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Bishop Denis’ Homily on the Feast of St Clare

Feast of St. Clare:                                                                                    11.08.23

St. Clare’s Church, Graiguecullen @ 10am


That year has passed very quickly. We are back together again to celebrate and honour St. Clare. In our celebration this year we give a special welcome Sr. Mary Agnes and Sr. Choolwe from Lusaka who join the community here at St. Clare’s. We know they will be very happy here and we know they will be bring great joy and reassurance to our great friends, the Poor Clare’s.

St. Clare was born at Assisi and came under the influence of St. Francis from a young age. She left her home at 18 and began a community that grew to become the order of the Poor Clare’s. She would later be joined by her sister and her widowed mother. Indeed it is through her letters to her sister Agnes, we have come to know so much about the early days of the Poor Clare’s.

It was a radical move then and even more radical today. Who at 18, would be permitted to leave home and set up shop somewhere else? Who at 18, would be so moved by their faith to leave behind everything and follow the Lord? Who at 18, would be so determined to shun the material trappings of this world for a much simpler life. It was a radical choice for poverty then and even more radical now.

We begin these sacred mysteries by calling to mind our sins and praying for forgiveness …


St. Clare is one of our best loved saints. We associate her with St. Francis, both of them of Assisi. 

Hers was a radical poverty. The poverty of leaving the familial, the familiar, the family. The poverty of giving away material possessions. The poverty of being misunderstood by those who should have known better. The poverty of leaving everything and following the Lord. The poverty of embracing poverty.

Clare was born in 1193 of a wealthy, aristocratic family. She was from a very young age greatly inspired by the life and example of St. Francis of Assisi. His simple lifestyle embracing creation and loving all animals was transformative to the life of the young Clare.

Despite her parents plans that she would marry well and by extent secure the material status of the family, at 18 in the company of a friend she set out for the little church of the Portiuncula to meet St. Francis and his companions. That I understand was Palm Sunday 1211. Immediately Francis welcomed her, symbolically cut off her hair and dressed her in a rough habit. Probably one not dissimilar from the men’s habit, it was all they had.

As time passed and despite numerous protestations by family, Clare settled with her first companions in the Church of San Damiano where she lived until her death in 1253. The church and convent were gifted by Francis to Clare, such was their admiration and esteem of the other. Their lifestyle was simple from the outset and remains so. Poor Clare’s in name and in intent.

In San Damiano, the women wore rough tunics, went barefoot and lived on the donations of food given to them by generous donors. It is said that when Frederick II’s army attacked Assisi, Clare displayed the Blessed Sacrament on the convent wall, inviting Our Lord to “defend those I cannot protect”. When she raised the monstrance the soldiers scattered.  

Today the Poor Clare’s continue to live by divine providence. They make no dependence on material things, but allow the Lord to provide for their needs through the generosity of others.

St. Clare is generously invoked at Masses and celebrations here in Graiguecullen, and rightly so. St. Matthews gospel reminds us the Cross is inextricably linked to following the Lord. In this year of special promotion for Diocesan Vocations there is a simple but profound gesture to happen in the coming days. Delegates from every diocese will gather at Knock, each with a section of a cross from every diocese. The sections will be put together at Knock and the Cross will be assembled.

Just as in St. Clare’s day, the Cross and Vocation and very much linked, very much intertwined. Renouncing ourselves and following the Lord. St. Clare did it. The Poor Clare’s do it. Diocesan Priests and all priests are invited to do it. Might we all consider at least making some gesture towards it? Our world would be a much better place!

In the words of St. Clare, I pray:

Look upon Him who for you

Became despised and follow Him,

Though you become despised

For His sake in this world[1]

[1] Second Letter of St. Clare