I’ve written here before about how I initially fell in love with St. Clare of Assisi, and I don’t particularly want to cover that ground again tonight. That said, it doesn’t seem quite right to let her feast day pass without mentioning the Saint whose image I wear nearly every day, hanging on a fine silver chain around my neck.
A lot of relational history has passed since those first moments that I encountered St. Clare over half a decade ago, and every once in a while I ponder my relationship with this Saint. I was thinking about it this week as I got ready for work – I rarely work a hospital shift these days without Clare around my neck. She’s the patron saint of eye diseases and television, neither of which are at all applicable to my job as a perinatal nurse, but wearing that image around my neck grounds me. I spot it every time I glance in a mirror as I help a patient up to the washroom. I feel it every time I rub my sore neck muscles from the hours spent leaning over a bed, teaching women how to successfully breastfeed their babies. And each time I encounter Clare, there, around my neck, I’m reminded of my faith. I’m reminded that this job that I love is a gift, and that in return I am granted the opportunity to intercede for each of these mothers and their children – to lift their lives and their new family units in front of the creator whose image they were made in.
One of the things that caused me to initially fall in love with Clare was the fact that she is one of few female saints pictured bearing the monstrance – the host. This image of bearing Christ spoke to me in the years before I joined the Catholic church, and it continues to speak to me now as I navigate the waters of figuring out how this still relatively new Catholicism informs my life. It’s that image of bearing Christ that speaks to me when I reflexively reach for the medal bearing Clare’s image during a long work shift.
Recently I encountered a beautiful patient, a woman from another culture, and another faith, who I was privileged to spend a portion of a shift caring for. She was sweet and loving, and it was a gift to be able to pour some love back out on her as she worked to feed and care for the newest addition to her small family. As I said goodbye to her at the end of my shift she asked me to remember her in my prayers. It was reflexive as I touched Clare’s image around my neck and assured her that I would lift her up. In her story I was reminded of the story of Hagar and Ismael in Genesis, and since that time, when this lovely woman and her baby cross my mind, I find myself praying that “the God who sees” who found Hagar and her son in the desert would also make Himself known to this woman.
Bearing Christ – it’s an image that haunts me in a good way as I go through my days. I am continually asking myself what it means to bear Christ, and what it means to recognize His image in each person I encounter. And these days, Clare is a reminder of that calling for me.
And so in honor of her feast day, and because the ecumenical soul in me can’t help it, I present the following sonnet written to honor Clare by an Anglican poet and priest, and a rather humorous image I gleaned from a Catholic Facebook page I follow. Both speak volumes of all that is encompassed within her personhood, and I look forward to getting to know her, through her intercession, for years to come.
(click through the link above to hear Guite read the sonnet)
Santa Chiara, lovely claritas
Whose soul in stillness holds love’s pure reflection,
Shining through you as Holy Caritas,
Lucid and lucent, bringing to perfection
The girl whom Love has called to call us all
Back into truth, simplicity and grace.
Your love for Francis, radiant through the veil,
Reveals in both of you your saviour’s face.
Christ holds the mirror of your given life
Up to the world he gives himself to save,
A sacrament to keep your city safe,
A window into his eternal love.
Unveiled in heaven, dancing in the light,
Pray for this pilgrim soul in his dark night.
And finally, this: