With Lent well under way, lest with the Israelites in the desert our “patience [wears] out with the journey” (Num 21:4), let us look heaven-ward for the encouragement we need. One of those interceding for us in eternity who lived an almost entirely “Lenten life” we could say, offers us solid advice for our struggles and a glimpse of “the joy that lay before [us].” (Heb 12:2) Like Christ, tried in His fast in the desert, Saint Clare knew the dangers of the subtle temptation to choose an apparent good (the “why not….?”) and the fury of an all-out battle with the powers of darkness. She exhorts us in the face of “false delights of a deceptive world” to “close [our] ears to the whisperings of hell and bravely oppose its onslaughts.” The Saint assures us that God Himself will “be [our] help and best comforter for He is our Redeemer and our eternal reward.”
Throughout these forty days, we hear Jesus speak of His immanent passion and death. Throughout her life, rather than retreat from the Cross, our Holy Mother hastened to share in Christ’s suffering, His surrender to the Father. From the dramatic ‘exodus’ she undertook from the security of all wealth, inherited status and home, to her prolonged illness at the close of her life, she sought to mirror the One who gave His life for us. She expresses her response to His love in this way: “Look upon Him Who became contemptible for you, and follow Him, making yourself contemptible in the world for Him.” His sorrow, His pain became her own. As she writes to St. Agnes of Prague “That Mirror, suspended on the wood of the Cross urged those who pass by to consider saying: ‘All you who pass by the way, look and see if there is any suffering like My suffering!’ (Lam 1:12). Let us answer Him with one voice and spirit…”
In the midst of her identification with the Suffering Servant, the paradox of the Gospel in her life reaches completion. As the Church beholds our Savior transfigured in glory on the second Sunday of Lent, we see too Clare’s life of self-offering to her Spouse in turn shot through with the light of His splendor in her prayer and ‘being-with’ Him. She lived continually “[Placing her] mind before the mirror of eternity! [Placing her] soul in the brilliance of glory…[tasting] the hidden sweetness which God Himself has reserved… for those who love Him.” Even in the midst of Lent with Easter weeks away, this foretaste of Heaven is offered to us too. We can entreat with St. Clare, “Draw me after You!...I will run and not tire…”
Many Poor Clares around the world commemorate Saint Clare’s consecration and the founding of the Second Order on March 18th – the night she left home in secret and was received by Saint Francis at the Portiuncula. More than 800 years later, the light of our Holy Mother’s love for Christ continues to illuminate the world!