This Week’s Message
Contemplating Clare’s Love for Christ
Feast of Saint Clare of Assisi | Tuesday, August 11th
By Cliff Garvey
A pilgrim recently returned from Assisi confused by the various reactions of other pilgrims as they approached the tomb of Saint Clare, which is located in the crypt of the basilica named in her honor. When one enters the Basilica of Saint Clare and descends to the crypt by a deep granite staircase, one first encounters coolness, then dimmed lighting, then at the end of a winding corridor, the bier upon which Clare lies protected behind bars and glass. Clare rests before a tabernacle. A red votive candle flickers and reminds pilgrims that Christ Jesus is present in the Blessed Sacrament. A bouquet of lilies stands at the foot of the bier. A sweet fragrance seems to permeate the glass, a fragrance that reminds pilgrims that they should bend a knee before true holiness. Some pilgrims barely stop to consider that what lies before them are actually the uncorrupted remains of the Saint Clare, who lived and died and was canonized more than eight centuries ago. Some seem skeptical. Some walk quickly away, seemingly nervous. Some ask in a whisper whether that could possibly be Clare beneath the simple habit and masks that cover her face, hands, and bare feet. Some kneel on the cold stone floor, rest their foreheads against the bars, and pray.
These differing reactions to the saint’s tomb are nothing new. Since 1850, when Saint Clare’s tomb was discovered after six centuries of mystery, pilgrims have been conflicted by the saint’s mortal remains. When her tomb was opened, Clare’s habit was reduced to dust, but she was not. And for more than a century, pilgrims could visit her tomb and see her dark, seemingly charred, flesh dressed in the habit of the order she founded. Writers and locals say that some pilgrims, especially children, were horrified by the sight. Some were ambivalent. Some were skeptical. Some were reduced to tears of joy that Clare, the loyal friend and follower of Saint Francis, should remain uncorrupted by death. The times change, but the hearts of human beings do not. In their book, “A Retreat with Francis & Clare of Assisi”, Father Murray Bodo and Susan Saint Sing write that no one should have been surprised to find Clare uncorrupted or to find her flesh darkened like burned wood. They write: “Her consuming, passionate love of God, a burning too hot for mortal flesh, has left her body charred and blackened.”
Today’s pilgrim will not see charred and blackened flesh, but a life-like reflection of the beautiful and courageous woman who defied her times, followed her friend, and embarked on a way of life strictly devoted to the gospels. Saint Clare saw herself and her sisters as Brides of Christ, consumed by a chaste, but burning and passionate love for Him, who lived, suffered, died, and rose again for us, for all people, for all the world. In one of Saint Clare’s famous letters to Agnes of Prague, we can begin to appreciate her ardent love for Christ Jesus:
Contemplate the unspeakable love
with which He wished to suffer upon the wood of the cross
and on it to die the most infamous of deaths.
So that from the height of the cross,
a voice is directed towards the passers-by
in order that they may stop to consider:
‘All of you, who pass by upon this road,
stop and judge if there is sorrow comparable to mine.’
And we will reply to Him who calls and groans,
with one voice and one heart:
‘Your memory will never depart from me
and my soul will be consumed.’
Contemplate then his unutterable delights,
his wealth and eternal honors, and shout ardently
with all your love and all your desire:
‘Draw me to yourself, O Heavenly Souse!
We will follow you,
drawn by the sweetness of your perfume!’
As we celebrate the Feast of Saint Clare on Tuesday, August 11th, let us pray together for the intercession of Saint Clare of Assisi and for the intercession of the holy women who followed her through the centuries into the cloister. Let us pray for the grace to follow Christ Jesus as Clare did – with deep faith, fervent hope, and intense love. Let us pray for the grace to love Christ Jesus as Clare did. Let us pray that we might also be consumed by that same burning passion to do his will by loving God and by loving each other in perfect peace and charity. Amen! Saint Clare of Assisi, pray for us!
May the Lord give you peace — now and always!
Cliff Garvey, Associate Minister
Catholic Community of Gloucester & Rockport
Special Thanks to Someone Special
On Tuesday, August 11th, the Catholic Church celebrates the Feast of Saint Clare of Assisi (1194-1253), one of the first followers of Saint Francis and foundress of the Order of Poor Ladies (also known as the Poor Clares). Saint Clare is patroness of embroiderers & needleworkers; homemakers & launderers; good weather; and those suffering with eye diseases. She is also patroness of television because God blessed her with visions of the celebration of Mass when she was too sick to attend. For much of her life, Saint Clare lived within the cloister at San Damiano near Assisi, the little church where Christ spoke to Saint Francis and hastened his conversion. Along with her sisters, known as the “Poor Ladies”, Clare lived a life of prayer, penance, and service to the Church. She was also a person of determination and perseverance who insisted that her order be permitted to draft its own rule, rather than live according to one written by and for men.
