Triduum with St. Clare of Assisi
By friar Mario Serrano, OFM Conv.
I was recently asked by a university student, “What saint can accompany us?” He was referring to the reality that we are currently living, that of physical distancing and how this pandemic has changed not only our daily encounters, but also education. As a Franciscan, I responded. St. Clare of Assisi! Pray to St. Clare of Assisi. I believe she is the saint who can accompany us during this Holy Week and our entire time of living away from what we were so accustomed to. Why? Well, St. Clare had a Holy Week she most certainly never forgot. She knew the power of the Eucharist and later in life longed to be present at certain liturgies.
A Palm Sunday to Remember
On Palm Sunday 1212, Assisi worshipers gathered at the Cathedral of San Rufino joyfully anticipating Holy Week celebrations. The city had experienced 10 years of war and the people were looking forward to being reunited in the church, however Clare had another desire. Her desire was to live the Gospel Life and Francis of Assisi had accepted to help her carry out her call. So, as the people gathered for the celebration of Palm Sunday, Clare was given the blessing of the Bishop of Assisi, with the gesture of receiving a palm. Bishop Guido walked toward her, leaving the sanctuary and gave her a palm branch. “Was this part of the ritual? Why did Bishop Guido notice her?” The people of Assis had no clue that he was blessing her plan to physically distant herself from what she knew and dedicate herself to a life of radical poverty and prayer. At 18, Clare took the palm branch and left all that she knew for the rest of her life, convinced God would reveal to her a new way of living. Now in 2020, we celebrated Palm Sunday with no palms. Have you asked God what new way of living is God wanting to reveal for you?
The Eucharist and Protection
By 1241, Clare and a band of her sisters had lived outside the city walls of Assisi, at San Damiano for 25 years. This is the same chapel where the San Damiano crucifix spoke to St. Francis in 1205, “Francis, don’t you see that my Church has fallen into ruin. Go, and rebuild it.” Well, sisters living outside of the city walls, meant that they didn’t have the protection that the people of the city did have- walls! This was especially important during this time because, the convent of San Damiano literally stood between troops of Frederick II and the city of Assisi. Clare’s Sisters panicked as Clare was sick in bed at this time and the poor ladies knew she could not protect them. Clare herself, knew this as well and relied on the Blessed Sacrament. Clare had sisters help her up out of bed and to the little chapel. Clare reached for the Blessed Sacrament and began to pray for protection. “Protect, Lord, these your servants, that I now, by myself, cannot protect.” She held the Eucharist up high in the air and the advancing troops froze in their tracks at the courtyard of the Convent. They could recognize God, in her tremendous act of faith and retracted from the courtyard and left the sisters in peace. May others come to be astonished of our faith during this time of Triduum. Recognizing that through we have been terrorized by the coronavirus, we will hold high the presence of God in our homes. Knowing that God is with us and may we too like St. Clare pray “Protect, Lord, these your servants, that I now, by myself, cannot protect.” Recognizing that staying home, indeed bring forth much protection from the Lord.
St. Clare, Patroness Saint of Television and the Media? Really!? Why?
You might be wondering, how and why is a saint from the 13th century a patroness saint of a 20th century invention. Well, St. Clare of Assisi was named the patroness of TV by Pope Pius XII in 1957 because as Clare grew older, she experienced poorer health that made her become bedridden. One Christmas Eve, Clare was just too sick to be able to attend Mass and was overcome with emotion. Then realizing that she had lodging, something that Mary and Joseph could not find, she began to meditate on the Christmas Mystery. Suddenly her walls burst into light, sounds started to surround her and then moving images of the Christmas celebration and the musical notes of the organ were in her room. She was participating in the Mass being celebrated at the Basilica of St. Francis and began to sing along with the music! Clare had been unable to go to church and God’s loving tenderness brought church to her. St. Clare without having any of the technological tools we have today had “vision from afar” that allowed her to be present and she was overjoyed by this reality. Yes, we are getting ready to celebrate the Sacred Triduum, the Paschal Mystery and not the Christmas Mystery, can we be overjoyed as St. Clare, knowing that many of our parishes will be livestreaming the liturgies. May we be in awe of what we celebrate this week rather than upset that we are stuck at home.
Pray to Saint Clare, she knows what it is like for life to radically change and still see God working within it. Yes, St. Clare knew the power of the Eucharist, as we are unable to receive the Eucharist at this moment, may we lift up what we can offer from our own homes and know that Holy Spirit is longing to bring about transformation and the presence of Christ is among you. We are not bedridden, but have been forced to be homebound, may we thank God for the gift to still be able to participate in the Liturgy of the Sacred Triduum (Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday) through the technological advances we have made. As we participate from afar may we be overjoyed like St. Clare and seek to be fully present and actively participate.
St. Clare of Assisi, accompany us! St. Clare of Assisi, pray for us!