Rule 10:6 ). This is a sobering litany of faults capable of destroying a community from inside.
We should not imagine the forty years in San Damiano to have been devoid of suffering. These were real flesh and blood women. Their virtues are on display in the formal biographies, but their vices are backlit in the Rule’s chapter of “admonition and correction.”
One thing that her earliest companions wanted to pass on when asked to testify about her life was the assertion that her disposition was always one of peaceful composure. Her privations did not result in making her short-tempered, gloomy, or cold. She exhibited an inner joy in all circumstances. This demeanor added to the awe of her companions and became part of their endless admiration. This “peace surpassing understanding” drew them daily into her orbit of sisterly solidarity. —from Light of Assisi: The Story of Saint Clare
St. Clare, you were able to see everything
you encountered as a gift from God.
Help us to open our eyes to the many gifts we, too,
are being given, especially when they are not obvious.