S. Clare of Assisi| S. Jane Frances de Chantal| Daily Meditation| Daily Quote by S. Padre Pio| Divine Mercy Reflection
One of the more sugary movies made about Francis of Assisi (October 4) pictures Clare as a golden-haired beauty floating through sun-drenched fields, a sort of one-woman counterpart to the new Franciscan Order.
The beginning of her religious life was indeed movie material. Having refused to marry at 15, she was moved by the dynamic preaching of Francis. He became her lifelong friend and spiritual guide.
At 18, she escaped one night from her father’s home, was met on the road by friars carrying torches, and in the poor little chapel called the Portiuncula received a rough woolen habit, exchanged her jeweled belt for a common rope with knots in it, and sacrificed the long tresses to Francis’ scissors. He placed her in a Benedictine convent, which her father and uncles immediately stormed in rage. She clung to the altar of the church, threw aside her veil to show her cropped hair and remained adamant.
End of movie material. Sixteen days later her sister Agnes joined her. Others came. They lived a simple life of great poverty, austerity and complete seclusion from the world, according to a Rule which Francis gave them as a Second Order (Poor Clares). Francis obliged her under obedience at age 21 to accept the office of abbess, one she exercised until her death.
The nuns went barefoot, slept on the ground, ate no meat and observed almost complete silence. (Later Clare, like Francis, persuaded her sisters to moderate this rigor: “Our bodies are not made of brass.”) The greatest emphasis, of course, was on gospel poverty. They possessed no property, even in common, subsisting on daily contributions. When even the pope tried to persuade her to mitigate this practice, she showed her characteristic firmness: “I need to be absolved from my sins, but I do not wish to be absolved from the obligation of following Jesus Christ.”
Contemporary accounts glow with admiration of her life in the convent of San Damiano in Assisi. She served the sick, waited on table, washed the feet of the begging nuns. She came from prayer, it was said, with her face so shining it dazzled those about her. She suffered serious illness for the last 27 years of her life. Her influence was such that popes, cardinals and bishops often came to consult her—she never left the walls of San Damiano.
Francis always remained her great friend and inspiration. She was always obedient to his will and to the great ideal of gospel life which he was making real.
A well-known story concerns her prayer and trust. She had the Blessed Sacrament placed on the walls of the convent when it faced attack by invading Saracens. “Does it please you, O God, to deliver into the hands of these beasts the defenseless children I have nourished with your love? I beseech you, dear Lord, protect these whom I am now unable to protect.” To her sisters she said, “Don’t be afraid. Trust in Jesus.” The Saracens fled.
On her deathbed, Clare was heard to say to herself: “Go forth in peace, for you have followed the good road. Go forth without fear, for he who created you has made you holy, has always protected you, and loves you as a mother. Blessed be you, my God, for having created me.”
The 41 years of Clare’s religious life are poor movie material, but they are a scenario of sanctity: an indomitable resolve to lead the simple, literal gospel life as Francis taught her; courageous resistance to the ever-present pressure to dilute the ideal; a passion for poverty and humility; an ardent life of prayer; and a generous concern for her sisters.
Patron Saint of:
St. Jane Frances de Chantal
Jane Frances was wife, mother, nun and founder of a religious community. Her mother died when Jane was 18 months old, and her father, head of parliament at Dijon, France, became the main influence on her education. She developed into a woman of beauty and refinement, lively and cheerful in temperament. At 21 she married Baron de Chantal, by whom she had six children, three of whom died in infancy. At her castle she restored the custom of daily Mass, and was seriously engaged in various charitable works.
Jane's husband was killed after seven years of marriage, and she sank into deep dejection for four months at her family home. Her father-in-law threatened to disinherit her children if she did not return to his home. He was then 75, vain, fierce and extravagant. Jane Frances managed to remain cheerful in spite of him and his insolent housekeeper.
When she was 32, she met St. Francis de Sales (October 24), who became her spiritual director, softening some of the severities imposed by her former director. She wanted to become a nun but he persuaded her to defer this decision. She took a vow to remain unmarried and to obey her director.
After three years Francis told her of his plan to found an institute of women which would be a haven for those whose health, age or other considerations barred them from entering the already established communities. There would be no cloister, and they would be free to undertake spiritual and corporal works of mercy. They were primarily intended to exemplify the virtues of Mary at the Visitation (hence their name, the Visitation nuns): humility and meekness.
