Feast of St. Clare: 11.08.21
St. Clare’s Church, Graiguecullen @ 10am
A year goes by very quickly. Our gospel from St. John this feast-day invites us to abide in the Lord, and if we do so we will produce abundant fruit. Cut off from the Lord we are spent, we are nothing.
St. Clare of Assisi abandoned riches and honours for a life of sacrifice, chastity, poverty and obedience. It wouldn’t happen today, we might think, and yet the Poor Clare community are a constant reminder that it is happening and continues to happen in the simplicity of their life. We say it today, we say it every day – we are privileged to have them among us.
Let’s reflect on our own lives, our own story, maybe there are things we need to abandon in order to be freer to give God time. He promises us if we give Him time, He will offer us eternity. Eternity in the company of St. Clare, St. Francis and all those gone before us with footprints on the sands on time … and so we pray …
Abide with me; fast falls the eventide;
The darkness deepens; Lord, with me abide;
When other helpers fail and comforts flee,
Help of the helpless, oh, abide with me.
Recently I received a letter with a simple request: how many Poor Clare communities are there in Ireland? The question elicited a very small piece of research – there are six Poor Clare communities in Ireland – Ballsbridge, Drumshanbo, Cork, Galway, Ennis and here in Graiguecullen, Carlow.
On the occasion of the centenary of the foundation here in 1993, the late Cardinal Cahal Daly wrote: “Privileged is the Bishop who has a fervent contemplative community in his diocese. Fortunate are the priests who have such Sisters in their parish. Favoured are the people who have contemplative sisters praying in their midst”. But privileges carry with them responsibilities.
As your Bishop I understand and appreciate this privilege. I know Fr. John, Fr. Liam, Fr. Des, Msgr. Brendan and the many others for whom the Poor Clare Monastery is a well out of which fruits pour abundantly. I know how busy that doorbell over there is every day of the year as parishioners, patrons and long time family friends call with a request for prayer or an expression of thanksgiving for a favour granted.
Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day;
Earth’s joys grow dim, its glories pass away;
Change and decay in all around I see—
O Thou who changest not, abide with me.
The past eighteen months has been most unsettling for all of us as we have learned to adjust our work patterns, our school life, our home environment and much more to cope with a virulent virus that we can’t see but all around us we see the effects it leaves in its wake. With the successful roll out of the vaccine programme, the focus on the virus seems now to be on the under 30’s.
We have seen with great pride, the many young people who have queued these past weekends at walk-in vaccination centres to avail of their first dose of the much needed vaccine. Such was the turn out that we drew the attention and admiration of other nations. The very powerful advertisement voiced over by the actor Liam Neeson reminds us if we have a vaccine, we should give a vaccine. No one is safe, until everyone is safe. It’s great to hear that we are becoming a significant contributor to the world vaccination programme. The real poverty of this pandemic will be how the developing countries risk being left behind in the race towards herd immunity.
I need Thy presence every passing hour;
What but Thy grace can foil the tempter’s pow’r?
Who, like Thyself, my guide and stay can be?
Through cloud and sunshine, Lord, abide with me.
St. Clare was born into a wealthy family in Assisi on July 16th, 1194. She was devout as a girl and against the wishes of her dad was one of the first followers of St. Francis of Assisi, adopting a life of poverty and simplicity. Together they formed the Second Order of Franciscans, know now as the Poor Clare’s. While there are six communities in Ireland, Poor Clare communities are to be found today on every continent.
Returning to the privilege it is to have a monastery in one’s diocese. The gift that monastery brings is a constant presence of prayer. How many scribbled notes are pushed through the letter box beyond? How many phone calls are made seeking solace and comfort? How many letters are written detailing what mightn’t ever be shared in a confessional. We trust the Sisters. We appreciate their presence. We treasure their counsel.
I fear no foe, with Thee at hand to bless;
Ills have no weight, and tears no bitterness;
Where is death’s sting? Where, grave, thy victory?
I triumph still, if Thou abide with me.
The Poor Clare movement is both active and contemplative, missionary and mystical. The call to become a committed religious, a priest is even more radical today as it was when any of the Sisters entered community life. I take this opportunity on this the Feast of St. Clare to make an appeal to those who have being putting off the idea of a vocation for too long, now is the time to make that call.
Surely the best advertisement for the priesthood is a happy contented priest. Fr. John and Fr. Liam are a great advertisements for the priesthood. The best advertisement for religious life is a community who smile, who are happy to be in one another’s company. It’s the first impression that hits any visitor to the monastery.
Hold Thou Thy cross before my closing eyes;
Shine through the gloom and point me to the skies;
Heav’n’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee;
In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.
The passing of Sr. Anna Maria on December 23rd last after 75 years of a fulfilled life within the monastery walls was huge in the life of the community. Sr. Anna Maria was just 112 days short of her hundredth birthday. She never lived to get her cheque from the President. She would have relished every bit of that moment.
Sr. Anna Maria was the oldest Poor Clare in Ireland. She was a great story teller. And the greatest story of all is Christ’s love for each one of us, particularly for the destitute and poor. We are all invited on this feast-day to become like St. Clare, radical in her day, rebellious in her attitude to family as she discerned a deeply call and revolutionary in her outlook as she encouraged a deeper appreciation of poverty.