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Miracles in the life of Saint Clare of Montefalco

St. Clare of Montefalco - The Crucified Lord in her heart

"I am looking for someone I can trust with My Cross"

 

 

Throughout the History of our Church you read about Lovers of the Cross.  This sounds like a paradox.  How can you love the Cross which entails so much suffering?  Once when we had a group of Nuns with us on Pilgrimage, Penny very honestly stated that she does not want anymore crosses.  A Nun celebrating 40 years of faithfulness to her vocation, got up, came to the front of the bus, and spoke through the microphone to the entire group.  "I have prayed for crosses all my life.  My days are not complete without crosses."  Penny replied, "I know the kind of cross Jesus could hand me, and I want to be sure to let Him know I'm not asking for anymore."  Mother Cabrini used to say that if she did not go through crosses with any of her projects, they were not of the Lord.  The Saints of old, Francis in particular, feared that if they did not suffer a cross on a particular day, the Lord was upset with them.  Padre Pio would say on days like this, "What did I do that the Lord has taken these crosses away from me?"  But he never had to fear.  The crosses came back to him in short order.

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St. Clare of Montefalco is one of those Saints, who begged for the privilege of helping Jesus carry His Cross.  She is one of the most unique Saints we have ever met.  She is so strong her community has stayed faithful to her and the rule she began, for over 750 years.  She had such a commitment to the Lord!  She loved Him and knew that He loved her.  From an early age, she was totally committed to Our Lord in His Passion.  Her sister began a community of sisters in Montefalco when Clare was just six years old.  She became her first member.  Clare used her own forms of penance and mortification, which became so severe that her mother superior, sister Joanna, had to stop her under obedience.  She felt, as many Saints before and after her, that if she took on the sufferings of Jesus on the Cross, she would be taking them away from Him, and in this way, showing how much she loved Him in a real way. 

How many of us have felt that way, that we could take a little of the pain and suffering away from Jesus if we would just take on a little of the agony, He endured for our sake?  We follow Him through the Agony in the Garden, where He looked on to the Golden Gate where they had wanted to make Him King just days before.  If we dare, we go with Him through that whole horrible night where He suffered so badly at the hands of the chief priests and elders of the synagogue.  The Saints, like St. Clare, pleaded with Him to let them take away some of the pain He endured as He was whipped and scourged, His Precious Head pierced by the crown of thorns pressed down, penetrating His skull, His Back stooped, crushed under the weight of our sins, the agony He endured those hours on the Cross, the nails rubbing against His already Wounded Feet and Hands, and finally His Sacred Heart run through by a centurion's sword? 

Our Bishop said the other day that all we do and feel is by and through the Grace of God.  We all receive the Grace of God.  The difference between Saints and sinners, is how we react to God's Grace.  Each of us respond differently to the Gifts bestowed on us by the Lord.  Some of us cooperate with His Grace; offering our gifts back to Him of thanksgiving and praise, no matter the Gift He has handed us.  Others complain, like the Israelites wandering in the desert.  We each react to God's Grace differently.  The making of Saints or sinners is no mystery - it is simply the reaction to God's generous gift of Grace.  This Saint, as with others we are writing about, was filled with God's Grace to share in His Passion and she willingly embraced it.

"If you seek the Cross of Christ, take my heart;

there you will find the Suffering Lord."

These parting words, by St. Clare of Montefalco, were left not only as a clue from Heaven, which would lead the Church to investigate the Saint's heart after her death, these words were to be hope in, and understanding of the crosses we are all at one time or the other called to carry in our own lives.  Clare adored and carried the Cross of Jesus, confident that she could trust in Him and His Promise to her. 

From her earliest childhood, she had a burning love inside her for our dear Lord, especially in His Passion.  This fire inside her was what gave her the energy and the zeal, her strength to live a life that would be demanding for most, but near impossible, when as a little girl, Clare would spend eight to ten hours a day, or more, in prayer, some nights falling down on her knees as many as one thousand times reciting the Lord's Prayer.  As she walked with our Lord through His Passion, she pleaded to be allowed to help Him carry His Cross.  

Clare was given a cross that all the crosses she was to carry in the future, could not equal that of the pain she was to suffer for eleven years.  She was to know that loneliness that surpasses all others, the dreadful silence of God.  God took this time with Clare in the desert, to toughen her, to prepare her for His Work, His Mission for her, which would continue even after her death.

Clare sees hell with all the suffering lost souls.

The year 1294 was to be a turning point for Clare.  The Christmas of the past year had found her quite ill.  Judging herself lacking in gratitude for all God had given her, Clare attributed the spiritual dryness she felt as God withholding His Divine Presence from her because of her sinfulness. 

On the Feast of the Epiphany, after making a general confession before all the Nuns, she went into ecstasy, remaining in that state for several weeks.  The Nuns kept her alive with a little sugar water they would give her to sip.  During that journey away from the world, Clare had a Vision in which she saw herself in judgment before God; she "saw" hell with all the suffering lost souls without hope, and Heaven with the Saints enjoying perfect happiness in the Presence of God.  She saw God in all His Majesty.  He revealed to her how very uncompromisingly faithful to Him a soul must live in order to be in Him.  When she came to, she resolved never to think anything, never to say anything, that would separate her from God.  "And by the grace of God," she confided to a friend years later, "up to now I have been able to maintain this resolve."

"At last, someone I could trust with My Cross."

