Today the Church celebrates the memorial of St. Clare. Clare was born in Assisi in Italy in 1194. At the age of 18, she heard a sermon by Francis of Assisi and was deeply moved by his words.

In 1212, Clare left home and sought refuge with Francis, who received her as a nun. She went to live in a nearby convent. Eventually, Clare was joined by her mother and two sisters as well as by other women. The small community moved to San Damiano near Assisi. In 1215, Clare became abbess of the “Poor Ladies”. (Eventually, the community came to be known as the “Poor Clares”.)

The women modelled their life on the ideals of St. Francis. Therefore, Clare’s community became organized around 3 principles. The 1st principle was radical simplicity. Their lives were devoted to fervent prayer and manual labour. The 2nd principle was radical poverty. The Opening Prayer of today’s Mass referred to Clare’s “love of poverty”. These sisters lived entirely on daily alms and renounced all income from rents or other property. The 3rd principle was radical love of nature – The sisters believed that nature itself was the 1st Bible. 

Clare never left her convent at Assisi. She was abbess for almost 40 years. Clare never wavered from serving her community in great joy and remained firm in her commitment to the 3 Franciscan ideals. She authored the 1st rule for religious life for women written by a woman. She died on August 11, 1253 at the age of 59 and was canonized only 2 years later.

Reflecting on the life of this saint provides us with 2 important lessons. The 1st lesson is that the 3 Franciscan ideals to which Clare was so devoted are values that can be incorporated into our lives.

Let me illustrate how we can do this by specifically referring to 1 of the 3 Franciscan ideals:  love of nature. 

God is present in his creation. Nature is a privileged place of encounter with God. Nature is sacred. Therefore, we are called to responsible stewardship of this tremendous gift.

This past Monday, the United Nations Climate Panel issued an alarming report. The UN Secretary General described the report as a “code red for Humanity”. The theme of the report is that human activities cause climate change. In turn, climate change is negatively altering the natural world (as witnessed by the weather extremes and severe forest fires we have been experiencing in our own country this past month).

Faced with the findings of this report, we are invited to adopt Clare’s mindset and ask ourselves these questions: Do I view the natural world around me as a revelation of God? How do my daily routines, life style choices and behaviors contribute to respecting, enhancing or protecting the natural environment in my neighborhood or my community?

The 2nd lesson that Clare’s life teaches us is based on the fact that she was the abbess of her community of religious sisters for almost 40 yrs. She was steadfast in her care and concern for the women religious that were entrusted to her.

Here is where we can make a connection with today’s Gospel: “For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them”. That’s the reason that Clare was such a passionate advocate for the prayer life of the community as well as the well-being of each woman. As was the case with Clare, this passage ought to have an important significance for us today as we gather for prayer and the celebration of the Eucharist. 

Just as Jesus is present in the Scriptures, and just as Jesus is present in the person of the priest, and just as Jesus is present in the bread and the wine after the consecration, he is equally present in the assembly that gathers in his name.

In other words, Jesus is present in 4 ways this afternoon: the Word, the priest, the Eucharist and the people. (Unfortunately, we often fail to emphasize this 4th area.) God is found in community.

This means that Jesus is truly present in each of us – in you and in me. When we gather for the Eucharist, Jesus is not only present in the sanctuary. He is present in this area of the building as well. Just as we reverence Jesus in the Word, the priest and the Eucharist, we ought to reverence Jesus in each other. 

That’s the reason today’s Gospel states that, when conflicts within a community need to be addressed, the approach ought to be focused on genuine care for the person, fraternal correction and reconciliation rather than personal attacks and division. Clare was faithful to this vision of community life. Likewise, our call is to respond to each other with loving concern in all circumstances.

As our Eucharist continues, let us ask God’s help to imitate St. Clare. Like her, may we recognize God’s presence in nature. Like her, may we recognize God’s presence in each other.


Deacon Roland Muzzatti

August 11, 2021 

  • Personal Note – Please remember my mother in your prayers at this Mass. Today is the 35th anniversary of her death. She died on August 11, 1986 at the age of 56.
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