Today is the feast day of St. Clare of Assisi (1195-1253). Oftentimes, St. Clare is depicted holding what appears to be a lamp, or sometimes, more clearly, a monstrance. The historical basis of this subject is the crisis that struck the city-state of Assisi in 1224. The Italian peninsula at the time was, by all reports, a place of constant warfare, as cities and dukes were locked in constant conflict. For example, St. Francis, prior to his conversion, was captured by the city of Perugia in 12o1 and incarcerated for a year. In 1224, the troops of the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II were threatening the city of Assisi. St. Clare met the soldiers at the boundaries of the city, not with guns and soldiers, but instead her most powerful ally, the Lord Jesus, contained in the Blessed Sacrament. It is said that Frederick was dissuaded from conquering the city by this spiritual force.
The name Clare derives from “Chiara” in Italian and means “brightness” or “light.” This additional meaning further explains why Clare holds forth the monstrance with light emanating from it, together with the fact that Jesus Christ called himself “the light of the world” (John 8:12).
As it happened, the gospel reading for today’s feast day is that of Matthew 18:21-19.1, which can be found through the following link:
In this teaching, Jesus commands his followers to be as forgiving as the Heavenly Father has been for each of us. When his disciples ask him if this means they must forgive others SEVEN times (the Biblical number of perfect completion, like when God completes the creation of the world in seven days), Jesus takes the forgiveness required from perfect completion to an infinite level, with the hyperbolic response: not seven times, but seventy-seven times! We could not presume to be this forgiving, as forgiving as our God has been for us, unless God help us. And . . . when we do, we become like that light that St. Clare holds up, the very brightness of life that is Christ himself, reflected and magnified through us!