Sunday, 11 May 2014

Clare of Assisi

"Clare of Assisi", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2014

Clare of Assisi (July 16, 1194 – August 11, 1253), born Chiara Offreduccio, is an Italian saint and one of the first followers of Saint Francis of Assisi. She founded the Order of Poor Ladies, a monastic religious order for women in the Franciscan tradition, and wrote their Rule of Life—the first monastic rule known to have been written by a woman. Following her death, the order she founded was renamed in her honour as the Order of Saint Clare, commonly referred to today as the Poor Clares.

As a child, Clare was devoted to prayer. When she turned 12 her parents wanted her to marry a young and wealthy man, but she said she preferred to wait until she was 18. However, at the age of 18 she heard Francis preaching and his words had such an impact that her life was changed dramatically. Soon afterwards, she ran away to follow Francis. During the ceremony that followed Clare's arrival at San Damiano, Francis cut her hair and dressed her in a black tunic and a thick black veil.

Clare was then placed in the convent of the Benedictine nuns near Bastia to be trained in the ways of monastic life.  It was from here that her father made several unsuccessful attempts to abduct her, still wanting her to get married. Clare, later joined by her sister Agnes, soon moved to a building close to the church of San Damiano, the "headquarters" of the early Franciscans. Other women joined Clare and her sister in the enclosure where the Poor Clares became known for their radically austere lifestyle.

For a short period of time the order was directed by Francis himself. Then in 1216, Clare accepted the role of abbess. As abbess, Clare had more authority to lead the order. Clare defended her order from the attempts of prelates to impose a rule on them that more closely resembled the Rule of Saint Benedict than Francis' stricter vows. Clare sought to imitate Francis' virtues and way of life so much so that she was sometimes titled alter Franciscus, another Francis. She also played a significant role in encouraging and aiding Francis, whom she saw as her spiritual father. She, and her sisters, took care of Francis during those final illnesses which led to his death in 1226.

The above drawing of St. Clare was inspired by another one of the paintings by Waterhouse (see last Sunday's posting for details regarding this artist).  His work is entitled "Lady Clare".  I was inspired by his work to try to show St. Clare as she might have appeared at age 18 -- just prior to joining St. Francis and his companions in order to live her life as a cloistered nun.
"St. Francis of Assisi", icon by the hand of
Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2010

I wanted to show that she was already a Franciscan at heart by drawing her accompanied by creatures -- just as St. Francis is always pictured (see icon at left). I originally drew a squirrel perched on her shoulder, but then the drawing looked just a bit too overdone to me. So, instead, I have shown St. Clare accompanied by a doe and a dove -- both creatures associated with gentleness and purity.

I, personally, have always felt drawn to the Franciscan spirit even though I only tried living with one Franciscan community -- the Felician Sisters (one branch of the Third Order of St. Francis, an active-contemplative religious institute, founded in Warsaw, Poland, in 1855, by Sophia Truszkowska, and named for a shrine of St. Felix, a 16th-century Franciscan saint especially devoted to children).  I spent a year working in one of their high schools and living with the sisters, but after year, we mutually agreed that we were not a good fit! 

I also had the privilege of spending a bit of time in Assisi some years ago and was able to visit the original monastery of the Poor Clares.  I remember going from room to room and being amazed as I realized how difficult the life of St. Clare and those first nuns actually must have been. For example, I was there  in the summer time and the interior was pleasantly cool. However, I could not imagine living there in the winter during the snow storms which are natural to this region and trying to keep warm while working and praying each day. There were only a few fireplaces I could see and there were none at all in the area assigned to the nuns for sleeping!

St. Clare and St. Francis, please pray for us.



"Singin' in the Rain!"

"That was good, mom -- may I have some more, please?"

"Caught in the Act" -- already sending text messages to one of his many girlfriends!

Dancing with his cousin --
you go, Braden!

