THE RULE OF ST. CLARE
Chiara, who likes to be called “little plant of St. Francis” first want to point out that the Order of the Poor Sisters is a foundation of the Seraphic Father : “is the way of life established by St. Francis”. She does not think to have the right to draft a new rule, but it takes the one that St. Francis had written for the Friars Minor: “the rule and life of friars minor is this: to observe the Holy Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, living in obedience, without anything of one’s own and in chastity “, with the necessary adaptations to the life of a fraternity of female seclusion. “Rule and Life” was the name adopted by St. Francis. Form of Life was called the first draft of rules given by the Saint to the brotherhood of San Damiano, and is the title retained by St. Clare for her Rule and approved by Innocent IV in the bull of approval.
For Francis and Clare what is important is life. And to service of life the requirements must be – an ideal that is discovered and purchased by living it – to direct and facilitate growth. It is precisely this state of continual conversion, in which “the sweet becomes bitter and bitter sweet”, which constitutes the content of life in penitence.
One who professes the Rule of St. Clare must feel, therefore, required more than anyone else to constantly compare her criteria, her feelings, her actions, with the life and teachings of Jesus.
The originality of Francis and Clare lies in having made of the combination poverty-fraternity the heart of evangelical life. Poverty and fraternity are in all the writings of the Saint two inseparable elements of a same vocation: to “observe the Holy Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Evangelical life means life fueled in love. For this reason, the Franciscan community is a fraternity in which the sisters must feel joined together, as spiritual sisters, from a love greater than what the mother has for her daughter, overcoming selfishness. Clare “loved the nuns as herself,” “put the well being of your sisters before her own and estimated herself lower than all”. The evangelical program is complemented by the whole set of needs and calls that Jesus addresses to all those who want to follow Him closely and cooperate with Him in building the Kingdom; and in the consecrated life has the concrete expression in the three who by definition are called the evangelical counsels.
A life in obedience is a constant attitude of adherence to God’s saving will and of willingness to fraternal service in the mystery of Christ’s redemptive obedience.
A life in chastity is the permanent attention to keep the heart whole and free for intimacy with God and for the donation to others.
A life in poverty leads us to identify ourselves, in joyful expropriation, with “poverty and humility of our Lord Jesus Christ” and the reality of any life who suffers shortages or neglect. Francis and Clare take as rule the willingness required by Jesus in the Gospel to those who want to follow it with full commitment: the detachment from all worldly things and insecurity for the Kingdom; the group had to live the risk of the voluntary poverty under the providential love of Heavenly Father, trusting in the goodwill of men.
This abandonment of external, however, is just the way to arrive to the inner expropriation, the one that makes free for love.
It’s all an existential attitude of detachment and inner “expropriation”, of fraternal communication of soul and body’s goods, putting them into service to our next. Francis lived deeply convinced of the Holy Spirit’action in every step of his life, and therefore, all his concern was open himself with docility and readiness to his “holy activity,” attentive to any sign of God’s will in his life. It had the same faith in the presence and action of the Spirit in each brother, possible when we open ourselves to the Lord, “always praying Him with a pure heart.”
“Above all they should desire to have the spirit of the Lord and his holy operation.”
Love one another “spiritually” is the same as having implemented the inner expropriation of themselves, following Jesus poor and humble, up to become obedient to the spirit of the Lord in simplicity and purity of heart. The fraternity formed by St. Francis gave from the beginning utmost importance to the value of communal prayer . Saint Clare could not do otherwise than following this example.
The Liturgy of the Hours , distributed at different times of the day, answers to the permanent attitude of the Church, who offers the sacrifice of praise and supplication to God, the Father, in union with Christ her Spouse.
Clare’s prayer was a prayer of faith. As the prayer of Jesus, had as center the interests of the Father: His glory, His Kingdom, the design of His will and men’s needs. For that reason is precious the gift of silence. There is an active silence, in which man finds himself, enters the why of things and events, open himself to the reality of God who searches the depths of our being and manifests Himself in intimacy, closed door.