THE FAMILIES OF SAINT CLARE

By Father Bill Kraus, OFM Cap.

Cardinal Sean O´Malley, OFM Cap. was installed as bishop of Fall River, Massachusetts in 1992 (on August 11!).  In his homily he commented that at that moment he belonged to three families: the biological family of his parents and his childhood, the religious family of his Capuchin brothers, and now the ecclesial family of the diocese of Fall River. He said as he spoke that day to the cathedral full of people that he had no intention to forget his roots and his historical families, rather that he wanted to take advantage of his family experience and culture and wisdom in his new ministry.

I believe that the deep faith of his parents, the humor and wisdom of his Irish culture, and the simplicity and the religious garb of his consecrated Capuchin life are serving him well in his ministry of bishop and cardinal.  Our brother Cardinal Sean is a man of God well rooted in all his families, as he desired to be.

It impresses me, reading Chapter II of our study of the Rule of St. Clare and reflecting on her vocation, that she is also well rooted, like a solid and fruitful tree, in her family history.  In her founding of the community of the Poor Ladies of San Damiano, she still remained the daughter of her mother and father and the nurturance of her home; she carried with her the faith and the religious culture of Assisi; she was the beneficiary of the spirit and life of her larger Franciscan family shared with the Poor Man of Assisi and his brothers.

This month we have celebrated the Day of the Consecrated Life, on the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord, to remind us that our religious vocation is rooted both in our biological family of birth and our new baptismal family of the Church.  Three families join together in the richness of our call and life: the home, the Church and the Capuchin community.

We understand through the documents of the Church on the consecrated life that our “leaving the world” does not mean leaving behind our baptism or forsaking our Christian and Catholic formation in the heart of the family and culture.  It means, rather, that we put behind us our sins and enslavements to the secular “world” in order to dedicate ourselves faithfully and generously to the Lord and to the Church in our proper vocation.

From within the separation and the silence of the cloister, Our Mother Saint Clare still joined herself spiritually with her family, praying for them and encouraging their holiness, and also inviting her family and relatives and townspeople to join her in the consecrated life.  From within her enclosed life, Clare and her sisters maintained with Francis and his brothers, with prudent care, healthy and holy dialogues that nurtured them mutually in the spiritual growth of the Franciscan-Clarian family.

We might ask ourselves, then, several questions.  Are we maintaining prudent and transparent contact with our families of origin, according to the guidance of the Rule and Constitutions, to support our vocations and theirs?  Are we encouraging and inviting our families to consider the Capuchin life, or other religious or sacerdotal vocations in the Church? 

In our fraternal relationships with our Capuchin brothers and with the Franciscan family, are we seeking and taking opportunities for dialogues that are spiritual, evangelical and Franciscan-Clarian – with transparency and prudence – for our mutual growth and holiness?

May St. Clare, that holy Gospel flame that still shines and burns after 800 years, animate and strengthen us to live the precious gift of our vocation with all the support available from all our families.

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