ASSISI: A WOMAN'S LIFE [Symbols of the feminine in her writings], by Jean-François
Godet-Calogeras, Tau Publishing, Phoenix, AZ, 2013, 41 pp.
This little monograph is a study
1. What is
Feminine in Clare's Writings.
3. The Women
in Clare's Writings.
Referred to in Clare's Writings.
It is indeed this that we see when
we look, with a hindsight of history, at Clare and Francis: a woman who was
tender and strong, and a man who was strong
and tender, both nourishers. When a man and a woman set about serving
life, they become free from the entanglement of fear and competition.
They stop marching to inhuman rules of gender domination and dance
instead within the marvelous and freeing rhythm
of mutual and loving service. Each acknowledges her or his difference
as a woman, as a man; each nourishes the other to the point of completeness.
In God's plan the truly human
exists only when there is masculine and feminine, feminine and masculine.
This little book is recommended
for any of our libraries, and especially for those in formation and study.
FRANCISCAN WOMAN: CLARE OF ASSISI AND HER FORM OF LIFE, by Margaret
Carney, OSF, Franciscan Press, Quincy, Illinois, 1993, 261pp.
During the year of study at the
Capuchin Franciscan Institute (Antonianum, Rome) I was privileged to take
two courses given by Margaret Carney. In one of the courses on Francsican
Women, Margaret presented us with much of the research she was doing for
this book. At her doctoral defense of this work, one of the examiners asked
her if her stance on women in this work wasn't a bit much? She looked up
from her desk and replied: "Absolutely not!" The audience stood and
applauded her response.
For five years I was able to share the
research of this work with our novices as well as three monasteries of Poor
Clares (Bronx, Bordentown, Stamford). And the response has been positively
refreshing. Margaret is a genius in her use of the sources, especiallly
designing critical composites from them.
In chapter I, "Francis and Clare
in the Sources," Margaret presents a chronology of both founders, especially
looking in the sources for those times when their lives intersected or came
together. As she presents this, she also offers fresh insights from the
critical composite of the sources.
In chapter II, "The Rule of Clare"
Margaret not only treats of the origins of Clare's form of life, but
examines it in contrast to the Rules of Hugolino and Innocent IV which
preceded her Rule. Clare, notes Margaret, was the first woman to write a
rule that was approved by the church. Regarding Clare's Rule, Maragaret
writes: "It is extremely
important to promote study that recovers the (Rule) text as a primary source
of general Franciscan spirituality" [p.97].
In effect, she's saying that ignorance of Clare's Rule or any of the
Rules of our Order, leaves a gap of ignorance in our Franciscan spirituality
on our Franciscan journey.
In chapters III (Clare's Incarnation of Gospel
Poverty), IV (Clare's Incarnation of Mutual Charity), and V (Clare's
Definition of Governance), Margaret uses the image
of an analytical `triptych' in which
Clare's Rule will be the central
subject, but will be
enlightened and commented upon by means of two adjoining sections. . . ,
a section that provides a brief survey of the situation of medieval
women. . . , (a) section (that) deal(s) with...the historical development of
the Friars Minor for the period between the death of Francis and the death
of Clare [p.99]. So as Margaret
treats of Clare's ideas on poverty, mutual charity and governance, she
flavors her research by giving a picture of what was happening with both
medieval women and the friars.
Her final chapter, "The Charism of Clare
and Contemporary Religious Life" brings the entire discussion into focus for
our present stage of living the charism as Franciscan men and women.
work should be in all our libraries, and without doubt, in those of our
ASSISI by Marco
Bartoli, translated by Frances Teresa, OSC, Darton, Longman and Todd,
London, 1993, 244 pp. Available
in USA from Franciscan Press, Quincy College, Quincy, Il.
A biography on Clare that first
appeared in Italian in 1989 is now made available in English—a most welcome
addition to the new litgerature appearing on St.Clare. Baratoli, an Italian
historian and specialist in St.Francis and St.Clare is of the school of
Raoul Manselli [Cf. Manselli's ST FRANCIS OF ASSISI, Franciscan Herald
Press, 1988. Reviewed in a previous issue of Newslettr.] In this work
Bartoli avails himself of the latest scholarship as he takes a closer look
at Clare from her writings, the Legend, and other writings about her such as
the Process of Canonization.
Bartoli then weaves his material
together into very plausible insights into the life of the Lady Clare. He
tries at times "to reflect on [her] attitudes and intentions" [p. 37], which
Bartoli masterfully accomplishes through his approach to the sources.
