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Homily by Bishop Denis on Feast of St Clare

Feast of St. Clare                                                                                         12.08.19

St. Clare’s Church, Graiguecullen @ 10am


We gather this Monday morning, the twelfth day of August to honour the Poor Clare’s and to celebrate the Feast of St. Clare, which actually fell yesterday, but which we transferred to today. We gather to mark the 126th Anniversary of the Poor Clare’s presence amongst us, while not always in the adjoining monastery, their earliest presence is marked by the illustrative plaque on the bridge over the Barrow linking Graigue and Carlow.

The Poor Clare’s are an indispensable part of Carlow and Graiguecullen. They are an invaluable powerhouse of prayer for the wider Diocese and indeed much further afield. Many of you have travelled today long journies to be here this morning. I look forward to meeting all of you later at the refreshments outside.

You are here because the Poor Clares were there for you at an important time in your life. Their presence is something deeply valued and treasured.

As we gather to pray 126 years after the original foundation and 766 years after the death of St. Clare, let us call to mind our sins and pray for forgiveness …


Some of you may be familiar with The Magnificat, a Monthly Missal that contains the Mass Readings every day and offers a Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer to bookend each day. The English edition is apparently produced in the United States, originally in Canada; there are versions of The Magnificat in virtually every language known to mankind. They are running a series in the current August edition called ‘Saints Who Left Everything’. Modelling the series on the twelve apostles who left everything to follow Jesus – the fishermens’ nets were cast aside; the plough-horses abandoned in the middle of a furrow and the bereaved left to bury their dead. A tough calling then and now; but very much leaving everything to follow Jesus.

St. Clare and St. Francis not only comfortably fall into this category, but perhaps offer the template that many other saints since have tried to emulate. St. Francis born in 1182, dying in 1226 at the very young age of 44; how much he achieved in such a short life? St. Clare born in 1194, dying in 1253 at the age of 59. Both coming from privileged backgrounds; both leaving literally everything to follow Jesus.

Images of St. Clare – there are many. Perhaps my favourite comes from the Convent of St. Clare in Assisi. It’s a piece of art from a 14th century Umbrian artist, whose identity is lost to history. The image is of the spiritual journey of Clare of Assisi, a young woman who renounced the world, who left everything, consecrating her life to poverty and prayer. The onlooker is invited to enter the eight panels that encompass this full-length image of St. Clare. Each panel in a clockwise movement reveals a dramatic moment in her journey from someone who had the world and its riches at her feet to someone who left everything to follow the Lord.

Eight grace-filled moments walking literally in Clare’s footsteps. In there you have Bishop Guido presenting a palm branch to her; she saw this as confirmation of her calling. Another panel shows her being welcomed by friars. Their bare feet, their embrace of poverty. A further panel shows St. Francis receiving the young Clare, remember he was only twelve years older than her, but much further on the road of poverty and foresaking the material in favour of the spiritual. You get the picture! Each panel tells a story, including the futile efforts of her own family to bring her and her sibling Agnes to her senses.

Often family don’t understand a religious calling, then and now. I have met mothers terrified of what might happen their son if he entered the seminary. Their unfounded but understandable fears can block God’s call being answered. The young person must be completely determined and of strong will, like our friend St. Clare. Of course, with Clare’s family, her younger sister would in time steal away from the family, causing more heartaches and join Clare. Her mother was also betwixt and between! Further panels tell those stories beautifully.

Saints who left everything? Clare & Francis did it; do we? Can we? Is it reasonable to expect someone to leave everything in 2019 and follow a vocation? I wonder if the scarcity of vocations today hasn’t some hold, in the fact that those of us pursuing a vocation find it hard to leave everything, to foresake everything for Jesus. We find it hard to fall in love with poverty. We all like our comforts.

What attracted Clare to Francis of Assisi and his simple lifestyle? What attracts us to travel from all over to be in the presence of the successors of St. Clare this morning in Graiguecullen? I think one phrase – ‘the wealth of poverty’. Today’s world and society are characterised by superficiality and by shallowness. Clare was born into a wealthy family on July 16th 1194, she died penniless in 1253. What happened in between is she answered a profound call and we are all invited to do the same this day.

With St. Clare we pray, fondly celebrating and feting our friends the Poor Clare’s this day:

O seraphic Saint Clare, first disciple of the Poor One of Assisi; you who abandoned riches and honors for a life of sacrifice, of poverty, of chastity and obedience and to the service of the poor and needy to whom you made yourself Mother, working for them countless miracles, obtain for us that we may be placed under the Will of God, that we may be merciful toward our brothers and sisters and that we maintain, in spite of the perils of the world, the Christian faith and its peace. Amen”.

St. Clare of Assisi, pray for us.

St. Francis of Assisi, pray for us.

St. Muredach, pray for us.

St. Attracta, pray for us.

St. Lelia, pray for us.

St. Jane Frances de Chantal, pray for us.

All the Saints who left everything, pray for us.

Visitors waiting to greet Poor Clares