Jesus Christ is the Center of all Clare’s thoughts, the focus of her love. He is the Mirror, in which she will look every day. In Him she recognizes the depths of the Divine Mysteries, the essence of the external world and the innermost nature of her own person. The essential nature of the life of Jesus, in Whose footsteps she seeks to follow, consists, for her, in His humble descent into the poverty of human life, where the wealth that is God’s will can be encountered.
The spirituality of St Clare is, on the one hand, very much the same as that of St Francis, but on the other hand, she is more finely attuned, more ‘womanly’ in her empathy towards the most apparently insignificant movements of the human heart.
Few in number are her writings, yet, though they offer us no easy access to contemplating the humble Jesus, they are in the deepest sense simple. Only after the passage of time can the deep spiritual sustenance contained in the writings of St Clare be apparent to our modern analytical way of looking, used as we are to seeing only the surface meaning of things.
See more clearly with Clare! Her insights, result of decades of contemplation, will lead us into the deep clarity that satisfies our yearnings, to look upon God, to contemplate Him.
Prayer, poverty, a life of penance, and a life lived in community as the expression of a life in communion with God: for Clare, these form the firm foundation on which she discovers the very core of her faith. Through her life of prayer, poverty and her life of penance in community with her Sisters, Clare gains an insight into the deeper significance of what the Son of God preaches and proclaims from Crib and Cross. Gripped by what she experiences in her love for Jesus Christ laid in a manger and nailed to a cross, she shares these in her letters to Agnes of Prague:
“Look at the border of this mirror, that is, the poverty of Him Who was placed in a manger and wrapped in swaddling clothes. O marvelous humility! O astonishing poverty! The King of angels, the Lord of heaven and earth, is laid in a manger!
Then, at the surface of the mirror, consider the holy humility, the blessed poverty, the untold labors and burdens that He endured for the redemption of the whole human race. Then, in the depth of this same mirror, contemplate the ineffable charity that led Him to suffer on the wood of the Cross and to die there the most shameful kind of death … From this moment, then, O Queen of our heavenly King, let yourself be inflamed more strongly with the fervor of charity.” (4 Letter to Agnes, 19 -27)
Clare is overwhelmed by God’s love. That the Great, the Most High, the Lord Himself has become Man out of Love for humankind has become Man to redeem His people! Crib and Cross: before these we stand, before the very core of Clare’s spirituality. When all is said and done, it is from the Crib and the Cross that Clare draws her radicality, her Poverty and her Form of Life. Clare is enraptured and fascinated by the message of Love that she reads in the Gospel: God identifies Himself with His lost people by the Incarnation and by the Death upon the Cross of His Son. Clare wanted to give throughout her whole life an adequate response to this Mystery of Faith. In her intuitive relationship to the Crib and the Cross – for her the outward signs of God’s Love that seeks out humankind in its abandoned state – Clare feels in the very depths of her soul that she is the recipient of God’s gifts to her. Crib and Cross, as signs that humankind has been liberated and given back to life, make it clear to Clare and her Sisters that their life takes its origin deep down at the very wellsprings of the Love which God has for His people. Clare feels that she has been given the gift of Life itself. This attitude that assures her that she has been most richly endowed is imprinted upon her self understanding. She knows that every day she will receive further gifts.
Therefore, she wants her Sisters and herself to surrender themselves to God every day of their life and dedicate their life to Him anew. As God gave Himself to humankind in the Crib and on the Cross, so too does Clare give her life and herself, as representing the whole of humankind, to God again and again. Crib and Cross become, therefore, the symbols of a spontaneous sacrificial offering of one’s own life in the certainty of finding real life, of finding the fullness of life and everlasting happiness. When Clare and her Sisters perceive this greater happiness to be found in the living encounter with the God-Man Jesus Christ, they can renounce every form of earthly wealth and worldly reputation. Their renunciation of property, honor and profit is no polemical abstinence directed against the world and the treasures of this world. But Clare discovers while contemplating the Crib and the Cross a far greater wealth that will become for her the very substance of her life and her hope of eternal life. Her relationship to the Child in the Crib and to the dying Jesus on the Cross will become for her that which will fulfill her life, filling it with meaning and significance. This means, of course, that the wealth of this world is simply no longer needed. In the firm assurance that this is so, Clare writes to Agnes, the daughter of a king, in the following terms:
“For, though You, more than others, could have enjoyed the magnificence and honor and dignity of the world and could have been married to the illustrious emperor with splendor befitting You and His Excellency, You have rejected all these things and have chosen with Your whole heart and soul a life of holy poverty and destitution. Thus You took a spouse of a more noble lineage, Who will keep Your virginity ever unspotted and unsullied, the Lord Jesus Christ … in Whose embrace You are already caught up, Who has adorned Your breast with precious stones and has placed priceless pearls in Your ears and has surrounded You with sparkling gems as though blossoms of springtime and placed on Your head a golden crown as a sign of Your holiness …. Be strengthened in the holy service which You have undertaken out of a burning desire for the Poor Crucified.” (1 Letter to Agnes of Prague 5 – 13)
The Sisters meet several times each day to pray together, as well as dedicate special hours to private prayer. In the morning we have a Holy Hour from 7 a.m. to about 8:20 a.m. After that is our daily Mass at 9 am. We meet again for a few moments before and after meals for a Midday Office and a Mid-afternoon Office. There is a free hour in the afternoon which the Sisters dedicate to spiritual reading and study, and another Holy Hour in the afternoon around 5 p.m. in which the Evening Office is prayed. Anyone is invited to join us for the Holy Hours or Daily Mass.