One aspect that seems to permeate the entire work is the attempt on
Bartoli's part to fill in the gaps in the sources we have on St.Clare by
using the later research, for example, that which is being done on women's
studies and other forms of scholarship. An example of filling in the gaps
would be the following. The reaction of Clare's family to her Palm Sunday
flight from her home was to go to the monastery where she was and they tried
by threats and promises to dissuade her from embracing this "worthless deed"
[huiusmodi vilitas]. This was a scandal to the family. "What was the
vilitas, the worthlessness of her act, which maade it so unbecoming to her
class and never before seen in the district" [p.46]? Clare converted her
inheritance into alms and that of her sister as well, and gave it to the
poor. What was the content of
this inheritance? We can be sure it consisted of the dowry which the family
had set aside for the marriages of Clare and Beatrice....The dowry system
was becoming the custom whereby that part of the paternal inheritance due to
the daughter was given her in advance...to enhance her chances of an
advantageous marriage....Thus it is highly likely that Clare...would have
received her dowry before she fled from her father's house. . . .Clare's
`crime' [vilitas] was that she refused to use her dowry to procure a good
marriage. . . .The vilitas not only referred to what she had done but also
to the condition in which she was living. . ." [pp.46-48].
All the nuns at San Paolo
Monastery were members of the nobility [who] had men and women servants.
When Clare knocked at the doors of this monastery she was not seeking to be
received as a nun which her social status would have permitted, but as a
servant [italics mine] which her new social condition demanded....This would
have been the `crime' which her family wanted her to renounce" [pp.49-50].
So when one reads in the Legend the words "worthless deed," vilitas,
one could easily ignore the severity of the situation for Clare with regard
to her family, her dowry, her status.
Another of Bardtoli's gifts in
this work is the frequency of parallel incidents he sees in the lives of
Francis and Clare. In the incident just desctribed above, Clare would have
presented herself as "servant" in San Paolo Monastery. "Immediately after
the famous episode of disappropriation before Bishop Guido, Francis had left
Assisi and at length coming to a certain cloister of monks he spent several
days there as a scullion" [p. 49].
This would have been the monastery of San Verecondo near Gubbio.
Bartoli parallels their lives when
he says: "We know that the thread woven by Clare was linen, but the Process
also speaks of silk, lazzo and precious cloth" [p.61]. "Francis, child of a
merchant family, would have been no stranger to this type of work" [p.62].
Another parallel between them was
Clare's stance on "muystical marriage" to the Lord of Lords. "This has a
completely Franciscan slant; just as Francis had wanted to become a knight
of some lord and in the end became the knight of the Lord of lords, so Clare
the invitation to marry this same
Lord of lords" [p.127].
Every Franciscan would benefit by
reading this book. It would be most beneficial for those in formation. Every
library should have a copy.
photo: Jona Raischl, 2013
FOOTSTEPS OF ST. CLARE, by Ramona Miller, OSF, Franciscan Institute Publications,
St.Bonaventure, NY, 1993, 100pp.
A most timely work during the
eighth centenary year of Clare of Assisi's birth! Ramona Miller, a
Franciscan Sister of Rochester, Minnesota and staff member of
The Assisi Experience, has researched all the places associated with
the life of St. Clare. She devotes a chapter to each of nine major
places--the Family Home, San Rufino, Perugia, Porziuncola, Monastery of San
Paolo in Bastia, Sant'Angelo in Panzo, San Damiano, San Giorgio, Basilica of
Santa Chiara. In each of these sections, Ramona Miller treats of Clare's
involvement, then gives historical background, some further reflections, and
suggested readings. So if a
pilgrim is interested in walking through Assisi in Clare's footsteps, this
is the work to guide one into the heart of the Lady Clare.
Optatus van Asseldonck, OFM Cap says one can no longer study or speak of
Francis without Clare or vice-versa. They are originators of the Franciscan
movement. So on any trip to Assisi, a pilgrim would benefit from carrying
both Desbonnets' and Miller's works. Finally, Eric Doyle, OFM wrote:
“Besides the writings of St.Francis (and Clare) and the early written
sources of (their) life and message, THERE STILL REMAINS ONE MORE SOURCE:
THE CITY OF ASSISI ITSELF....Anyone who wants to penetrate the mystery of
St.Francis (and St.Clare) really
ought to visit Assisi.” To learn
this city-source well, the GUIDE TO ASSISI: HISTORY AND ART is an excellent
companion to your journey. This
book can be purchased in Assisi.
