“O most noble Queen, gaze upon Him, consider Him, contemplate Him, as you desire to imitate Him.” —Second letter to Agnes of Prague
In this letter, Clare seems to give Agnes a four-step roadmap for following Christ. And while she wrote it for Agnes, it is something that any of us can use in our daily lives. This mantra provides us with simple reminders of how to live out Christ’s calling in our everyday encounters. For such a simple and humble woman, Clare had amazing insights into living out one’s faith.
Gaze | Consider | Contemplate | Imitate
While Agnes insisted that she would follow the Clarian program, she exercised great originality in the architecture and status of her monastery. The convent of Prague was the opposite of the humble San Damiano. Agnes created a large complex that included a hospital, friary, major church, and sisters’ convent. She entrusted the project to architects skilled in the design of Cistercian monasteries and churches. The chapel was to house the sepulchers of the royal family, and, for that reason, it was modeled on the royal burial chapel in Paris. It did, in fact, serve as the burial place of King Wenceslaus in 1253.
Over a twenty-year period, Agnes deepened her dedication to the original Clarian program. Four letters from Clare tell us the story—though only in part. For the rest, we must cobble together the evidence from papal letters and decrees. What is clear is that Agnes, though her monastery had a unique political and ecclesial profile, was determined to bind herself and her community to the strictest interpretation of Clare’s program.
The letters reveal the awe she inspired in Clare. As time passed, they included sisterly advice on practical matters such as fasting and ways that the abbess should conduct herself. They reveal a deep level of liturgical–poetical sensibility as Clare plays upon words drawn from the feast day liturgy of St. Agnes. Clare gives free rein to her own deepest experiences of contemplative insight in these writings, intended as they are for a single person to whom she opened her soul with trusting simplicity. —from Light of Assisi: The Story of Saint Clare
In your infinite wisdom and insightfulness,
you provide us with tools we can use to share
God’s love with those we encounter every day.
For that we give you our thanks.