Maryann Fittro reminds me a lot of Saint Clare of Assisi. Maryann is our cook at Saint Ann Parish House and she helps me with laundry and other chores. She has been working (on and off) in our rectory for more than fifty years! Most important, Maryann is a person of deep faith and prayer. She is a person who works hard and gives witness to Christ’s love in all that she does and says. Last week, someone shared with me the following prayer for the intercession of Saint Clare that was written by one of the Poor Ladies in Jamaica Plain. When I read it and prayed with it, it reminded me of Maryann, her beautiful faith, and her fervent prayers for all of us:
ardent lover of Jesus in the Most Blessed Sacrament,
help me to grow in love for Christ Jesus, our Redeemer.
With your strong faith and unwavering hope,
gather our wounded Church, our suffering world, and all people
into your loving heart and lift us up to Jesus
with your absolute confidence in his merciful love.
help us to be like you:
peaceful, kind, gentle, strong, patient,
and persevering in the face of all difficulties.
Trusting in your powerful intercession,
we confidently praise and thank God
for the blessings we have received.
Glory, praise, wisdom, and thanksgiving,
honor, power, and might to our God for ever and ever.
Thank you, Maryann, for all that you do for me, for our pastoral team, and for our parishes. Thank you for just being you, everyday! May God bless you and your good work! Saint Clare of Assisi, pray for us! Finally, all parishioners and friends of the Catholic Community of Gloucester & Rockport are encouraged to read next week’s “pastor’s message” in which I will write about the results of the recent inspection of Saint Ann Church, the urgent need for repairs and restoration work, and the difficult choices that we face as a community of faith. Until then, all parishioners are reminded that they are always welcome to contact me with questions, comments, and suggestions. Thank you for your ongoing patience, prayers, and support!
Peace and blessings to all,
Reverend James M. Achadinha, Pastor
Catholic Community of Gloucester & Rockport
Saint Vincent de Paul Society
Weekend of August 8th-9th
Who are we? In the tradition of its founder and patron, the Saint Vincent de Paul Society is a Roman Catholic lay organization that leads women and men to join together to grow spiritually by offering person-to-person service to those who are needy or suffering.
Who do we serve? Our brethren live among us on Cape Ann. Some are homeless. Others are mentally challenged adults, addicts, unemployed, shut-ins, disabled, victims of abuse, and the working poor. Members of the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul (who are called “Vincentians”) asses their needs and provide help with food, clothing, and Christmas gifts; as well as assistance with rent, fuel, and utility bills. In 2014, Vincentians responded to 1,966 phone calls; completed 794 home visits; and distributed 604 food vouchers. Overall, we assisted 1,019 children and 1,358 adults. Your gifts make our work possible!
How can you help? First, during the weekend of August 8th-9th, the Catholic Community of Gloucester & Rockport will take a second collection that will support the good work of the Saint Vincent de Paul Society on Cape Ann. All donations will go directly to those in need! Second, all are encouraged to donate to our Food Pantry. Baskets can be found at the entrances to all of our churches and donations are welcome at our parish offices. Third, all are encouraged to donate to the Clothes Closet. A drop-off bin is located at the front of the West Parish School (formerly Saint Ann School). Finally, your financial contributions are always welcome! Donation envelopes are located at all church entrances. And all donations go directly to those in need!
The Saint Vincent de Paul Society meets on the second Wednesday of each month at 7:00pm in Saint Ann Church Hall. New members and volunteers are always welcome! For more information, please contact Harry Miller at 978-281-2071. If you or your family need assistance, please contact the Saint Vincent de Paul Society Hotline at 978-281-8672. Thank you for your ongoing support and generosity! May God bless you!
Established in 2014, the Catholic Community of Gloucester & Rockport is a collaborative of two historic parishes: Holy Family Parish and Our Lady of Good Voyage Parish. Our worship sites include Saint Ann Church in Gloucester, Saint Anthony Chapel in Gloucester, Saint Joachim Church in Rockport, and Our Lady of Good Voyage Church in Gloucester. We are a Roman Catholic faith community united in prayer, fellowship, and service. For more information about becoming a member of one of our parishes, please contact Father Jim at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please join us! All are welcome!
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