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Homily for the Mass.
From the first reading, “I will allure her…and speak to her heart. “Hosea 2:16. Where will You allure her? Real estate agents love to say “Location, location, location…”Where was God leading Clare? God was leading her outside the walls of Assisi, down the hill to a tiny chapel, called the Little Portion, to meet with a motley crew of young men who would cut off her hair as a sign that she was joining their gang. That was her espousal to Our Lord Jesus Christ, and Francis was the best man. Clare joined the Friars.
It was a challenge to find the right spot for Clare, and for the women who would be with her. Bishop Guido, the ordinary of the diocese of Assisi, had a spot. He offered a small chapel that was under his jurisdiction. It was outside the walls of Assisi and down the hill on the well-traveled road that led up into the town of Assisi. There to this day, is the chapel of San Damiano even if the Clares are no longer there. San Damiano was on the other side of the hill from the Little Portion of the friars. Between the two Franciscan Chapels was the Leprosarium. “Location, location, location…”
The second reading for the feast is taken from Paul’s 2nd letter to the Corinthians, “God let light shine in our hearts…even when we are affected in every way…” These exquisite readings for the feast of Clare were chosen by the friars after Vatican II for the feast of Clare. In this second reading we hear that the light is always there shining in the hearts of Clare and her Sisters that they might make known the glory of God shining on the face of Jesus. And they would do that in the presence of great challenges. There is no doubt that the light was shining on the face of Clare and her Sisters at San Damiano when they stared down the Saracen invaders. What I would like to bring to your attention at this point, is that it was a shared light, shared with Francis and the brothers who the Clares always had with them “through the kindness of the Order of Lesser Brothers.” Chap 12 in the Form of Life and “who were always faithful to the Sisters” the words of Clare. Francis and his closest companions never abandoned Clare and the Sisters at San Damiano. Clare and her Sisters were never distant from Leo, Juniper, Angelo, her cousin Rufino, Elias, and others. When Clare was dying Brother Rainaldo got Clare’s ire up when he told her to be patient in her sickness. She, in a “very unrestrained voice” (shouted) responded, “that since she came to know Jesus through Brother Francis nothing has been too hard.” At Clare’s death bed Juniper was there with his hijinks delighting Clare. Angelo, her cousin, while mourning himself was consoling the others, and Leo kissed her bed. The sisters and brothers were all crying. So much for strict enclosure.
And poor old Celano writes “Who could narrate the rest without crying.” But, of course, he continues. Listen to this line, “Faces were swollen with tears and the fury of the mourning heart supplied ever new waters.”
At that moment Clare turned away and said quietly to herself, “Go without anxiety for you have a good guide for your journey, for the one who created you has loved you and made you holy.”
From today’s Gospel, John 15:4-10, Jesus says “My Father has been glorified in your bearing much fruit.”
After Clare’s death her body was carried up the hill into the city of Assisi to the Church of St. Georgio where Francis’s body had been laid at his death before being transported to the grand basilica named for him. Clare’s remains were buried deep under the altar of the Church of San Georgio which was incorporated into the grand basilica of St. Clare. It was more than 7 hundred years before the bones of St. Clare were exhumed and placed at a barred window in a side room of the basilica.
When I visited Assisi in 1970 on the way to our new Clarian foundation in Zambia I visited the window where Clare’s remains were on view. I saw some bones with a black gauze pulled over the bones. Those were the remains of her earthly life. But where was Clare? “Location, Location, location.”
From Clare’s 4th and last letter to Agnes of Prague, Clare writes “Farewell, dearest daughter with your daughters, until we meet at the throne of the glory of the great God. This is what I desire for us.” End of quote.