In the Chapel of the Holy Cross there is a fresco depicting Christ, dressed as a poor pilgrim, His Face weary from the weight of the Cross, His Body showing the outward signs of the long, hard journey carrying His Cross.  In the foreground we see Clare kneeling, trying to keep Him from going any further, pleading, "Lord, where are You going?" 

To which, Christ responds, "I have searched the whole world for a strong place to plant firmly this Cross, and I have not found one."

In the Nuns' Chapel, there is another small fresco.  Clare is looking up to Jesus, her hands outstretched touching the Cross, expressing all the years of longing to share Jesus' Cross.  Our Lord's Face is no longer gaunt with exhaustion, but beaming with love and joy.  His Journey is over.  He says to her, "Yes, Clare, here I have found a place for My Cross, at last, someone I could trust with My Cross," and He thrust it into her heart.

The excruciating pain she felt in her entire body, upon receiving the Cross Jesus Himself planted in her heart, remained with her.  From that first moment, she was always keenly aware of the Cross she could not only feel but sense with every fiber of her being.  He was part of her; her Love; Jesus and she were one in His Cross. 

"I have my Crucified Jesus in my heart"

"The life of a soul is the love of God," said Clare.  She prayed that everyone she met would experience our Lord Jesus deep in their heart.  She prayed, suffered and burned with passion, just as our Lord did; for, like Our Lord, she had completely given up her spirit to God. 

On the evening of August the 15th, she called the Nuns together and left them her spiritual last will and testament,

"I offer my soul and all of you, the death of Lord Jesus Christ.  Be blessed by God and by me.  And I pray, my daughters, that you behave well and that all the work God has had me do for you be blessed.  Be humble, obedient; be such women that God may always be praised through you." 

She asked for the Sacrament of Extreme Unction.  When a Nun is dying, each of the Sisters blesses her with a Sign of the Cross.  As they attempted to do so to Clare, she gently but firmly protested over and over again, "Why do you sign me, Sisters?  I have the crucified Jesus in my heart."

The Nuns immediately got the body ready for all the friends of Clare to view.  First they removed her heart and placed it in a flowered bowl made of wood.  Had they remembered her words, "I have the Crucified Jesus in my heart?"  That evening, the Nuns opened her heart preparing it to place in a Reliquary.  To their amazement, Clare's words came alive; there before them were the marks of Jesus Passion!  Cradled inside the softness of her grand heart, was the Perfect Form of Jesus Crucified, even to the Crown of Thorns clearly evidenced on his Head, and the lance Wound in His Precious Side.  The Lord had not only planted His Crucified Body within the recesses of her heart, but the painful evidence of some of His Sufferings, the means of flagellation in a form of ligaments or tendons, the whip that was used to scourge our Beloved Lord, with the ends showing the metal balls and the jagged bones used to rip our Lord's Skin from His Bones. 

The news of this miracle spread!  The Bishop called together theologians, lawyers and doctors.  The heart was carefully investigated and they all unanimously concluded that the "marks" were not of an explainable scientific nature or of human understanding, in other words, a phenomena, or as we are so happy to say, God leaving another Miracle of the Cross in our midst.  There was not only a document drawn by the Church and affirmed by science, but the civil authorities did their own investigation and issued their findings.  The heart of Clare did in fact contain this extraordinary sign and it was not the result of any false doings. 

St. Clare's body exuded such a sweet fragrance, the Nuns never could bury her in the ground.  Her body is still visible, nearly 700 years old, never having decomposed and is said to be supple (rigor mortis never set in). 

More than 300 miracles (which occurred after her death), were attested to and accepted by Mother Church. (For so much more on this powerful Saint, please read Bob and Penny Lord's book: Saints and other Powerful Women in the Church.) 

This Shrine and Saint grasp the hearts of our pilgrims, more than almost any other; and they never forget her.  Many come on pilgrimage with crosses: the death of a loved one, a painful separation after many years of marriage, a terminal illness, children on drugs or addicted to alcohol, family who have left Mother Church, an abusive spouse, and on and on.  What is it about this Saint that touches them?  Is it Jesus' Words, "I have found a place for My Cross, at last, someone I could trust with My Cross." 

Someone I could trust with My Cross.  Do we look upon our crosses as gifts from the Lord?  Saints like St. Francis grieved when they had not received crosses.  They would cry, Did the Lord not find them worthy to share His Cross?

The Saints who preceded us knew that the only way to know Jesus and follow Him was by Way of the Cross.  Will you take up your cross and follow Him?  The next time you go to church, will you look at Jesus on the Cross and tell Him, Lord You can trust me with Your cross.

After you receive the Eucharist, and the Mass is over, do you pause and pray?  A prayer we would like to share with you is one we say after each Mass:

O Sacrament Most Holy,

O Sacrament Divine,

All praise and all thanksgiving

Be every moment Thine.

We adore the Wounds in Thy Sacred Head,

With sorrow deep and true.

May every thought of ours today

Be an act of love for You.

We adore the Wounds in Thy Sacred Hands,

With sorrow deep and true.

May every work of our hands today

Be an act of love for You.

We adore the Wounds in Thy Sacred Feet,

With sorrow deep and true.

May every step we take today

Be an act of love for You.

We adore the Wounds in Thy Sacred Heart,

With sorrow deep and true.

May every beat of our hearts today

Be an act of love for You.

O Sacrament Most Holy,

O Sacrament Divine,

All praise and all thanksgiving

Be every moment Thine.

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