As you can see, Braden is continuing to grow into a handsome, young man who seems to really hit it off with the ladies.  If he is this much of a "swinger" at 2 what will he be like at 16?  His poor parents!

Seriously, he is just a sweet guy who enjoys being with people -- and people enjoy being with him.  He is having such a great start to his life and I pray that things will only get better for him.

The photo to the left was actually "captured" from a video which explains the lack of definition.  However, I really wanted you to see what a good dancer he is becoming.  He still needs to do a bit of work, but if you could see the video, you would know that he is already getting his moves down! 



"What's happenin', dude?"
Suki is a great source of companionship and joy; however, she can also be a real pest at times!

Take yesterday morning, for instance.

I was sleeping soundly when suddenly I was awakened by feeling as though a large rock had just fallen onto my chest!  

As I later discovered, the time was only 4:45 a.m. so it is not surprising that it took me a moment or two to figure out what had happened.  

First I began to explore the weight on my chest with my fingers. Immediately, I realized that it was a cat -- not only a cat, but a purring cat!  With that discovery, I yelled "Suki, what on earth do you think you are doing?"

She answered me immediately with a plaintive meow which I knew was her way of saying "I'm hungry; please feed me!"

Later, I realized that she had managed to climb onto the body pillow next to me and then she had jumped from that height (about a foot) directly onto my chest.  This action on her part had the desired effect of waking me up; however, it did not lead to her getting fed.  Instead, I pushed her off onto the floor and told her to not bother me again until it was time for me to get up!

I could see her eyes glowing in the darkness, looking at me pleadingly as I somehow managed to fall back to sleep.  After that, it appears that Suki was able to resist any more extreme measures to awaken me again until almost 5:30. At this time, she managed to squeeze herself into the small space between the top of my head and the headboard, thus putting enough pressure on my head to cause me to wake up!  

This time, I gave in and just got up, fed Suki and then begin my own breakfast preparations.  Thankfully, I had already had about six hours of sleep which is all my body seems to require these days.  As well, I could tell that I needed to take my next dose of pain medication before my back and neck became too uncomfortable.

All I can say is:  "What a cat!"

What makes all this worse is that I have been suffering from a bad case of the "epizootics" for the past few days!  No, no, it isn't fatal, just unpleasant.  I have used this word before, but just in case any of you missed that posting, let me explain once again.

Epizootics really means the study of epidemic animal diseases.  In the part of the southern US where I grew to adulthood, the word had two meanings -- at least in my family.  It was sometimes used to refer to colds or flu-like illnesses and it was also used, especially by my mother, to describe the "illness" I was sure I had every cold winter morning when I had to get out of bed and get dressed for school!  

I would tell my mother how terrible I felt, explaining that I was much too sick to go to school and probably needed to stay in bed all day and sleep!  My mother's response was to tell me that I probably had the "epizootics" and the best treatment for it was to get outside and breathe some of the fresh, cold air!  That diagnosis, combined with my mother's statement that she would have to tell my father I was too sick to go to school when he returned from milking the cows, was always sufficient to get me up and moving!

At any rate, I do seem to have picked up some sort of cold during the past week and at the moment, my sinuses are congested, I have an unpleasant cough and my ears itch!  The worst part is that with my sinuses so congested, I cannot really smell which means I can't really taste either.  This is the one aspect of colds and flu that I dislike the most -- I can't even treat myself to a soothing bowl of ice cream since it has no taste -- where's the pleasure in that?!

Otherwise, there is nothing new to report except that my most recent blood work (this past Tuesday) showed my Potassium levels to still be too high.  I have been told to increase this unpleasant medication by one more pill per day.  Personally, I think these doctors just haven't waited quite long enough yet for the current dosage to have its full effect.  I shall take their recommendations under advisement and see where my Potassium levels are when I go back to the doctor next week!


May God's perfect peace surround us and fill our hearts in the days ahead and may the joy of the Lord be our strength and our defending wall. Amen. 

St. Clare, pray for us. Amen.

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