For eight centuries, Poor Clare nuns have been living out a solemn mandate given to them by Saint Clare of Assisi. It began in the year 1212 when a ravaging horde of despots was in the act of breaching the walls of the little monastery of San Damiano. A prayerful plea from Clare and her sisters witnessed the attackers swift retreat. Shortly after, when their hometown was under siege, Clare led her sisters in prayer: “Lord, protect this city which nourishes us for love of you.” The invading army quickly dispersed, and Saint Clare was credited with saving Assisi. To this day, the daughters of that courageous woman remain committed to prayer for the protection of the cities that have welcomed them, for their countries, and for their world.
Poor Clares are contemplative nuns whose lives are centered in the praise of God with the apostolate of prayerful intercession for God’s people. Since we need not go anywhere to do our life’s work, we remain in our monasteries in fidelity to our trust. In today’s circumstances, our enclosed form of life gives us a particular relationship with all who are presently cooped up by urgent “stay home” warnings, and social distancing guidelines in light of the Covid 19 virus. We are no stranger to confinement since we make a vow to remain in our monasteries for our entire lives. A quiet place apart, like this, offers the space one needs to grow spiritually free enough to enter more deeply into God’s silence where humanity becomes whole.
The very difficult situations imposed by this Pandemic can provide just such an opportunity for people to experience this sacred silence. Deprived of the usual diversions that ordinarily hold people centered in their ego selves could give them the chance to explore their silent inner space where God lives. It would be a discovery well worth the effort it takes, because as we come to know God’s Presence within, we experience a hidden dimension of ourselves we may not have known before. Our spirit selves grow stronger, so that the Spirit of God becomes the new source of our choices and we become able see as God sees, as things really are. The more we do this, the more the ego that once ruled us has to take a back seat, while the Spirit of God becomes our heart. The Spirit of love teaches us how to better serve the world we love. All humanity has been called to this mystical dimension of life: to be God incarnate on this earth.
As this painful time of an unremitting virus continues to shape our days, and cause so much suffering, loss of jobs, and despair, consider the possibility of portioning out some time each day to taste your oun personal silence. Websites have great ideas to pass the time indoors: games, hobbies, and activities, and these offer good release from boredom. But instead of drowning out the “still, small voice” of God, why not let it breathe new life? Our present catastrophe could turn into a graced opportunity. All it takes to open up to the peace of the Presence of God within you, and around you is to clear away the clutter and take time to just BE. The blessings of healing and peace that are always within us waiting to be discovered, might be just what is needed to bring you through these devastating times with new strength, new faith, and the will to rebuild our world.
Poor Clares have faith in the unlimited capacity of prayer to make things happen. That’s why we love what we do, and have vowed to dedicate our entire lives to sending God’s love to the ends of the earth, as Robert Lax, a confidant of Thomas Merton wrote: “Prayer is a way of doing spontaneous good for all things and in all places. It’s a way of sending out love everywhere at once.” With our Mother Saint Clare we pray: “Lord, protect our city”…our country, and our world.