Poor Clare Colettine Nuns

Information

Religious

Women

Cloistered

Prayer and penance

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216-941-2820 Mother Abbess

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Location(s)

Cleveland, OH

Patron Saints/Famous Saints of the Community

ST. AGNES OF ASSISI (1197-1253) Sixteen days after Clare of Assisi fled from home to begin her Gospel adventure, her younger sister Catherine joined her on the path of Seraphic holiness. Together they braved the fierce opposition of their family in order to follow Christ’s call to the cloister. Given the name Agnes by St. Francis when he clothed her in the habit of Lady Poverty, she became a whole-hearted disciple of the Lady Clare. Sent to Florence to help form communities desiring to live the Clarian ideal, Agnes returned to San Damiano in 1253, in time to be present at the death of her sister Clare on August 11. Always of one heart in this life, Agnes died sixteen days later and was reunited with Clare forever in the heavenly wedding feast. FEAST DAY: NOVEMBER 19

ST. AGNES OF PRAGUE (1205-1282) Not once but twice did Princess Agnes, the daughter of the King of Bohemia, refuse the offer of an imperial marriage. A Spouse of nobler lineage, the Lord Jesus Christ, had already claimed her heart and nothing less than total surrender to His love would satisfy her. Entering the newly established monastery in Prague, Agnes soon distinguished herself as a fervent daughter of St. Clare, who called her ‘the other half of my soul’. After her death in 1282, a tradition grew that when ‘The Princess’ was canonized, something wonderful would happen to her native land. Pope St. John Paul II canonized Agnes of Prague in November 1989, and within a few weeks, her homeland was peacefully freed from communist domination. FEAST DAY: MARCH 2

VENERABLE MARGARET SINCLAIR (1900-1925) A bonnie lass was Sister Mary Francis of the Five Wounds, an extern sister of the Poor Clares in London, and better known as Margaret Sinclair of Edinburgh, Scotland. Although her life on earth was brief and her years in religious life few, her exceptional spiritual qualities, even in her brief life, attracted attention and, after her death, a rapidly spreading fame. Margaret is, in the words of Gordon Cardinal Grey of Edinburgh, “ordinary… But underlying all that appeared ordinary was her extraordinary, all-consuming, driving love for God.” Born on March 29, 1900, to Andrew and Elizabeth Sinclair, in a humble Irish immigrant enclave within the Scottish capitol, her working-class parents reared their children in their own deep faith, and bequeathed to Margaret and her siblings their own honesty and charity. Margaret was graced with a joyful disposition and a growing love for the Blessed Sacrament. She worked with typical generosity during World War I; employed as a factory worker and dressmaker, she helped provide for her family, yet also found ways to help others less fortunate. These same beautiful qualities Margaret brought to her chosen vocation as a Poor Clare extern sister. Remembered as “always doing something for someone,” Margaret was a perfect expression of what our Mother Saint Clare intended that ‘the sisters serving outside the monastery’ should be. God was pleased with her total gift of self, and after many trials, culminating with a year of suffering due to advanced tuberculosis, He took Margaret to Himself on November 24, 1925.

Charism/Apostolate

We are contemplative nuns, a family consisting of both cloistered and extern sisters. Contemplatives witness to the primacy of the ‘vertical’ relationship with God. The nun must remind the world that it is necessary to lift up our eyes to the heights. As Raissa Maritain put it,

“What is needed are lives that silently acclaim the primacy of God. What is needed are [nuns] who treat the Lord as Lord, who spend themselves in adoring him, who are immersed in his mystery, gratuitously and without human reward, in order to attest that he is the Absolute.” [R. Maritain, Journal, in Oeuvres completes, Vol. 15 (Fribourg/Paris: Editions Universitaires de Fribourg and Editions Saint-Paul, 1995), 219]

The cloistered Poor Clare is destined for the spiritual maternity of countless souls. The more perfect her life of love and reparation, the more fruitful is her motherhood of souls. The Poor Clare has stepped apart from the world because she wants to love it more purely and more realistically. This gives her a better perspective on it. Saint Clare of Assisi had a burning missionary heart, but God asked her to channel all its energies into the love and reparation of the cloister. Her mission field was the whole world. It needs a great heart to fashion a contemplative, a capacity for love so wide and deep that only God can fill it, a missionary zeal so ardent that no fewer than all the souls in the world can satisfy it. Even our extern sisters, the guardians of our enclosed life, are truly contemplatives, called to the same spiritual maternity.

“In their undivided attention to the Father's word: ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased’ (Mt 3:17), and in their loving acceptance of that word, cloistered nuns are always ‘with Him on the holy mountain’ (2 Pt 1:17-18). Fixing their gaze upon Christ Jesus, shrouded in the cloud of God's presence, they wholly cleave to the Lord.” [Pope St. John Paul II, Verbi Sponsa]

The closer a soul draws to God, the more entirely she is dedicated to Him, the more she radiates God. The poet has declared that Our Lady “had this one work to do/ let all God’s grace shine through.” So has the contemplative Poor Clare. Her mission is to be God’s, to let Him shine through her on all the darkness of misery which surrounds the world. And as in Saint Clare’s age, so in our own, people understand this without any need to reason about it – the common people, the suffering, the sinners. They flocked to Clare’s poor little monastery in the thirteenth century to ask her prayers for their sick, their prodigals, and their friends. In our century, the monastery doorbell is rung by the lonely, the discouraged, the despairing. The monastery mailbox holds wistful appeals for compassion and understanding, pathetic confessions of mistakes. These people take it for granted that the Poor Clares, cloistered from the world, are closer to its heartaches and miseries than any others simply because they live hidden in the embrace of God. Her love for them is released on a plane above the relations of conjugal love in spiritual maternity. Her ambition is to mother all the souls in the world.

