Sunday, August 10, 2014



Contemplating Clare's Love for Christ

Not long ago, a pilgrim returned from Assisi confused by the various reactions of other pilgrims when they approached the tomb of Saint Clare, which is located in the crypt of the great basilica named in her honor. When one enters the Basilica of Saint Clare and descends into the crypt by a deep granite staircase, one first encounters coolness, then subdued lighting, and then at the end of a curved corridor, the bier upon which Clare lies protected behind bars and glass. A red votive candle flickers and reminds pilgrims that Christ Jesus is present in the Blessed Sacrament. Whether or not a bouquet of lilies stands at the foot of the bier, a sweet fragrance seems to permeate the glass, a fragrance that reminds pilgrims that they should bend a knee before true holiness.

Some pilgrims barely stop to consider that they are looking at the uncorrupted remains of Saint Clare, who lived, died, and was canonized more than eight centuries ago. Some seem skeptical. Some walk quickly away, seemingly nervous. Some ask in a whisper whether this could possibly be Clare beneath the simple habit and the masks that cover her face, hands, and bare feet. Many kneel on the cold stone floor, rest their foreheads against the bars, and pray. These various reactions should not seem discordant. Since 1850, when Saint Clare's tomb was discovered after six centuries of mystery, pilgrims have been conflicted by the saint's mortal remains. When her tomb was opened, Clare's habit was reduced to dust, but she was not. For more years afterward, pilgrims could visit her tomb and see her dark, seemingly burned, flesh dressed in the habit of the order she founded.

Writers and local residents say that some pilgrims, especially children, were frightened by the sight. Some were ambivalent. Some were curious. Some were disbelieving. Some were reduced to tears of joy that Saint Clare, the loyal friend and follower of Saint Francis, should remain uncorrupted by death. The times change, but the hearts of human beings do not. In their book, "A Retreat with Francis & Clare of Assisi", Father Murray Bodo and Susan Saint Sing write that no one should have been surprised to find Clare uncorrupted or to find her flesh darkened like burned wood. They write: "Her consuming, passionate love of God, a burning too hot for mortal flesh, has left her body charred and blackened beneath its waxed and cosmeticized shell (p. 52)."

A Chaste & Passionate Love for Christ

Today's pilgrim will not see this charred and blackened flesh, but a life-like reflection of the beautiful and courageous woman who defied her times, followed her friend, and embarked on a way of life strictly devoted to the gospels. Saint Clare saw herself and her sisters as Brides of Christ, consumed by a chaste, but passionate, love for Him, who lived, suffered, died, and rose again for us, for all people, for all the world. In one of Saint Clare's famous letters to Agnes of Prague, we can begin to appreciate her ardent love for Christ Jesus:

Contemplate the unspeakable love
with which He wished to suffer upon the wood of the cross
and on it to die the most infamous of deaths.
So that from the height of the cross,
a voice is directed towards the passers-by
in order that they may stop to consider:
'All of you, who pass by upon this road,
stop and judge if there is sorrow comparable to mine.'
And we will reply to Him who calls and groans,
with one voice and one heart:
'Your memory will never depart from me
and my soul will be consumed.'
Contemplate then his unutterable delights,
his wealth and eternal honors, and shout ardently
with all your love and all your desire:
'Draw me to yourself, O Heavenly Souse!
We will follow you,
drawn by the sweetness of your perfume!'

As we celebrate the Feast of Saint Clare on Monday, August 11th, let us pray together for the intercession of Saint Clare of Assisi and for the intercession of the holy women who followed her through the centuries into the cloister. Let us pray for the grace to follow Christ Jesus as Clare did. Let us pray for the grace to love Christ Jesus as Clare did. Let us pray that we, too, might be consumed by that same burning passion to do his will by loving God and by loving each other in perfect peace and charity. Amen! Amen! May the Lord give you peace!

