St Clare of Assisi

Friday, September 16, 2011

17th September - Feast of the Stigmata of St. Francis

Stigmatization of St. Francis - Giotto di Bondone

In the year 1224, two years before his death, whilst St. Francis was spending his customary 40-day retreat on Mount La Verna, prior to the feast of St. Michael Archangel, our Lord granted him the gift that he had so much longed for by imprinting His five wounds upon the saint's body. Pope Benedict XI gave the Franciscan Order permission to publicise this event and to remember it every year by liturgical celebration. St. Francis had imitated our Lord so perfectly that God chose to manifest him to the whole world as an example for all. Thus, the feast of the stigmata commemorates something which goes beyond the life of any single man. It signifies that Christ made man lives on in His Church, as He reproduces His mysteries on His Spouse which Christ wants to be similar to Himself. 

Since his conversion St. Francis had a devotion for Jesus Crucified, a devotion which he sought to spread by his words but mostly by his life. The saint imitated Jesus in his passion and crucifixion by accepting his daily trials and difficulties with love for Christ and thus he made himself similar to Christ. Commemorating this event we are invited to imitate St. Francis by joining our everyday difficulties, sorrows and suffering to those of Jesus. We will be thus become living witnesses of Christ allowing Him to live through us. Participating in this manner in His Passion we will also participate in His resurrection, a joy which will experience from this world. Whilst thanking God for providing us with saintly guides to encourage us and teach us the way to Him, may we today and every day open our hearts to receive the grace to live through Him, with Him and in Him.

Gal 6,14-18;  Gal 2,16-20;  Fil 1,20-22;  Lk 9,23-26

From the Legenda Minor of St. Bonaventure
(de Stigmatibus sacris, 1-4; ed. Quaracchi, 1941; pgg. 202-204)

Two years before Francis, the faithful servant of Christ, gave his soul back to God, he was alone on the top of Mt. Alverna. There he had begun a fast of forty days in honor of the archangel Michael and was immersed more deeply than usual in the delights of heavenly contemplation. His soul became aglow with the ardor of fervent longing for heaven as he experienced within himself the operations of grace.

As he was drawn aloft through ardent longing for God one morning near the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, and was praying on the mountainside, he saw what appeared as a seraph with six bright wings gleaming like a fire descending from the heights of heaven. As this figure approached in swift flight and came near the man of God it appeared not only winged but also crucified. The sight of it amazed Francis and his soul experienced joy mingled with pain. He was delighted with the sight of Christ appearing to him so graciously and intimately and yet the awe-inspiring vision of Christ nailed to the cross aroused in his soul a joy of compassionate love.

When the vision vanished after a mysterious and intimate conversation it left Francis aglow with seraphic love in his soul. Externally, however, it left marks on his body like those of the Crucified as if the impression of a seal had been left on heated wag. The figures of the nails appeared immediately on his hands and feet. The heads of the nails were inside his hands but on top of his feet with their points extending through to the opposite side. His right side too showed a blood-red wound as if it had been pierced by a lance, and blood flowed frequently from it.

Because of this new and astounding miracle unheard of in times past, Francis came down from the mountain a new man adorned with the sacred stigmata, bearing in his body the image of the Crucified not made by a craftsman in wood or stone , but fashioned in his members by the hand of the living God.

Defying nature, he lived on with his side opened; blood flowed from it; a memorial of the blood of the living God, shed for us. Breathtaking are these signs; they call for maximum veneration of the Saint and love of the exceedingly good Jesus. They make for an unshakable confidence in those contemplating the following of Jesus. 
They are reminders of God;
they are evidence of the sanctity of the man;
they are indications of what we are to be.
For by this sublime imprinting,
Jesus in his exceeding goodness, demonstrated:
His benevolent approval of Francis,
His divine providence in sustaining him,
His justice in upholding him,
His power by imprinting upon him what was beyond the limits of nature. 
(taken from The Tree of the Crucified Life of Jesus excerpts by Ubertino Da Casale 1305)

