On the eve of Tuesday 10 August, the eve of the feast-day, the Custos of the Holy Land, fr, Francesco Patton, presided over the first vespers and the transit of the Saint with the community of the Poor Clares in St Clare’s Monastery in Jerusalem.
It was 11 August 1253 when Clare died in the monastery of St Damian, where she had spent practically 41 years of her life. Attracted by the example of St Francis, on the night of Palm Sunday in 1212, she had left her father’s home with the desire to belong to Christ only: at the Porziuncola she then embraced the evangelical form of life in the footsteps of the Lord.
The Poor Clares in Jerusalem
The Poor Clares have succeeded in bringing to the Holy Land the charisma of their founder, in the community founded in Jerusalem at the end of the 19th century. The present-day monastery stands on the road that from the Old City goes to Bethlehem and is the oldest building in the large and modern Israeli quarter. The fraternity has an international face, with sisters from Italy, Rwanda, France and Argentina.
Each year the solemnity of St Clare is celebrated with the simplicity that characterizes the community of the Poor Clares, who follow the liturgy from behind the grille of the cloister. During the first vespers, the Transit taken from the Legend of St Clare (chapter XXIX; FF 3252-3254) is read, which recalls her last words on earth: “Go securely and in peace, my blessed soul! The One who created you and made you holy has always loved you tenderly as a mother her dear child. And You, Lord, are blessed because You have created me.”
Clare and the privilege of poverty
The Custos of the Holy Land, fr. Francesco Patton, in his reflection, wanted to focus on the “privilege of poverty”: “On 9 August 1253, Pope Innocent IV signed the manuscript which contained the bull of approval of the Rule of St Clare and the rule itself, which Clare, with Franciscan language, called a ‘form of life’,” the Custos explained. “Therefore the final act of Clare’s governance is that of being able to hand over to the sisters the so-called “privilege of poverty”, that is, the privilege of living without privileges and the wording of the Form of life, i.e. the wording of the Rule, approved by the Church,” (the text in full is here)
The Custos underlined how in the times of Francis and Clare, many monastic institutions asked the Pope to be “dispensed” of some of the challenging aspects of religious life: “Clare, however, asks for the privilege of being able to live in poverty without privileges,” fr. Patton stressed. “Thanks to Francis, she thus discovers that poverty is the most radical way of expressing her faith in God: she chooses to live without any type of security, except the security that comes from God. Today Clare is extremely up-to-date because she points out to us that it is not by following the fashion of the time that we find full happiness in our lives, but by following Jesus Christ radically. To use Clare’s own vocabulary: the important thing is to see how capable we are of running after Jesus, just as a bride in love runs after her groom.”
On 11 August, the feast day, the Patriarch of Jerusalem of the Latins, His Beatitude Pierbattista Pizzaballa presided over the solemn Eucharistic celebration in the presence of René Troccaz, Consul General of France in Jerusalem, Giuseppe Fedele, Consul General of Italy and a large group of friars from the Custody.