Poor Clare Colettine Nuns of Cleveland, Ohio
First Permanent Foundation in the United States

 

 

 

 

 
 

 

 

 
A life of penance is the corollary to a life of prayer. It is through penance that the spirit finds an adequate expression for its love. It is through penance that we are stimulated to a greater generosity in prayer.
 
It is through the Holy Spirit that the “new man” is created, the spiritual foundations are dug, the light that is God is uncovered, and the stale “salt” revitalized. And it is in the monastic milieu of penance, freely chosen, that this work of the Holy Spirit flourishes.
 
To do this she must keep her gaze fixed on the pillar of fire which burns within her, beckoning her to return to the simple transparency of the God-life which sin has so often succeeded in hiding from her eyes.
 
It is to recapture this vision and this harmony, This kind of “morning of the first day” view where everything becomes delicate and beautiful and proportioned and whole, that penance is practiced. For she understands that in embracing the cross in union with Christ she can help to restore all that God created good in the beginning.
 
Penance accelerates the spirit in its quest for the things of God. Fasting, bare feet, hard beds, meatless diets, manual labor, all of these ascetical practices enlarge and enliven the spirit, making it free and supple and vulnerable to the Truth.
 
“As strangers and pilgrims in this world, serve God in poverty and humility.” – St. Clare
 
"Poverty holds a central position in the life of a Poor Clare. Poverty for St. Clare and St. Francis was a form of life rather than an economic state. Detachment and the rejection of ownership meant to them self-emptying, humiliation, and the most complete abasement in order to be able to follow the same way as Jesus did in His Incarnation."
-Heribert Roggen, O.F.M.
 
Poverty was not intended to be an ascetical practice or exercise; but rather was understood and lived by St Clare as a means by which one could completely renounce self, knowing that by doing this one would be lifted up to an entirely different plane of life, the life of the Spirit.
 
By slipping off her shoes and all superfluity
she enters into the womb of all true life – nothingness, humility, littleness, self-abasement – until, Spirit-born and Spirit-led, she can find freedom, joy and perspective where only One Mountain is important and every hour becomes His hour.
 
Contemplation is not a cerebral ascension. It is much more often a valley of darkness and an exile in a foreign land. Yet it is full of hope, for the contemplative knows that her Redeemer lives and will come to deliver her.
 
This ‘waiting’, this trusting expectation, this ‘putting all my hope in the Lord’ mentality is essential to contemplation; and, contradictory as it may seem, deliverance comes, not in might and power, but in the paradoxical image of flesh wrapped in poor swaddling bands, of Divinity enclosed in a tiny white piece of bread, in littleness and weakness. Hunger-led, the children of Light become the Freed One Who emancipates them and grow into greatness in their poverty.
 
The seed must die before it can grow into a hundredfold.
  
The work of a Poor Clare is an intrinsic part of her life lived in community. A community, like any family, has its practical aspects; and, as in any family, the duties, chores and utilitarian functions of life are divided among the members so that each member can experience the joy of serving the Lord in her sisters.
 
As followers of the Poor Christ, Poor Clares willingly assume the ordinary burdens of the poor: caring for the monastery, preparing their food, sewing their clothing, and simply attending to the basic essentials of living. In addition, when possible, they labor to support themselves by remunerative works. When such labor proves insufficient to meet their material needs they turn trustingly toward the ‘table of the Lord’ and beg for alms. As mendicant nuns subsisting on faith in the word of God and the intrinsic goodness of people, they are never confounded.
 
While the contemplative Poor Clare is often adept in liturgical arts such as music, painting, printing or writing, there gradually emerges an awareness of another ‘art’. The freshness of day, the newness of life. It is the child’s vision recaptured. It is an ‘I lift my eyes to the Lord’ way of seeing.
 
They are awake and alive to the faithfulness of their Lord. His ‘faithfulness’ shines through them: it transforms their every action into an enthusiastic YES to God.
 
 Sweeping a walk, or ringing the praises of a bell, baking the daily bread, or praying in silent adoration – every action becomes a mission. It is Magdalene going out to tell the brethren that indeed, “the Lord has risen.”
 
Duty and fidelity to duty become more than isolated, static acts of virtue; they become dynamic messages resounding to the needs of the earth with the good news of salvation. In this sense, the contemplative vocation is a call to apostolic action. It is not action in the ‘busy about many things’ sense, but the action, the drama, of receiving profoundly within her the mystery of God.
 
All who dwell with her upon the earth become her diocese; their secrets of grace, their dark oceans of fear, the unfinished depths of their love – all commune with her and are touched by the invisible ministry which it is hers to give in the Holy Spirit – the reception NOW to the knock of Christ.

She hears at times the deafening refusal of humanity denying Him entrance, condemning itself to death.
 
She hears the great waves of Infinity retreating from the house of man. She knows the awful power of man, that facile ‘no’ by which he can entomb himself in an ice age of frustration and misery. She hears and she responds in the only way she can: by rushing forward with her untiring welcomes, finding Him everywhere, awakening to Him in everything. with Him being humanity’s “yes” to the Father.