On August 11th, in solidarity with our worldwide Poor Clare family, we celebrated the Solemnity of our Holy Mother Clare during the 800th centenary of her flight from nobility and wealth to humble obscurity and poverty. Under the auspices of the Little Poor Man of Assisi, Lady Clare’s beginnings in the aptly titled “Little Portion” chapel (Portiuncula) inaugurated a way of life that would inspire countless young women to follow the poor and humble Bridegroom, Jesus Christ. Our Holy Mother Clare’s hidden life of contemplative prayer is an image of bridal love, which is itself representative of Christ’s relationship to His Church.
Clare, often called the “Little Plant” of Saint Francis, began her radical Gospel life at the feet of Francis in the Portiuncula. Kneeling on the rude stones put in place by Francis himself, she renounced the trappings of nobility and donned the bridal splendor of her Savior: poverty, chastity, and obedience. Far from narrowing her vision of the world by leaving it, she paradoxically enlarged her life dramatically by living inside the Gospel.
Sister Mary Paschal of the Lamb of God, following eight years of prayerful discernment, embraced “with her whole heart” this simple but profound example of our Spiritual Mother. What was true for Clare in the Middle Ages carries equal veracity for Sister Mary Paschal in the 21st century. Our sister, in leaving “houses [and] brothers [and] sisters [and] father [and] mother… [and] lands”, (Matthew 19:29-30) has become spiritually rich in her poverty, loved in her solitude, and liberated in her obedience. Like Clare, her world has become infinitely larger by virtue of her inhabiting the Gospel. The cloister walls, because they contain a Christocentric life, defy reason: the Real Presence of Christ makes our cloister larger inside than out.
This truth was illustrated in a concrete way during the party thrown before Sister Paschal’s pre-profession silent retreat. In a case of art imitating life, one of the props used for the party marvelously illustrated a theological truth. A replica of the façade of the portiuncula, handcrafted by the sisters, featured a doorway through which the sisters had to enter. Our tall Sister Paschal had to bend low to enter the room, which was made in the image of a chapel. What profound truths from such small actions! It was a concrete lesson in how we all must enter the presence of the King: humble and aware of our smallness, effacing ourselves as we bring our hearts into the Presence of the Beating Heart.
Below, we share with you the poem composed for the occasion. Enjoy!
Behold, the end of our travels,
But not the least of the marvels!
Though called the “little portion, this is something of a paradox;
This dwelling was for the friars so much more than a pile of rocks.
The poverty and humility of its surface
Concealed the grandeur and nobility of purpose.
Oh Paschal of statuesque beauty, bend low—it’s the only way!
For you to enter the King’s domain and receive your corona virgine!
For the King rests inside, infinity inside the finite,
But to our human minds, that math is not quite right.
For you can search all over in lands far and wide,
But you’ll never find something else that’s bigger in than outside!