The Praises of God - St. Francis of Assisi 
 You are holy Lord God Who does wonderful things.
You are strong. You are great. You are the most high.
You are the almighty king. You holy Father,
King of heaven and earth.
You are three and one, the Lord God of gods;
You are the good, all good, the highest good,
Lord God living and true.
You are love, charity; You are wisdom, You are humility,
You are patience, You are beauty, You are meekness,
You are security, You are rest,
You are gladness and joy, You are our hope, You are justice,
You are moderation, You are all our riches to sufficiency.
You are beauty, You are meekness,
You are the protector, You are our custodian and defender,
You are strength, You are refreshment. You are our hope,
You are our faith, You are our charity,
You are all our sweetness, You are our eternal life:
Great and wonderful Lord, Almighty God, Merciful Savior.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

September 14 - Exaltation of the Glorious Cross

September 14th, brings us to one of the twelve great feasts in the yearly Church cycle - the feast of the Exaltation of the Glorious Cross (Triumph of the Cross). On this day we commemorate the miraculous finding of the cross by St. Helen (mother of Constantine) in the year 326, after it had disappeared during the first centuries of persecutions of Christianity when pagans tried to destroy all evidence relating to the life of Jesus Christ.

Furthermore, we celebrate the full significance of the victory of the Cross of Christ as instrument of salvation. By His obedience unto death, Jesus Christ accomplished universal redemption. Through Christ we are thus able to look at the entire universe through the light of the Cross the new Tree of Life which provides nourishment for those who have been redeemed in Christ.

Adoration of the Cross is adoration of Jesus Christ, God made man, who suffered and died for our redemption from sin and death. Contemplating the Cross, we contemplate the true image of God as He bends down to embrace all humans in their suffering. As we celebrate this feast, we as Christians are invited to remember the true beatitude that as disciples we are called to live, namely  the fullness of life through the participation in the Son of God's paschal journey.  Dear Brothers and Sisters, we are invited to look upon the Cross. It is the “privileged place” where the love of God is revealed and shown to us.… On the Cross human misery and divine mercy meet. The adoration of this unlimited mercy is for man the only way to open himself to the mystery which the Cross reveals.  (Pope John Paul II in his homily on 14th September 2003)

Representing the Passion, Crucifixion and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Cross is the most potent and universal sign of Christian faith. By wearing a Crucifix (the cross with an image of Christ’s body upon it) or by placing it in our environments we are a constant reminder and witness of Christ's ultimate triumph over sin and death. Meditating the mysteries of Christ together with the Virgin Mary by praying the Holy Rosary underneath the Crucifix we open our hearts to experience the abundance of graces and life-giving mercy and forgiveness pouring out from the Crucified One's pierced side.

1 Cor 1:18-25 (vigil); Num 21:4-9; Phil 2:6-I1; Jn 3:13-17 (or Jn 19:25-27)

Cross, light of Christians

O Holy Cross, ineffable love of God and glory of heaven! O Holy Cross eternal salvation support of the just, light of Christians, God has made Himself man and slave for you; in God through you man has been made king; true light has emerged from you and night has been won. You are the soul of peace which unites men in Christ the mediator. You are the ladder by which man rises to heaven. Remain always for us, your faithful, a column and anchor; sustain our residences and our environments. May our faith remain strong in the cross and may our crown be prepared in it.

Prayer in front of the Cross

Lord Jesus, your Cross has been planted on this earth. Refused by the crowds, abandoned by your friends, confused with criminals, stripped from your dignity, tortured in body and soul, you have descended unto the very abyss of suffering where it seems that even God is far away. And yet your arms, nailed to the cross, remain open to embrace everyone. And yet your mouth speaks only words of pardon and promises of happiness. Lord Jesus, your story is continued in the everyday life where betrayals, infidelities, refusals, and revenges are present. At times, there seems to be no end to destruction, daily crimes and suffering imposed on those who are weak and in need help. We pray to you for all men especially those who use the power of arms to offend, humiliate and to impose their power. May they open their eyes to realise the pain that they are causing and the devastating consequences of war and the desperation of many people. Through the intercession of our Mother Mary ever Virgin we ask you to please open their hearts that they may recognise the semblances of your Christ in the disfigured faces of the oppressed, the blood of your Christ falling from His cross in the blood of victims and may they recognise a brother in every suffering man. Amen.

Adoramus te, christe, et benedicimus tibi,
quia per crucem tuam redemisti mundum.

We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you,
for by your cross you have redeemed the world.

