Clare of Assisi: Being Fully a Woman

By sister Maria de Cristo Palafox 

Every man and woman can arrive at human maturity and fulfillment when they truly live significant relationships that are deep and enduring: responsible and committed relationships that allow people to give themselves to others in a variety of ways.

In the presence of Jesus, let us reflect on this experience and see how the fulfillment of a woman is connected intimately with her vocation.  One woman who lives this to the fullest is Mary the Mother of Christ, in her experience of being spouse, mother and daughter. “…just as the glorious Virgin of virgins carried [Christ] materially in her body, you too, following her footsteps, above all her humility and poverty, can always and without doubt carry Him spiritually in your chaste and virginal body, holding Him who holds you and all things.” [Cf. Letter III]

 

The woman who is spouse shares the ideals and lives the struggles, triumphs and failures with her husband, to whom she as entrusted her life and that of her children.  In the same way the consecrated woman is called to follow the footsteps and share the life of her Souse Jesus Christ, and as such to entrust to Him her life and the care of her spiritual children.  Just like any spouse who wishes to please her husband, so also the espoused soul seeks to clothe herself with Jesus Christ (Rom. 13:14).

 

Saint Clare shares with us the spousal journey that every woman and man makes in their proper vocation.  Even though she writes her letters specifically to a woman, the spousal reality includes the human experience of every soul committed to Jesus Christ. We see this in Saint Francis´s letter to the faithful: “They are spouses, brothers and mothers of our Lord Jesus Christ (cf. Mt 12:50). We are spouses when, by the Holy Spirit, our faithful soul is joined to Christ.  We are brothers when we do the will of the Father who is in heaven (Cf. Mt 12:50), and mothers when we carry Him in our hearts and in our bodies (cf. 1 Cor 6:20) through love and a pure and sincere conscience; and we give birth to Him through good works which must shine as an example before others (cf. Mt. 5:16).

 

Saint Clare, in writing to Saint Agnes whom she calls sister, daughter and mother, describes to her this process of commitment to the Lord, showing her this harmonious experience and fulfillment as mother, daughter and spouse in her life.  This encounter with the Lord in her feminine reality leads her to the heights of authenticity in her being and her doing.

To be an authentic woman one has to be a good Christian.  Saint Clare says to Saint Agnes: Look attentively upon this mirror every day, O queen and spouse of Jesus Christ, and continually observe in it your own face, so that you may then adorn yourself, interiorly and exteriorly [Cf. Letter IV]. When we look into the mirror which is Jesus Christ, we can see and choose our calling and recognize the true blessedness of loving without reserve. Jesus loved us to the end, pouring out his life for us to the point of shedding blood, and His immense love continues among us in this humble piece of bread.  Only out of love He gives His life, His body, His blood for us.  We see the same when a woman gives birth to her child.  She gives her body and nourishes with her blood…  The joy of motherhood is to enlighten, protect and foster growth through her genuine feminine nature.  But we cannot forget that giving life also requires of her hardship, sacrifice and self-renunciation.  The offering of our femininity empowers us to be life-giving after the manner of Christ.

In these moments of prayer let us give thanks to the Lord for all the women whom we have met along our path who have given us life in so many ways, especially for the Mother who gave birth to the Savior of the world and who now gives us new birth by our recalling in her maternity the image and the essence of divine love.

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