In the providence of God, all things have their season. “There is a time for planting, and time for building” (Eccls. 3: 2-3). For St. Clare, 1212 was the time to be planted at San Damiano. Assisi and build her form of life, for herself and all her followers. Before her birth, her mother, Ortolana, was promised a child, whose light would illuminate the whole world–hence the name Clare. Almost seven centuries later, her light was lit in another San Damiano, perhaps better known as St. Damian’s. Here her daughters have loved, prayed and laboured until this day, carrying the light lit by Clare in far away Assisi, a light which reaches out and embraces all.
In the 19th century, the Protestant owner of Simmonscourt Castle decided to have the wall separating his residence from Saint Mary’s Lodge raised several feet. He did this with the intention of ensuring his privacy from the tenants in the lodge. In this action, he thought he was making safe provision for his own future, but little did he realize that he was but an instrument in the hands of Him who had planned that the name “Saint Mary’s Lodge” given by protestant owners, indicates that Our Blessed Mother had taken it under her wing from the start. The Building is now our novitiate.
Eight centuries ago to be exact, an eighteen year old girl named Clare, audaciously approached a young man of twenty six and asked him to show her how to live as he did. The said young man already had quite a reputation for wild ways, but now was wandering about wearing a cast-off garment, going bare-foot, eating whatever he could beg and earnestly preaching the word of God. That man was Francis of Assisi. Clare’s story has been told again and again. Her search for Jesus, and the vibrant living of his Gospel, according to the form of life Saint Francis gave her, enthused, not only Clare, but generations of women after her.
Two centuries later, St. Colette, an outstanding French woman, born in Corbie, moved by “Divine inspiration” and the compelling influence of Francis and Clare, was particularly enthused by the form of Clare’s life. She set herself to define it more clearly and has been a dominant figure in the Order ever since.
The spirit of the Poor Clare Colettines is one of simplicity, cheerfulness and joy. The young woman who has a good sense of humour and the ability to minimize ordinary adversities by a maximum of generosity, should reach great sanctity as a Poor Clare Colettine. It is the capacity to love that is important. The contemplative goes straight to the mark – love of God and zeal for the salvation of souls, by prayer.
St. Clare, Our Holy Mother, bids us to love one another for the love of Christ, and to show forth externally by our actions, the love that reigns in our hearts (TestCl 18). Newcomers often exclaim, after some time here: “If only women in the world knew what happiness there is here, they would all want to enter!”
For the Poor Clare Colettine life of prayer and penance, a sound mind in a sound body is indispensable. In all ages of the Church, Enclosed Orders have been conspicuous for drawing to themselves, those of large minds and noble hearts, who have longed to live their lives for the love of God, the conversion of souls, the perseverance of the Pilgrim People of God, and the relief of the Holy Souls in Purgatory. For those who cherish such high ideals, special grace is needed. God, who will not be outdone in generosity, bestows it in abundance. “There is nothing I cannot master, with the help of the One Who gives me strength” (Phil 4:13).