Both volumes IN THE FOOTSTEPS can be purchased from: The Franciscan Store,
ASSISI: INVESTIGATIONS, compiled by Mary Francis Hone, OSC, "Clare Centenary Series,"
Vol. VII, Franciscan Institute Publications: St.Bonaventure, N.Y., 1993,
This book is a series of five
lectures presented at the Medieval Congress in Kalamazoo, Michigan, in May
In the first lectue,
Sr.Roberta McKelvie, osf gives us a fresh look at "Clare's Rule: Weaving
Together Law and Life." It is a brief look at Clare's Rule using the "image
of a tapestry, a weaving together of threads of different color and
texture." [p.2] Some of the "threads" McKelvie looks at are the Franciscan
vocation, the concept of law, living poorly, the work of one's hands, and
the call as lived in unity of mind and heart. Regarding Clare's Rule, Sr.
Margaret Carney, OSF says that ignorance of the Rule of Clare would be
ignorance of one facet of our Franciscan spirituality. McKelvie's article is
another help to dispel this ignorance for all Franciscans.
"Clare of Assisi, the Eucharist and John 13," Michael Blastic, OFM Conv
writes: “The image of Christ
washing the apostles' feet struck Francis so much so that Francis' intention
in naming the Order that of Friars Minor is strictly linked with this image
of Christ as foot washer. This is a key element of Francis' spirituality,
one that Clare made her own” [p.36].
From this premise, Blastic moves on to some fascinating reflections
on Eucharist, Clare, and foot-washing--a refreshing insight worth pursuing.
In "Like a Beguine: Clare before 1212," Sr. Ingrid Peterson, OSF gives some
fascinating background to the Offreduccio Women—the women of Clare's
extended family household, nine in all. She identifies each one and goes on
to show how much of their life was "Like a Beguine" -- "women who sought an
alternate to life in a monastic enclosure or in an anchorage" [p.57].
It is pertinent to an understanding of life at San Damiano, for
several of these women become members of that very community.
Legenda Versificata: Towards an
Official Biography," Regis Armstrong, OFM Cap takes a look at this work on
the Lady Clare, giving its background, an outline of the work itself, the
insights it has to offer, concluding that it is a work not to be ignored.
In the last article "Elias and
Clare: An Enigmatic Relationship," Michael Cusato, OFM makes some refreshing
observations about Elias whose reputation has suffered an negative influence
right into this century. Clare writes in her second letter to St.Agnes of
Prague (c.1235-37): "In all of
this, follow the counsel of our venerable father, our Brother Elias, the
Minister General, that you may walk more securely in the way of the commands
of the Lord."
This was written during the waning
years of Elias' term as General Minister, the years he struggled with
difficulties among the friars.
Now in this battle (of Clare's for the privilege of poverty), apparently it
was Elias who was highly instrumental in pleading Clare's case before
Gregory IX, perhaps in 1228 but most certainly throughout the 1230s, as this
letter makes quite clear. The praise which Clare reserves for Elias in her
letter to Agnes and the esteem in which she holds him is thus directly
related to his defense of the privilege of poverty for herself and her
sisters. . . , a privilege she did obtain on 15 April 1238 [p.99].
is generally regarded as the architect of the Basilica of San Francesco.
"Clare does not appear to be opposed to the Basilica (because it was) not
owned by the friars..., (and) the construction of the Basilica was dependent
upon the alms of others."[pp.108-9] "Thus given the evidence at hand, Clare
does not appear to have harbored any resentment of or antagonism towards
This volume is valuable for any library, especially
those of our formation units.
CLARE OF ASSISI:
ICONOGRAPHY by Servus Gieben, OFM Cap., published by Chiesa di S.Maria della
Consolazione, Rome, Italy, 1993, 100pp., available from THE FRANCISCAN
STORE, Pulaski, WI .
In this centenary year of
remembering the birth of St.Clare, this work is a unique contribution to
volumes that are being published on the Lady Clare.
Capuchin Friar Servus Gieben has spent 40 years in the Capuchin
Historical Institute of Rome and is “one who has powerfully contributed in
making known the artistic and cultural Franciscan heritage.”
Servus Gieben has collected 85
works of art and combined them in this volume with commentary in English as
well as Italian. He has grouped
the plates of Clare under the following headings:
of her person, with the monstrance, the story of her life, cutting of her
hair and investiture, the rule, prayer ecstasy, supper ecstasy, the assault
of the Saracens, taking leave of Francis, papal audience, celestial
visitations, coronation in heaven, Clare’s tomb, and various devotions for
the crib, passion, eucharist, the Madonna, the saints.
This collection is unique because
it is the work of many artists from several different countries and
centuries about the Lady Clare that Gieben has grouped together in a single
volume. Prior to this
collection, there have been attempts to publish art about St.Clare--but
usually from a single artist.
