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This wonderful story in the Irish Examiner peaked my interest so I looked deeper into the story behind the foundation of the Poor Clare Colettine Monastery in Cork, Ireland. The Poor Clares of Cork are celebrating the 100th anniversary of their founding this year, something that will make their Christmas Eve Midnight Mass extra-special for this is the date and time when the first Mass was celebrated in the monastery.
The Poor Clares came to Cork because of one man, Walter Dwyer, whose daughter was a Poor Clare nun in Tournai, Belgium. Wishing to have his daughter closer to home as he was dying, he asked the famous Jesuit, Fr. Wille Doyle (He was a military chaplain killed during the Battle of Passchendaele in World War I. His body was never recovered), to find sisters for a new monastery in Cork. Mr. Dwyer said that he would finance it. The long and the short of it is that Fr. Doyle and Mr. Dwyer were successful. The first Mass on Christmas Eve night was attended by the Dwyer family and two of the founding Sisters, one of whom was Sr. Maria Dwyer, Walter’s daughter.
Walter died a peaceful and holy death next door to the Monastery in Bon Secours Hospital. His body rested in the Monastery Chapel the night before his burial. His daughter died 40 years later on her father’s fortieth anniversary. The Cork monastery founded two daughter houses as well in Ennis, Ireland, and in Bothwell, Scotland.
There are currently 8 sisters living in Cork. Please pray that they receive a wonderful Christmas present this year−holy, persevering vocations to fill their monastery.
I can’t remember where I read this but a bishop once asked a priest (I think Father Hardon, SJ) about vocation programs and asked, “What is the best way to attract priestly vocations?” The answer, “Become a saint, Your Excellency.”
Holiness is attractive and it reminds me of our saint for today, St. Clare of Assisi. The foundress of the Poor Clares, the 2nd Franciscans Order, Clare placed her life into the hands of St. Francis of Assisi in 1212 at the age of about seventeen. Sixteen days later, her younger sister Agnes secretly left the family home to join her sister. Emissaries, sent by their angry Father, dragged Agnes by her hair out of the monastery.They abandoned her in a field because she was so unexpectedly heavy, something viewed as Divine intervention. Their mother, Blessed Hortulana, and younger sister Beatrice, later joined them and their cousin Ruffino was an early companion of St. Francis. Holiness attracts.
So on this feast day of St. Clare, as we pray for our relatives who may seem far from the faith, let us invoke St. Clare and St. Agnes and ask for their assistance in helping us to become saints, so we can inspire our nearest and dearest to draw closer to the Lord themselves.
O dearest, look on heaven that invites us, and bear the Cross and follow Christ who preceded us; indeed, after various and many tribulations we shall enter through Him into His glory. Love with your whole heart God and Jesus, His son, crucified for our sins, and never let His memory escape your mind; make yourself mediate continually on the mysteries of the Cross and the anguish of the mother standing beneath the Cross.
—St. Agnes of Assisi
They may be little known in the United States, but there is a wonderful community of Poor Clare nuns in Mission, British Columbia, Canada. As the sisters closed the Octave of Christmas and began the New Year of 2014, they celebrated the first profession of Sr. Agnes Marie, OSC. As you can see by the picture, she looks to be about the happiest Poor Clare in the world!
Sr. Agnes Marie professed the vows of poverty, chastity, obedience, and enclosure. For the next three years, she will journey with “light step, swift pace and unswerving feet on the path of prudent happiness” (St. Agnes of Bohemia who founded the first Poor Clare community north of the Alps). “A continual, silent self-emptying for the sake of bringing souls closer to God: these were the desires of my heart,” Sr. Agnes Marie said. “Though it is a life of sacrifice, the joys and graces I receive from the Lord far outweigh the costs.”
The abbess, Sr. Marie-Celine, was once a Grey Nun and by joining the Poor Clares in far western Canada, left behind all that was familiar to her including her French Canadian heritage. The sisters have bears on their property and wear “bear-bells” to scare them off. One day, Sr. Christine and Sr. Marie Therese were checking on some newly planted trees when one of them heard a rustling sound, looked over a steep bank and saw a bear. Sister cried, “A bear! Run!” They took off and the bear did too — in the opposite direction!
