By Fr. Bill Kraus
It was my joy to participate last week in a double celebration of the 800th Anniversary of the Consecration of St. Clare of Assisi: a three-day conference at St. Bonaventure University on St. Clare, sponsored by the two federations of Poor Clares in North America; followed by another day of prayer and festivity with the U.S. Federation of Capuchin Poor Clares (for whom I am the Religious Assistant) at St. Veronica Giuliani in Wilmington.
For me it was the first time to participate in a major conference of Poor Clare sisters from throughout the U.S. and Ireland, and it was a blessing to be back on the lovely campus of St. Bonaventure where I received my M.A. in Franciscan Studies 35 years ago. The conferences (five speakers), workshops and conversations were full of a new and deeper appreciation of the enduring gift and wisdom of St. Clare for the Church and our Francisclarian family: her passionate and practical love for Jesus crucified, supported by a life of fraternity and poverty.
I was struck by the great diversity among the Poor Clare communities (about 100 sisters from 20 monasteries attended), both in their clothing and in their application of their Rule and Constitutions to their daily life. My experience of the Capuchin Poor Clares in the United States and Mexico is of a greater uniformity among the monasteries. When I commented on the diversity of habits to one of the sisters, she responded: “the important thing is that we all get to the white tunic.”
Back among the Clarisas Capuchinas in Wilmington (eleven sisters representing the five monasteries of our federation, in addition to the rest of the local monastery), we participated in a night of vigil for the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart and a day of celebrating our Capuchin part in the 800 years of St. Clare´s consecration. The Eucharistic celebration of the Sacred Heart, with the ambience and spiritual presence of St. Clare, was highlighted by the sisters´ renewing the vows of their own consecration.
In recalling and celebrating these 800 years, I am impressed with how short are our years and how small is our contribution in the life of this charism, yet how great is our responsibility: to live our little part faithfully so that Clare´s gift to the Church and Order remains pure and fruitful.