History

Over eight hundred years ago Jesus, the true vine Himself, carefully planted a tender new shoot in the heart of young Francis Bernardone of Assisi, a gift of His heart and vibrant with His life. The soil was well-chosen; the vocation of Francis was sealed. Called to follow the Great King, he joyfully sang: “My God and my All!” Eager hearts listened, and soon other tiny shoots caught hold and growth began with strength and vigor. Thus did the Franciscan Order originate and continue to grow.

Perhaps no one heard that humble song of Francis more clearly than the young Clare Offreduccio of Assisi. Her great desire was to give her life, her love and herself to God, and she, before all others, recognized the melody. Saint Francis was just beginning his gospel way of following Christ, and the sparks of his holy fire ignited the heart of the Lady Clare. On the night of March 18, 1212, she left family, home and all that was dearest to her to follow the way shown and taught her by Francis, and so was born the Second Order of Poor Ladies.

Like a glowing votive lamp, the Poor Clares, as they came to be known after her death, gave brilliance to the Church of God. By the 15th century, however, the luster of the Franciscan light had been dimmed by historic traumas in church and civic life. One of Clare’s spiritual daughters, Saint Colette Boellet of Corbie, France, was called by God to fan the dying embers into a renewed blaze of warmth and light again. "A little fountain has grown into a very great river!" That is how the liturgy describes her accomplishments. Born of aged parents, little Nicolette was gifted at an early age with a great love of the primitive Franciscan ideal. It took divine intervention, however, to convince the grown-up Colette that her true calling lay, not as a Third Order recluse, but as the tireless restorer of the heritage of ‘Sir St. Francis and Madame St. Clare’. To this daunting task, Colette generously dedicated all her strength, so that when she died on March 6, 1447, the Clarian vision of poverty, penance and prayer was a joyfully lived reality in numerous monasteries in France and beyond. Poor Clares following the primitive observance restored by Saint Colette are often referred to as Poor Clare Colettines.

Our monastery of the Blessed Sacrament was founded in 1877 in Cleveland, Ohio, from Dusseldorf, Germany, when the sisters were driven from home and country by the Kulturkampf. As cloistered contemplatives we cherish our monastic heritage and our role in the very heart of the Church. It was a flame that Saint Clare caught and spread. We believe that there are many young women whose earnest and generous hearts have also been touched by this flame, and we are eager to pass the spiritual burning torch of Saint Clare to them.

Prayer Life

For many people, the day ends when they retire at midnight. For Poor Clares, the day begins when they rise at midnight.

The first of the canonical hours of the Divine Office is chanted at midnight while the world around is sleeping or perhaps sinning. Sin loves the cover of night. Prayer goes out into the backstreets of the night to seek out sinners and reclaim them. The night Office is a torch held in the hands of the Poor Clare as her love goes looking down the lanes of the world for the lost, the straying, the despairing, the suffering, the dying.

What is this Divine Office, of which the midnight prayer is the first hour? The Liturgy of the Hours, also known as the Divine Office or the Work of God (Opus Dei), is the daily prayer of the Church, marking the hours of each day and sanctifying the day with prayer. The Hours are a meditative dialogue on the mystery of Christ, using scripture and prayer. At times the dialogue is between the Church or individual soul and God; at times it is a dialogue among the members of the Church; and at times it is even between the Church and the world. The Divine Office “is truly the voice of the Bride herself addressed to her Bridegroom. It is the very prayer which Christ himself together with his Body addresses to the Father.” (SC 84)

Even among the laity, the breviary is today regaining its place of honor, the place it held in medieval times. But it is to her priests and contemplatives that Holy Church entrusts the Liturgy of the Hours to be recited officially in her name. Thus Pope Pius XII, in his Apostolic Constitution Sponsa Christi, said: “The Church deputes nuns alone among the women consecrated to God for the public prayer which is offered to God in her name…and these she binds under grave obligation by law according to their Constitutions to perform this prayer by reciting daily the canonical hours.”

Traditions

Our lives are consecrated to God in liturgical worship, Eucharistic adoration, joyful penance, and the hidden and fully apostolic ministry of prayer proper to our vocation. The distinctive marks which identify our community are: our Franciscan heritage, with our cherished ‘Privilege of Poverty’; prayerful collaboration with and faithful support of the Catholic Church, our Holy Father and our local Church; the Liturgy of the Hours with Matins at midnight; simple and sisterly community sharing; daily exposition and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament; full-length habit and bare feet; and traditional practices of fast and total abstinence. We cherish our observance of papal enclosure as an indispensable aid for a life of contemplative prayer, and thus make only limited use of the internet and social media.

“Contemplative nuns observe cloister, not as an end in itself, but to create that sacred space, a desert, a wilderness, where one can “fix on the possession and contemplation of God. … It is a gift and free choice of love”. [CO 158]


Among the other favors
which we have received
and do daily receive
from our Benefactor,
the Father of mercies,
for which we ought
to return the more thanks
to that glorious Father,
outstanding is our vocation.

Testament of Saint Clare

©2020 by STACEY SUMEREAU