While the English is occasionally awkward, nevertheless,
the sense is conveyed.
It is a handsome volume and would
be an important reference for any Franciscan library.
INCARNATION: PRAYING WITH
FRANCIS AND CLARE OF ASSISI, by Frances Teresa, OSC, Darton, Longman and Todd, London,
[Doubleday] 1993, 136 pp.
A most welcome addition to the
Clarian literature that has been published during this eighth centenary of
Clare’s birth! Poor Clare Sister
Frances Teresa of the monastery in Arundel, England, is already familiar to
Franciscans as the translator of the book by Marco Bartoli, “Clare of
Assisi.” And one gets to
experience first hand the spirituality of Frances Teresa in this volume.
The book has ten chapters that
progress from conversion [first three chapters] to contrition [next three
chapters] to communion [last four chapters].
It is through these “3 Cs” that Frances Teresa shares her insights on
the spiritual journeys of Francis and Clare.
Frances Teresa makes both a good and critical use of the sources and
scripture as she takes us on these journeys in very practical and insightful
language. It is very easy to
resonate with the thoughts and ideas as they unfold for the reader.
The author’s gift emanates in the integraton she makes of scripture,
Franciscan sources, and her own insights.
At times her wisdom leapt out from the pages.
Consider the following:
“Grief is a solitary pilgrimage” [p.65].
“Both Francis and Clare saw that because our nothingness is so great,
it is our greatest resource, the most ‘God-sized’ capacity in all our being”
[p.108]. “Holiness is our
greatest ecological contribution.
Without it, we shall never balance the needs and rights of our
diversified world. Holiness is
the restoration of order in its most searching and creative form, an
unfailing source of respect for others” [p.126].
This work, a fine interpretation
of Francis and Clare, would be helpful for anyone making a private retreat.
Any Franciscan would benefit from the wisdom of this volume.
It is recommended for all our Franciscan libraries.
THE LIFE OF
ST. CLARE VIRGIN, attributed at times to Fra’Tommaso da Celano, translated by
Catherine Bolton Magrini, Editrice Minerva, Assisi, 1994, 99pp.
This publication of the Legend of
Clare has the advantage of being able to be used by itself as a compact
paperback. It is also a new and
good translation that is accompanied by ample footnotes that align quite
well with the critical research on the life of Clare.
ST CLARE OF ASSISI by Chiara Augusta Lainati, OSC, Edizioni
Porziuncola, Assisi, 1994, 112 pp.
Poor Clare Sister Chiara A.
Lainati has produced a biography of Clare based on solid scholarship.
It is a good little work to offer anyone you may desire to introduce
to the Lady Clare.
THE WAY OF
ST. CLARE OF ASSISI, by Fidel Aizpurua,
OFM Cap., translated by Joseph Nacua, OFM Cap.
Franciscan Institute of Asia,
undated, 177 pp.
While working with our Poor Clare
Sisters in the Philippines in 1995, Mother Auxiliadora Tan took me to visit
the Franciscan Institute of Asia.
And it was there that I purchased a little book on St. Clare.
Having just opened it recently to read, I discovered a little known
Thadee Matura, OFM, writes in his Foreward:
Aizpurua offers us. . .a book presenting a vigorous synthesis, the life, the
writings and the spirituality of this great Franciscan figure.
The Author knows the writings of Clare in depth and works with them
one by one. But it is not an
exegesis or an interpretation that is purely historical or turned to the
past. . . .Aizpurua confronts the texts and narratives of the past with the.
. . .experiences of the present.
With this brief overview of the
book, it is set in three major sections containing 9 lessons each, outlined
Century Italy: Light and Shadows
Searcher: Birth, Youth and
Option for the Evangelical Life
Springtime: The Beginnings
Wound and Yearning
for a Poor Life: First Letter to
of Jesus in the Love of the Poor:
Second Letter to Agnes
contemplate from the Point of View of the Poor:
Third Letter to Agnes
faith: Testament of Clare
Writings to Clare and her Sisters
A woman in
Love with the Crucified: Fourth
Letter to Agnes
An Edifice of
Faith: Rule of Clare
A word of
Total Support: Letter to
Being a Poor
Clare: Past, Present, and Future
Experience of Conversion
Upon Jesus Christ
Place of Encounter
for the Benefit of Faith
the Day of the Lord
Each lesson has a paragraph in
bold print introducing and situating the topic.
Then a brief commentary of four to six pages follows.
The lesson concludes with four or five reflective questions.
I found the material to be solid
in regard to recent research on the Lady Clare.