St. Francis' Prayer Before the Crucifix

Most High
glorious God,
enlighten the darkness
of my heart.
Give me
right faith,
sure hope
and perfect charity.
Fill me with understanding
and knowledge
that I may fulfill
your command.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Solemn Profession - Sr. Claire Helene

Sr. Claire Hélène in our internal chapel
One of our sisters, sr. Claire Hélène, took her final vows on 05th August 2011. Solemn mass was celebrated in our chapel in St. Julians followed by a small reception for family members and friends in our garden. We thank all who were present for the celebration most especially His Grace Archbishop Paul Cremona OP who led mass. We thought of sharing the Archbishop's homily on the occasion as we feel that it would benefit all who wish to grow in their relationship with the Lord.

Archbishop Paul Cremona spoke about how God created us in His image and His wish is that His image in us reaches perfection. There are two things we can do in order for this to happen. The first is to create space within us as God can only fill an empty space. He gave the example, that if we allow 5 mins of prayer in our life, God will be able to fill that space but if our lives are full of other things and we leave no space for God than God cannot fill us as we allow Him no option. The other thing we should do is to accept the gift of God's love. There is no other way we can become His image unless we allow Him to fill us with His love.

Solemn profession in religious life is the greatest radicality in the Church as a way to put the above into action. It is the greatest space imaginable that a person can offer to God. Archbishop Cremona made reference to the reading of the day  “Therefore I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the wilderness and speak tenderly to her. There I will give her back her vineyards, and will make the Valley of Anchor a door of hope......" taken from the second chapter Hosea and explained how solemn profession means that if a person is offering an open space in all her life, then that person will be totally His (of God).

Archbishop Cremona then moved on to explain the three evangelical votes which sr. Claire Hélène was taking namely Poverty, Chastity and Obedience. Jesus came to earth in a specific way:  celibate, poor and obedient to the Father. Each of these three votes creates a space which God will fill as follows:  the space created by chastity will be filled with God's love, the space created by poverty will be filled with spiritual richness and that of obedience will be filled with God's will, being that which God wishes sr. Claire Hélène to accomplish.

Another vote specific for contemplative life is that of living in cloister. The cloister offers the opportunity to the person taking the vote, to be free and empty from all the alienations of the world so that attention can be focused all on God. Making reference to the Gospel according to John chapter 17, Archbishop Cremona explained how Jesus said that the empty space inside us is to be filled with God's Word. Thus the first mystery that a consecrated person is to be filled with is that of the Incarnation of Jesus. He further explained how Jesus invites us to be one like the mystery of the Holy Trinity which is 'communion'. Thus a consecrated person is to live this in the community so that the world believes that as Jesus said "... you have sent me". "My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me...." Jn 17:20-23

The consecrated person is also to be filled with a love and thirst for souls, just like Jesus was, and believe that a person who is given the gift of prayer, is gifted with a value which will give fulfillment and all the spirit necessary to be there. Hence the importance of the quality of prayer, so that those who come in contact with the person can see it. “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world." Jn 17:24 The Archbishop explained that, this is the escatological dimension which means that here (this world) is only the passage. Its true glory, which at the time being we are foretasting, is what we will enjoy in God the Father in the future when we become all in all.

Referring to the Gospel (vs 17), Archbishop Cremona concluded his thoughts as follows: "I pray for those who hear your Word and follow it".

Hos 2:16,21-22;    Salm 33;    Fil.2:1-11;    John 17:20-26

To the Archbishop's thoughts we wish to add a little prayer by St. Nicholas of Flüe: My Lord and my God, take from me everything that distances me from you. My Lord and my God, give me everything that brings me closer to you. My Lord and My God, detach me from myself and give my all to you.

Sr. Claire Hélène now forms part of our community at 'Nazaret', Triq Santa Dminka, Rabat in Gozo. For those of you who would be interested to join our sisters for prayers you are welcome to do so at the following times:

Lauds / Morning Prayers:          7:00am
Mass                                          7:30am

Vespers / Evening Prayers:        5:00pm
Silent Adoration                          5:30pm - 6:30pm

Monday, September 5, 2011

Mass and Adoration - September 2011

"For where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am among them"  Matthew 18:20
Mass and Adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament on

Wednesday 14th September 2011 at 19:00 hrs

at St Clare's Monastery, St Julians