The sisters are very happy that Pope Francis is showing the same love for the Poor Clares as did his predecessors. Last August, Pope Francis visited the Poor Clares in Albano Italy, alone and without anyone present. In October, he visited the Poor Clares in Assisi and let the Cardinals come in with him saying, “I did not have the courage to send them away.”
The Poor Clare Order was established in British Columbia in 1911. These Poor Clares settled in Mission in 1962.The high point of their day is the Holy Eucharist, and they give the Lord praise seven times a day through the Liturgy of the Hours, including the midnight Office of Readings.
The Poor Clare is one who weaves the flowers of each day into a crown for her King…one petal at a time. She is poor, chaste, and obedient. She is one who is alone on the mountain with Christ, enclosed in His Heart and lifting the entire world in prayer to her heavenly Father.
On August 11, 2013, the Poor Clares opened up a “Poor Clare” museum in Albano, Italy, near Castel Gandolfo (the summer home of the Popes) and on August 15th they had a most illustrious guest: Pope Francis himself! The Holy Father spoke with the nuns and prayed at the tomb of Sr. Maria Chiara Damato whose cause for canonization is underway.
The Poor Clares of Albano suffered grievously during World War II. As the Allies marched north in Italy, they took to heart Pope Pius XII’s plea and the entire community offered themselves “as victims for the longed-for peace in the world.”
On February 1, 1944, a bomb fell nearby, shattering the stained glass windows in their chapel. As they were recovering from the shock of this blow, a second bomb made a direct hit on the monastery and several sisters were killed. The surviving sisters moved into temporary quarters which they shared with other refugees. In fact, over 40 babies were born to refugee mothers in the Papal apartments during the war.
On February 10th, bombs hit their temporary home resulting in great loss of life. Sr. Maria Chiara was one of the injured: “I am happy to suffer with Jesus suffering on the Cross, but with a happiness full of inner joy.” The suffering would not be wasted. Msgr. Giovanni Battista Montini, later Pope Paul VI, predicted that it would rebound on the community with a flourishing of vocations. Indeed, with the end of the war in 1945, vocations came.
Sr. Maria Chiara of St. Therese of the Child Jesus was inspired to enter cloistered life in part because of the example St. Therese of Lisieux. In emulation of her namesake, she too asked to be afflicted with tuberculosis and offered her sufferings and death for the sanctification of priests. After caring tirelessly for the refugees, she died in 1948. She was only in her thirties.
When the now-Pope Paul VI visited the community in 1971, he paused in front of a stone slab that listed the names of the 18 sisters who died during the bombings. His visit, he said, had a purpose. It was “intended as a response to the tacit objection which viewed cloistered nuns as marginalized from life, from reality and from the experience of our time.” He added, “You, who are faithful to the Rule, to life in community, to poverty, are a seed and a sign.”
For more information, see the Catholic News Service article.
Somehow, I don’t equate southern Florida with a cloistered, contemplative community but on that point, I am wrong in more ways than one! The Poor Clares of the Monastery of San Damiano of St. Clare in Fort Myers Beach recently celebrated their 25th anniversary in the Diocese of Venice. They, in turn, are a “daughter house” of the Poor Clares in Delray Beach, Florida, who came to the newly created Diocese of Miami in 1960.
Much like the papal line of succession, the Poor Clares can trace their lineage back to the first monastery that their founder, St. Francis of Assisi, began in Assisi, Italy, in 1212, with their foundress Saint Clare. St. Clare lived with her sisters for 42 years in the monastery of San Damiano in Assisi. Going forward 800 years, Delray Beach was founded by the Poor Clares in Bordentown, New Jersey, which was founded by Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts, which was founded by Evansville, Indiana, which was founded by Omaha, Nebraska, which was founded by San Lorenzo Roma, in Italy, which was founded by Ss. Cosmas and Damian Rome, which was founded by San Damiano in 1233. And if this isn’t enough to make you dizzy, their are over 800 Poor Clare monasteries in all parts of the world!
The sisters’ life in Florida revolves around the traditional monastic blend of work and prayer. Their ministry is prayer— for the Church, for the diocese in which they reside and for all God’s people.
Bishop Frank J. Dewane expressed his feelings about the Poor Clares in a letter to the community: “San Damiano Monastery has remained true to the mission of its founding. This Monastery participates each and every day in the same charism which filled and motivated St. Francis and St. Clare… like your two venerable founders, you have left all and given yourselves entirely to living the Gospel life — for the greater glory of God and for the salvation of souls. Your life of prayer and community is the ‘heartbeat’ of our Church.”
