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This August the Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity are pleased to highlight an image of St. Clare of Assisi, devoted follower of St. Francis, that is the artwork of one of our own Sisters, Sister Mariella Erdmann, OSF.
Sister Mariella comments on how ‘Chiara’ came to be:
I was honored to be asked to design an image of St. Clare for Chiara Convent, the new home for the Sisters working at Silver Lake College. Chiara is the Italian name for Clare. Since we are Franciscan Sisters we wished to name our new home after St. Clare of Assisi, the great Franciscan Saint. The name Clare means light and I have designed Chiara holding a candle – light, and also holding the bible. As I reflected on the life of St. Clare and prayed for guidance to create this piece, I came up with the image of Clare showing her simplicity, inner strength, peace, and deep prayer. It is through her eyes that these qualities are most reflected. Clare was dedicated to gospel living in the following of Jesus the Christ. He was her center and it was from Him that she radiated the qualities I listed. She truly became a light to the world of her day as each of us need to become lights to our world as we follow Christ. Clare summed up her spirituality in these four words –Gaze, Consider, Contemplate, Imitate. This was her life in imitation of the Crucified Christ.
The image of Clare is sandblasted into limestone panels. The recessed areas were then blackened which makes the image stand out from quite a distance. The panels were set into the stone masonry work on the façade of the building. This in itself was a feat as there were four panels that had to be carefully set in and then finished off with the curved arch at the top. The rough stone masonry that surrounds Clare is fitting in its setting in a wooded area. Thus use of natural materials is keeping with the Franciscan spirit. Clare is a most welcoming image as a person enters Chiara Convent. I pray that her image does not only welcome us in but permeates our being in the following of Christ as Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity. St Clare and St. Francis have done their part now we must do our part in the furthering of the Kingdom of God in our world.
August 11 – Stephen B. Whatley
On the actual feast of St. Clare of Assisi we also add a portrait done by friend of the Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity, Stephen B. Whatley.
St Clare, described as a great beauty, was born in 1194 in Assisi, Italy to a family of great wealth and from her earliest years had a great yearning for a more spiritual life. She was greatly inspired in her teens by hearing St Francis of Assisi preach; and with all her heart desired to imitate Francis and to live a poor humble life for Jesus. Along with her younger sister Agnes, she co-founded a community of nuns, still known throughout the world as Poor Clares. In 1234, through the depth of her prayers, God saved Clare and her Sisters when the army of Frederick II launched an attack on Assisi; planning to raid the convent first. Clare was very sick, but she pulled herself up from her bed and proceeded to face the invaders at an open window – placing the Blessed Sacrament in clear view of them. In artistic depictions St Clare is often shown holding the monstrance (as in Stephen’s tribute )or the ciborium; as she prays for help and protection. She begged God to save the Sisters: “O Lord, protect these Sisters whom I cannot protect now”. At this moment the attackers were struck with sudden fear and fled.Her prayers would defeat future dangers in her lifetime; before St Clare passed away in 1253.Clare was canonised in 1255. St Clare is Patron Saint of among other things, ‘sore eyes’; and as recently as 1958, Pope Pius XII chose St Clare of Assisi to be Patron Saint of Television.Recognising the importance of this then relatively new communications medium, he qualified his dedication by recalling a time in St Clare’s life when she was too ill on Christmas Eve to attend Midnight Mass. She sighed, “See Lord, I am left alone with You” as the Sisters left for Mass. At that moment God granted Clare a vision in which she saw and heard the Mass as if she had been present in the convent chapel…