I found myself musing as to possible uses for the text. Certainly in
Poor Clare communities as well as for the entire Franciscan Family, it would
introduction for new candidates;
as a regular
topic for successive house chapters of enrichment;
as a tool for
as a possible
dialogue tool between a formator and candidate;
for our SFO
fraternities as an easy tool for Clarian instruction.
Matura concludes his remarks by
claiming that all Franciscans “may avail themselves from now on of a
handbook to facilitate their
entering into the riches of Clare . . .(and) the feminine aspect of
Franciscan spirituality.” I
strongly recommend this book for any Franciscan or Franciscan library.
MIRROR [REFLECTIONS ON CLARE OF ASSISI], by Sr. Frances Teresa, OSC, Tau
Publishing, Phoenix, AZ, 2011, 161 pp
Sister Frances Teresa has done it
again—produced a thought-provoking, meditative, critically accurate work on
the Lady Clare. The Author, a
Poor Clare herself and a fine linguist, has woven Clare’s story into a
manuscript that lets Clare shine as she truly is—the Light of Umbria—and of
the entire Franciscan family.
Taking three of my comments above, let us look at samples of her creative
work on the Lady Clare:
I thought-provoking, meditative
Francis are given us to be a compass, pointing always to God [p vii].
She is not a
map, I believe, but a compass; she points to the path, to the Way, and says:
this is where I walked and this is what happened [p ix].
and Clare will teach us is love; not only how to love God but how lovable
God is, not only how to catch fire from God but how fiery God can be [p 3].
She heard a
clear call from God to be a mirror reflecting Christ’s complete
self-emptying, reflecting the way he had emptied himself of glory and become
one of us [p 5].
that the Lord had made her a mirror to reflect God’s glory to us [p 10].
entered the heart of our muddle and given it life in abundance, recreating
it from within, a method which Clare and Francis, who were familiar with
God’s style, called God’s holy manner of working.
wilderness, we are cut down to size and sculpting forces engrave the
features of Christ on us. . .[p16].
follows upon fruitfulness, it is the fruit of fruitfulness. . . .when
Clare’s sisters stress, as they often do, her lifelong virginity (and
slightly shock us by seeming to regard it as remarkable), this is part of
what they are meaning [p51].
Regarding the Saracens/mercenaries being repelled by Clare, Frances
Teresa comments: The dynamics of
genuine non-violence are such that they generate enormous power which is not
force but energy. No other
energy is quite like it; it is completely without aggression and therefore
without weakness. It is like
light, like the glory on the face of Christ, penetrating all things [p 71].
No one will
be fruitfully celibate if their celibacy is rooted in a refusal of intimacy,
a rejection of human needs or a denial of sexuality [p 94].
And this too
is what love does for us, leaving the essence of the other in our hands like
clear, bright gold and we see everything reflected in the brightness of this
shining [p 102].
San Rufino in Assisi had a chapel dedicated to the Holy Face, with a
painting of the veil of Veronica which was taken once a year in procession
around Assisi. We know this
because we still have the breviary-missal used by Clare giving the rubrics
for this procession [pp 4-5].
As we become
more familiar with the format and structure of the medieval letter, the
development of Clare’s thought becomes much clearer to us.
Her letters are densely packed with thoughts, and constructed in a
way quite different from ours today.
They are more like a piece of architecture than a casual
communication to a friend, and this must always be borne in mind.
The bonus is that we can scrutinize her words, constructions and
parallels with a reasonable confidence that she did indeed mean the things
we are reading into them [p 45].
suggestion, she began the Order and, when he ‘almost forced her,’ she became
abbess. This was only one of the
conflicts which speckled their early relationship.
On at least three occasions, Francis had such a determined
confrontation with her that the community remembered it forty years later [p
a fine linguist
1. One of the
words she loves to use about prayer is
considerare, originally connected with star-gazing.
Star-gazing at God, we look into the heart of things and are changed
by that gazing [p 13].
2. The word she
uses for cleave is adhaerere, the
word used in Genesis 2:24 about a man cleaving to his wife; just so do we
cleave to Christ and he to us. We cling to Christ by following in his
footsteps; cleaving to his footprints, Clare says [p15].
vilis, one of the
vilitas, someone of small value. . .contemptible and of no
importance, the very opposite of her previous situation of honored
nobilitas [p 34].
I certainly recommend this book to
be read not only for the wisdom pointed out above, but for purposes of
meditation so that Sr. Frances Teresa’ s words may be pondered in our own
hearts. Any Franciscan would
benefit from owning a copy of this work, especially each Poor Clare.