“May the excitements of the world, fleeing like a shadow, not disturb you.”
—Letter to Ermentrude of Bruges
We live in a world that is constantly changing—minute by minute—right before our eyes. We are surrounded by the never-ending cycle of social media, news, streaming services, and a whole host of other “here this minute, gone the next” sources of information and entertainment.
For many of us, our attention spans are greatly diminished. St. Clare reminds us to shift our focus from those momentary distractions to what is truly important.
Gaze | Consider | Contemplate | Imitate
How do we center ourselves in the love of God? Clare’s answer is simple and disarming: Become poor. Clare wrote to encourage Agnes to pursue a life of poverty, to become poor enough to embrace the poor Spouse. It is hard to admit in a consumer culture that poverty is the key to the fullness of life. To the secular mind it seems absurd. Western culture is immersed in a capitalism based on the idea that worldly success is a blessing of God.
The type of poverty that Clare and the Franciscans speak of is opposed to the spirit of capitalism and self-sufficiency. It means to be dependent on others. That is exactly what Clare and Francis saw in the mystery of Jesus Christ.
When we allow others to do things for us, God’s goodness shines through them. Poverty is not so much about want or need; it is about relationship. Poverty impels us to reflect on our lives in the world from the position of weakness, dependency, and vulnerability. It impels us to empty our pockets—not of money—but the pockets of our hearts, minds, wills—those places where we store up things for ourselves and isolate ourselves from real relationship with others. Poverty calls us to be vulnerable, open, and receptive to others, to allow others into our lives and to be free enough to enter into the lives of others. –from Clare of Assisi: A Heart Full of Love
St. Clare, may we remember your words
of direction when we are losing our focus
on the things that genuinely matter.