Happy feast of Santa Chiara! Saint Clare, who was a dear friend of Saint Francis, was born in Assisi, Italy in 1194. After living a profound, deeply Christocentric life, she died in her monastery, San Damiano, on August 11th, 1253. Saint Clare founded a religious order, helped the poor, healed the sick, and wrote some of the most alluringly beautiful letters I have ever read.
The Letters of Saint Clare
I have always been drawn to letters. I love receiving them (I treasure my husband’s love-letters to me that he wrote during our dating and engagement!) and I love the art of writing them. There is something extremely powerful about taking the time to express, share, and entrust our hearts, minds, and souls to another person.
As a history major, I loved reading historical letters, in particular the letters of Saint Francis de Sales to the faithful. I have recently been captivated by another Saint’s letters, today’s patron, Saint Clare of Assisi.
Saint Clare wrote to two different women named Agnes: her younger sister, Saint Agnes of Assisi, who followed Clare to Saint Francis just sixteen days after Clare left her home, and Agnes of Prague, a princess who desired to imitate the life and poverty of Saint Clare.
Saint Clare wrote other letters, yet the wisdom Saint Clare imparts in her letters to these two Agneses continues to help us grow in our faith today as women of Christ.
Christ As Lover
These letters read like a prayer and they are a beautiful way to contemplate the depth of love a Saint has for Christ. That is precisely what stands out to me when I read Saint Clare’s letters: she speaks of Christ as our great Lover. It may be alarming to us to view Christ in this romantic way, yet intimately cleaving to Jesus as our first and greatest Love follows the great traditions of our Faith. When we follow Saint Clare’s instructions of cultivating a romantic love with Jesus, our faith and trust in Him will grow.
We see the magnitude of this romantic love in her fourth letter to Agnes of Prague when Saint Clare writes to the princess:
“As you contemplate further His ineffable delights, eternal riches and honors, and sigh for them in the great desire and love of your heart, may you cry out:
Draw me after You!
We will run in the fragrance of Your perfumes,
O heavenly Spouse!
I will run and not tire,
until You bring me into the wine-cellar,
until Your left hand is under my head
and Your right hand will embrace me happily
and You will kiss me with the happiest kiss of Your mouth.”
These passionate words are reminiscent of those we find in the interactions of the bridegroom and bride in the Song of Solomon. This nuptial love between God and His people can be traced back to Creation, culminates at the Cross, and remains steadfast in His Saints. We, too, no matter our vocation—single like Princess Agnes, religious, or married—are called to this intimate, spousal relationship with Jesus Christ.
Intimacy With Christ
On her feast day, I encourage you to pray with the letters of Saint Clare. As you do, ask yourself these questions:
- Do I view Christ as my first and greatest love?
- What is holding me back from an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ? Fear? Past injuries to my heart? Lack of trust? Name what it is and present it to Christ.
- Do I realize Jesus wants an intimate relationship with me?
Lord, we desire to be embraced by You and to run tirelessly to You so that we may find complete rest in You. Jesus, increase our trust in You. Increase our love for You. May we allow You to romance our hearts and thereupon begin the greatest love story of our life. Amen!
Saint Clare, pray for us!