Our Prayers

For our families & friends, we pray: Hail Mary...
For our parish communities, we pray: Hail Mary...
For our Holy Father, Pope Francis, we pray: Hail Mary...
For our departed brothers & sisters in faith, we pray: Hail Mary...
For the Catholic Church throughout the world, we pray: Hail Mary...
Our Father...

O Saint Clare,
ardent lover of Christ Jesus
in the Most Blessed Sacrament,
help us to grow in our love for Christ.
With your strong faith and unwavering hope,
gather your wounded Church,
our suffering world,
and all God's people
into your loving heart,
and lift us up to Christ Jesus
with your absolute confidence
in his merciful love.
O Saint Clare,
help us to be like you:
peaceful, kind, gentle, and strong;
patient and persevering in difficulty.
O Saint Clare,
trusting in your powerful intercession,
we confidently praise and thank God
for the blessings we have received.
Praise, glory, honor, and thanksgiving,
honor, power, and might
to our God forever and ever. Amen.

Saint Francis, pray for us!
Saint Clare, pray for us!
Our Lady of the Angels, pray for us!

If you would like to learn more about the Assisi Project and opportunities for faith formation, prayer, pilgrimage, retreat, and spiritual direction in the Franciscan spiritual tradition, please contact Cliff Garvey at Pax et bonum! May the Lord give you peace!


Rome | Assisi | Greccio | October 31-November 8, 2014

For the seventh consecutive year, the Assisi Project is sponsoring a week-long, small-group pilgrimage to Assisi and Rome, Italy from October 31st through November 8th. Last year, a nearly sold-out group of sixteen pilgrims (ranging in age from 14 to 88 years) from the United States and Canada literally walked in the footsteps of Saint Francis and Saint Clare.

This year, we will journey back to these holy pilgrimage sites. Each morning, we will begin with Morning Prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours and Mass. Masses will be celebrated at the Church of San Damiano, the Carceri, the Porziuncola, and the Basilica of Saint Francis. Each afternoon, all pilgrims will be afforded the free time and guidance to explore the medieval city of Assisi at their own pace and to visit the countless churches, cafes, museums, and shops. Each evening, we will gather for Evening Prayer, followed by a conference and faith sharing.

As a fellowship of pilgrims, we will visit the historic Basilicas of Saint Francis and Saint Clare. Each of the these great basilicas contains the tombs of the saints, holy relics, and priceless works of art. But these baslicas are also pilgrimage sites for prayer, silent meditation, and worship. We will visit the Basilica of Saint Rufino, where Saint francis and Saint Clare were baptized. We will visit the Church of Saint Damian, where the famous crucifix spoke to Francis and hastened his conversion. And we will visit the little chapel known as the Porziuncola, which is considered the home church of the worldwide Franciscan community.

In addition, we will spend leisurely afternoons in and around the Piazza de Commune, Assisi's city center, with its ancient Roman temple (now a Catholic church), sidewalk cafes, restaurants, and shops. The more adventurous will also have an opportunity to hike to the Rocca Maggiore, the great medieval fortress with its stunning views of Assisis, the Spoleto Valley, and Mount Subasio.

Finally, we will travel to Rome for visits to Vatican City and Saint Peter's Basilica, where we will celebrate Mass and hopefully see and hear Pope Francis deliver the Sunday Angelus Address. We will also visit the Carceri (or hermitage) on Mount Subasio, where Saint Francis and his first followers retreated for prayer and contemplation. And we will offer an optional excursion to Greccio, the little village near Assisi, where Saint Francis introduced the first Christmas creche.

The cost of this extraordinary pilgrimage and retreat is just $3,299 and includes all air and ground transportation (from Boston's Logan Airport only), guest house accommodations (single room) at the Convent of Saint Bridget of Sweden in Assisi, and hotel accommodations (double room; singe room option) at the historic Columbus Hotel (near Vatican City) in Rome. All meals are included. This price does not include recommended travel insurance (approximately $250) or transportation to Greccio (optional excursion). For more information about this pilgrimage or about any of our upcoming events, please contact Cliff Garvey at May the Lord give you peace!