St. Clare Remembered as a Saint of Light

HNP Communications In the Headlines

With special prayers, stories, meals and even art, friars and ministries around the Province marked the feast day of the second major Franciscan saint of the summer. Last month, St. Bonaventure was recognized and now it was Clare’s turn.

St. Clare, who ministered with St. Francis and founded the Poor Clares, despite many challenges, believed fearlessly in the grace and power of God in her life.

In Hartford, Conn., St. Patrick-St. Anthony Parish marked the feast day by celebrating the saint’s light. “We celebrated the beauty of our Franciscan tradition,” said pastoral associate Patricia Curtis. “With open hearts, we invited Clare’s spirit to enlighten and transform our own lives into lives, where we become light for so many who need light.”

The light of St. Clare was also remembered by General Minister Fr. Michael Perry, OFM, in his first letter to the Poor Clares. He wrote: “I think Clare and Francis taught us the perspective from which we can start. The principle toward which we ought to direct our gaze is God, the Most High, All-Powerful, Good Lord, the Most High and Glorious God, the All Powerful, Most Holy, Most High and Supreme God who is Creator, Redeemer, Comforter and Our Savior, the Giver, the Father of Mercies, and the Most High Heavenly Father from whom flows every supreme good and every perfect gift. We cannot help but start with both our eyes and life fixed on the Lord.”

Burning Desire for Jesus
Clare, who lived from 1194 to 1253, was an Italian noblewoman who is said to have a burning desire in her heart to minister with St. Francis and to live a poor life for Jesus. She is said to have run away from home to give her life to Jesus. Today, there are more than 20,000 Poor Clares around the world, according to their website.

The General Minister continued in his letter, which may be found on the OFM website: “I entrust you to your Mother St. Clare, who is the image of the Mother of God, so that you can live with the same passion and radicalness the perfection of the Holy Gospel, and be continually grateful to the father of mercies for the gift of your vocation. As a sign of commitment and mutual care and concern, I entrust to your prayers my service as Minister General and servant of the whole Fraternity. I entrust also to you all the Friars Minor with whom you share the dream of Clare and Francis, convinced that our common evangelical vocation is a gift from the one and the same Spirit, a gift of the Risen Lord.  Happy Feast Day of St. Clare.”

During the weekend of the feast of St. Clare, Provincial Minister John O’Connor, OFM, commemorated the feast with the Poor Clares of Montana, one of the abbeys in the Holy Name Province Foundation. He drove to Great Falls from Denver, where he had participated in the August Provincial Council meeting, and offered a vesper service followed by the Transitus celebration for St. Clare. Sunday included morning prayer and then Mass for the feast day at which he presided and preached. Following Mass, a reception was held for benefactors and guests of the sisters.

“The visit reminded me again how important the Poor Clares and their contemplative life are to the Franciscan family,” John said. “The spirit of the sisters is superb and their monastery is beautiful. It is well designed so as to give them excellent views of the plains and mountains surrounding Great Falls.”

Continuing the Stories of Clare
In Western New York, the parish named for the saint — St. Clare Church in Buffalo — where Steven Pavignano, OFM, is the pastor, held a Transitus service on Saturday night and a potluck meal on Sunday afternoon.

Approximately 30 people turned out for each, according to Steven, who started the Transitus service last year and added the potluck this year.

“Parishioners didn’t know much about St. Clare,” he said, “and we’ve been introducing her little by little.” The parish, formed in 2007 when five churches merged, worships in a 135-year-old building, formerly called St. Stephen Church. The church, he said, has a stained glass window of St. Clare, about which, ironically, he added, no record or story can be found of how this window came to be.

Steven said he has a special fondness for the Poor Clares because he was assigned to a church in Greenville, S.C., near a monastery of sisters. He continues to tell parishioners about St. Clare.

At St. Anthony of Padua Church in Greenville, Patrick Tuttle, OFM, pastor, said that all Sunday Masses were said for St. Clare on Aug. 11, and he shared some stories about Clare and St. Francis from the pulpit. 

Because the church is close to a Poor Clare monastery in Travelers Rest, S.C., St. Anthony of Padua says the daily prayers of the sisters.

St. Patrick-St. Anthony Church in Hartford hosts the Clare Gallery, a dedicated space that sponsors art shows throughout the year.

“During the weekend of Aug. 10 to 11, St. Patrick-St. Anthony was filled with opportunities to celebrate the life of Clare of Assisi,” said Curtis. At all weekend Masses, readings were proclaimed from the Franciscan lectionary and homilists Thomas Gallagher, OFM, pastor, and John Leonard, OFM, described the life and spirituality of Clare.

On Saturday, the parish’s Clare Gallery hosted the opening reception of its latest exhibit, “Faces of Haiti,” where more than 50 people gathered to hear the artists discuss the stories of Haitian people following the 2010 earthquake. Portrait artist Dianne Coyle and photographer Kyn Tolson spoke about the 20 pieces of artwork inspired by the Haitian people. The Clare Gallery hosted the show in support of St. Patrick-St. Anthony’s sister parish St. Genevieve in Z’oranje, Haiti.

After the reception, the community celebrated the Transitus of Clare, complete with readings, song, and reflection. “Our celebration of St. Clare’s death was done in a storytelling fashion, creating a scene where two sisters and two brothers who knew St. Clare shared their memories of this remarkable woman as they gathered around her body in the final moments,” said Curtis. The habit on the sanctuary floor represented Clare surrounded by her Franciscan sisters and brothers, and the prayer script was adapted the Poor Clares in Travelers Rest.

St. Francis of Assisi Church in New York City celebrated the feast of St. Clare of Assisi, joined by the Secular Franciscans, at the 12:30 p.m. Mass. “In spite of being ill for many years, St. Clare was a charismatic figure in the way that she wanted to live the Gospel life,” according to the church website. “Inspired by St. Francis, she wanted to live a poor life, dependent on God for everything. Clare was told many times that her way of life was impossible, but she stood her ground and showed what was possible with God’s influence and grace.”

Historical information about St. Clare is also provided on the website of Sacred Heart Parish in Tampa, Fla. PastorGeorge Corrigan, OFM, called attention to the online resources in the parish’s Aug. 14 e-bulletin.

— Wendy Healy is a Connecticut-based freelance writer and frequent contributor of HNP Today. Jocelyn Thomas provided research for this story.