March 1, 2017

St. Clare

There is a famous miracle that occurred in the year 1240. It involved St. Clare of Assisi and the Eucharist.

St. Clare left life in a relatively wealthy family to become a follower of St. Francis of Assisi. She founded an order of nuns dedicated to his principle of humble poverty, an order she called the Poor Ladies. Today, it is frequently known as the Poor Clares.

In the year 1240, the convent of this order was located in San Damiano, the simple church located outside the walls of Assisi in which Francis had heard his so well-renowned directive to “rebuild My church.” At that time, Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor, monarch over a kingdom that stretched from Germany and parts of France in the north and west to the island of Sicily in the South, was engaged in war with the Papal States, headed by Pope Gregory IX.

Troops belonging to Frederick were invading Assisi and were threatening to overrun the convent. The safety and chastity of the nuns were sorely threatened.
Tommaso de Celano was a friar, poet and author who lived at that time. He wrote History of Saint Clare, Virgin. In it, he describes what happened on the day Saracen soldiers of Frederick II came calling.

“The women swooned in terror, their voices trembling with fear as they cried to their Mother, Saint Clare. Saint Clare, with a fearless heart, commanded them to lead her, sick as she was, to the enemy, preceded by a silver and ivory case in which the Body of the Saint of saints was kept with great devotion.

“And prostrating herself before the Lord, she spoke tearfully to her Christ: ‘Behold, my Lord, is it possible You want to deliver into the hands of pagans Your defenseless handmaids, whom I have taught out of love for You? I pray You, Lord, protect these Your handmaids whom I cannot now save by myself.’

“Suddenly a voice like that of a child resounded in her ears from the tabernacle:
‘I will always protect you!’

“‘My Lord,’ she added, ‘if it is Your wish, protect also this city which is sustained by Your love.’

“Christ replied, ‘It will have to undergo trials, but it will be defended by My protection.’ Then the virgin, raising a face bathed in tears, comforted the sisters: ‘I assure you, daughters, that you will suffer no evil; only have faith in Christ.’

“Upon seeing the courage of the sisters, the Saracens took flight and fled back over the walls they had scaled, unnerved by the strength of she who prayed.

“And Clare immediately admonished those who heard the voice I spoke of above, telling them severely: ‘Take care not to tell anyone about that voice while I am still alive, dearest daughters.’”

The notable part of this story, the part depicted in paintings down through the years, is the specter of marauding warriors turning away from the conquest of a city, when faced with the Blessed Sacrament being held aloft. Others could of course submit that it was not any power within the Eucharist that caused the change of heart, that it was compassion for nuns in devout prayer. To that, reasonable questions need to be asked. Is that likely? Was that type of respect something encountered elsewhere, something that could be expected of Saracen soldiers at the time, or now? Were not Saracen (Muslim) soldiers known for their contempt of all Christians? Did they not consider prayer to the Blessed Sacrament as paganism? Did not soldiers such as these look forward to and relish the all the spoils of a conquest such as this? Were they not there, under orders of the Emperor, to take the city? The suggestion is easy, today, from a comfortable distance, to say that respect for pious nuns produced an act of compassion, on the part of many all at the same time. How would it have seemed, however, to have been there at the time?

Still, putting all that aside, there is another aspect of the story that is not as often considered. It is revealed in an almost parenthetical comment made by de Celano, “those who heard the voice.” Evidently, other women at the time disclosed that they too had heard an unearthly voice. This puts this episode into an entirely different realm. If this part of the story it true, there is no issue as to its miraculous character.

An objection could of course be raised here too though. The sisters lied. Women willing to devote their entire lives to the pursuit of holiness lied. It is certainly true that members of religious orders are capable of such things. Yet, it is always the case, is it not, that to disbelieve stories such as these, we have to believe the worst in people? Perhaps, if only at a few times, people do act from motives which are not base.



Copyright 2012 The Humble Catholic

Web site designed by Chicago web design company : Indigo Image