Mary Almighty God bless you. May He look on you with the eyes of His mercy and give you peace.
Here below may He pour forth his graces on you abundantly, and in heaven may He place you among His saints.
Blessing of Saint Clare
Hard Labor: If you have ever secretly supposed that the contemplative life to be a leisurely round of devotional exercises, punctuated by strolls in the garden and a spot of embroidery now and again, FEAR NO MORE!….Here you will be given ample scope and freedom to pursue an ambitious career as a fully-certified, full-time lowly servant of God.
Long Hours: Imagine the joy! Each night you will leap from your sleep at the enchanting hour of 12:30 a.m.!!
No Pay: Yes, say goodbye to that jingle in your pocket for there are no salaried positions to be had in the monastery, no payroll, no wallets, not even a piggy bank.
For as there can be never be labors too hard, nor hours too long in the service and praise of God and in the life and death struggle for souls, it follow that…
THERE CAN NEVER BE TOO MANY POOR CLARES!
The Roswell Poor Clares were established in 1948 as a foundation from Chicago. Since then they have established 6 daughter-monasteries over the years including one in the Netherlands and one back in Chicago. There are currently 23 in the community.
The year 2012 marks the 800th anniversary of Saint Clare’s religious consecration and the founding of the Poor Clares. The Poor Clares of Belleville, Illinois, invite everyone to join them in their solemn novena in honor of Saint Clare, August 2 through August 10. Her feast day is Sunday, August 11th.
Pope John Paul II said that there was no concern, suffering, anguish or discouragement of others that did not find an echo in the heart of this prayerful woman.
She is the:
- Patroness of Television (declared so in 1958). When she was too sick to attend Mass, she was able to see it on a wall in her room. The origin of the word television comes from tele (far) and vision (sight). Mother Angelica, who founded EWTN, is a Poor Clare nun.
- Patroness of Seamstresses – preserved at the basilica of St. Clare in Assisi is a linen and lace alb she made for St. Francis
- Intercessor for those with eye trouble – one of the first miracles after her death was the restoration of the sight of a blind man
- Patroness of Good Weather – the traditional offering for a CLARE-sky day is one dozen eggs to the nearest Poor Clare Monastery
- Helper in Childbirth – Her mother prayed before a crucifix shortly before the birth of St. Clare. The Lord said, Fear not, for you will bring forth a light that will greatly illumine the world.
- Friend of Children in Need – People brought their children to the monastery confident that Saint Clare’s prayers would help them
The theme for this year’s novena is: Clare: Close to Us
Take a few moments to watch this beautiful YouTube video of the investiture of a Poor Clare nun from December 11, 2011. Beautiful music and beautiful written reflections are used to bring us into the experience of this very special day for Sr. Marie Elise of Jesus Crucified from the Poor Clare Monastery in Barhamsville, VA.
Mother Abbess asked her repeatedly: will you be nervous or cry and the answer was always, no! Then came the moment of the cutting of the hair, like St. Clare, and the donning of the headcover and veil. She saw herself in the heart of the Jesus with the doors to His heart closing until they were shut completely. Sr. Marie Elise heard Jesus say, “You are mine.” Then she cried. She arose from her knees a new person, devoted to Christ alone.
The Poor Clares in Barhamsville are an IRL Affiliate Community. Visit their website for more information.
Future Vocations? Really liked the picture.
Today, March 18, 2012, Poor Clares from all over the world are celebrating the 800th anniversary of the religious consecration of their Mother and Foundress, Saint Clare. On the night of Palm Sunday, 1212, Clare left her home and all of her belongings to follow Christ’s call to a life of prayer, penance and poverty.
Saint Clare was born in Assisi, Italy, in about 1194 into a family of knights and nobles. At the age of eighteen, Clare became the first female follower of Saint Francis and later the first woman in Church history to write a Rule. Because she remained for 40 years “rooted” in one place, she liked to call herself the Little Plant of St. Francis.
Today, there are over 20,000 Poor Clares and Poor Clare Colettine Nuns around the world.
The Poor Clare Nuns of Belleville, Illinois, have put together a beautiful reflection on the life of Saint Clare as expressed by our Holy Father, Pope John Paul II. We thank God for the gift of the Poor Clares; lives hidden yet shining brightly for all the world.