The usual opposition to women in active ministry arose and Francis de Sales was obliged to make it a cloistered community following the Rule of St. Augustine. Francis wrote his famous Treatise on the Love of God for them. The congregation (three women) began when Jane Frances was 45. She underwent great sufferings: Francis de Sales died; her son was killed; a plague ravaged France; her daughter-in-law and son-in-law died. She encouraged the local authorities to make great efforts for the victims of the plague and she put all her convent’s resources at the disposal of the sick.
During a part of her religious life, she had to undergo great trials of the spirit—interior anguish, darkness and spiritual dryness. She died while on a visitation of convents of the community.
It may strike some as unusual that a saint should be subject to spiritual dryness, darkness, interior anguish. We tend to think that such things are the usual condition of “ordinary” sinful people. Some of our lack of spiritual liveliness may indeed be our fault. But the life of faith is still one that is lived in trust, and sometimes the darkness is so great that trust is pressed to its limit.
St. Vincent de Paul (September 27) said of Jane Frances: “She was full of faith, yet all her life had been tormented by thoughts against it. While apparently enjoying the peace and easiness of mind of souls who have reached a high state of virtue, she suffered such interior trials that she often told me her mind was so filled with all sorts of temptations and abominations that she had to strive not to look within herself...But for all that suffering her face never lost its serenity, nor did she once relax in the fidelity God asked of her. And so I regard her as one of the holiest souls I have ever met on this earth” (Butler’s Lives of the Saints).
Jesus Is God:
Isn't it amazing that our God took on our flesh? That He chose to be born in poverty and die in suffering so that we could know His love and be reconciled to Him? He wants to be more than an example, a teacher, or a friend. Jesus is God. And He wants to be your God, because He loves you.
Quote by S. Padre Pio:
We must resign ourselves ... to bearing our imperfections in order to arrive at perfection.
Divine Mercy Reflection
Reflections on Notebook Three: 189-236
We continue now to the third notebook that Saint Faustina filled with messages of Mercy from our Lord. As you enter into this notebook, pause and reflect upon all that you have read so far. Has it changed your perspective on life? Has it changed you? If it has, then continue down that same path and trust that the Lord will continue to do great things in your life. If it has not, reflect upon why!
Sometimes we need more than the words we read. We also need true prayer, deep prayer and what we may call “soaking prayer.” Consider this as you read through the reflections flowing from this notebook and allow the words to not only enter your mind, but to also enter deeper. Read them prayerfully and carefully. Speak to our Lord as Saint Faustina did. Read some more of her actual diary in addition to these reflections and learn from her humble and childlike faith.
The Lord wants to do great things in your life! Open the door, through prayer and reflection, and let Him in!
Reflection 224: To Speak or Not to Speak
One common human tendency is to talk excessively and to explain ourselves to others, especially to justify our actions in their minds. This is especially the case when we sense that others misunderstand us. But Jesus experienced this to the greatest degree as He stood before Herod and Pilate. In these cases, He remained silent. This is a lesson for us in that there are many times when our Lord calls us to remain silent in the face of misunderstanding. Sure, there are other times when He calls us to speak freely and openly to another about our soul and our inner thoughts, but we must strive to discern His Will in each situation and know that silence, in certain situations, is what He calls us to. Remaining silent, at times, will produce more good fruit than an excess of words. Seek to imitate the silence of our Lord in those moments, trusting that He sees your soul and is pleased with you as you endure false perceptions and misunderstandings (See Diary #1164).
Are there times when you sense that others do not understand you? This can be difficult and even painful. Notice that in these moments you may tend to look for ways to explain yourself to others and defend your honor. But silence in those moments may actually be what our Lord is calling you to embrace. Reflect upon Jesus, standing before Herod and Pilate, and ponder His silence in the face of judgment. Know that you will also be called to endure moments like this and, in accord with God’s mysterious Will, this act of silence will win more grace for the salvation of souls than all the words you could speak.
Lord, give me wisdom so that I know when to speak and when to remain silent. I desire to imitate Your perfect silence and to endure the misunderstandings that You endured. In these moments, give me grace to imitate Your humility as I imitate You. Jesus, I trust in You.