“Don’t be afraid. Trust in Jesus.”
—St. Clare to her sisters
In 1240, a group of Saracen mercenaries attacked the convent at San Damiano on their way to the city of Assisi. St. Clare, though sick and weak, confronted the men and held them off by raising the monstrance containing the Eucharist. Surprisingly, the Saracens immediately retreated. Clare had no reason to believe that the Eucharist would drive off the attackers, but she did know that turning to Christ in a time of need was the answer. What a perfect example of the power of trust in Christ!
Gaze | Consider | Contemplate | Imitate
Many Catholics have seen statues or pictures of Clare holding a monstrance. The image comes from the story of the Saracen invasion. However, it is clear that such a sacred vessel was not yet in use. The witnesses describe a pyx—a small wooden receptacle for a host that was encased in ivory—as the vessel she held aloft to confront the attackers. However, many statues or paintings show her holding a large monstrance.
Does the very existence of this image suggest a desire to preserve the memory of Clare—and medieval women like her—whose contemplation of the Eucharist conferred extraordinary status? Devotions like the feast of Corpus Christi, the Sacred Heart, veneration of the reserved Eucharist, the identification through fasting with the Heavenly Banquet—these practices emerged in this historic period. Such an image—while not historically accurate—has another function.
It reminds us that women, who were forbidden to touch the Eucharist as did ordained men, nevertheless risked life and limb in their utter reverence for Christ’s presence in the Bread of Life. They hold the mystery in their hands by mystical identification, not by legal jurisdiction. Such artistic images preserve memories at once dynamic and dangerous. —from Light of Assisi: The Story of Saint Clare
St. Clare, your faith in Christ, present in the Eucharist,
provides us with a wonderful example of the power of belief.
May we hold on to that power in times of fear or struggle.