Clare – Still Relevant for Today
There is a sense about Clare, that she reaches down through the ages and continues to make her presence felt to generations beyond her own – a sense that she is somehow beyond history. Within the context of the medieval world of the 13th century, Clare lived and struggled with many of the issues that are present in our day. Looking closely at her, we can learn much about the response to life that enables us to be free in a world where oppression abounds.
Clare’s society was rigidly stratified. In our contemporary world, women all over the globe are experiencing their worth and dignity in a new way and are struggling to live from this place of truth. Clare, without hesitation, swept away all the artificial class distinctions and declared that all people were one in the eyes of the Creator. In her community the women were to live as sisters, equal in every way, with the Abbess as sister and servant of all.
In our day of so much unrest and violence caused by the selfish distinctions and animosity between rich and poor, male and female, peoples, tribes, clans – Clare has much to teach us about living together on our planet earth as sisters and brothers, all children of the one God. As the first Franciscan woman, she led the way in giving us an attractive example of the feminine response to the challenge of Gospel values. Placing all her unique gifts at the service of others, she modeled a stance of complementarity.
Clare’s life of absolute poverty cuts through all the enticements of our consumerist culture. She knew the One in whom she believed and that One was all-sufficient for her.
Today we face such terrible consequences because of our lack of reverence for creation. The environmental crisis results from a lack of appreciation for the good things that our God has given us for our use and our happiness. The very existence of the life of our planet needs new vision. Human beings so often fail to see a flower, a sunset, the vast ocean, the variety of animals, etc. Clare saw the reflection of a loving Creator of all these created wonders. In the words of Clare herself: “Always and in all things God must be praised.” She practiced the “mysticism of open eyes”.
Clare was a woman of strength and courage, of wisdom and insight. This thirteenth century woman is as relevant today as she was then.