Franciscan Heritage: The Letters of Clare to Agnes

Sister JulieAnn Sheahan

July 05, 2017

Franciscan Sister Louise Hembrecht presented two sessions on The Letters of Clare to Agnes.

The letters of St. Clare to St. Agnes of Prague (Bohemia) focus on God’s tremendous love for us, for all of humanity. Sr. Louise began by putting Clare and Agnes in the context of their time in history. It was a time of change and of political intrigue, but Clare doesn’t focus on the weakness or sin of her time, but rather on God’s love. She encourages Agnes to a God-centered poverty, a poverty that is based on love and generosity. She tells Agnes to place her mind in the mirror of eternity and gaze upon, consider, contemplate Jesus who Agnes desires to follow. Clare is caught up in the poverty, humility, and charity of God and this is her message to Agnes. Contemplation of God is a focus on the mysteries of faith, the crib, the cup, and the cross (or in other words, the Incarnation, the Eucharist, and the Crucified Lord.) It is not, however, an intellectual exercise, but a movement of the heart, of one’s whole being that leads to imitation.

The figure of Christ on the San Damiano Cross with head raised beckoned Clare. The figure of Christ on the Crucifix in St. Mary’s Chapel at the Motherhouse, also with head raised, beckons us to an embrace of Christ Crucified and to a generous response to God’s love. Clare’s letters to Agnes are also a call to us to gaze, consider, contemplate and to follow in the footprints of our God who is Love.

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