By Cliff Garvey
As a Fellowship of Franciscans in Spirit, we are called to prayer and humility; kindness and generosity; courage and perseverance; unity and reconciliation. Now is the time to grow closer to Christ, closer to the Church, and closer to each other. Now is the time for conversion! Now is the time for a Christmas miracle!
In this spirit, we turn again to the Little Flowers of Saint Francis, the ancient series of stories and legends about the Poor Man of Assisi and his first followers. In this chapter, we encounter Saint Clare. Long after the death of Francis, her friend and spiritual father, Clare follows in his footsteps. She persists in their shared vocation to Gospel simplicity and spiritual poverty. And in the midst of a long illness, leaving her bedridden and paralyzed, she is blessed with a Christmas miracle. It is a miracle made by the grace of God through the prayers of Saint Francis.
Clare’s Christmas Miracle
From the Little Flowers of Saint Francis
Late in life, Clare is very sick. She is unable to join her sisters in the Church of San Damiano. She is unable to join them in singing the psalms and canticles of the Divine Office. On Christmas Eve, all of the sisters leave for the first prayers after midnight, but Clare remains in bed. She is deeply sad in her heart because she will not be with them at a moment of spiritual consolation. But the Lord Jesus, her divine spouse, will not leave her downcast and unhappy. He causes her to be miraculously carried to the Church of Saint Francis for Midnight Mass and Matins. He also enables her to receive the Holy Eucharist before bringing her back to bed.
When the sisters return from the little church, they say to her: “Mother! Sister Clare! We have all experienced many consolations on this Feast of the Holy Nativity! By God’s grace, we wish that you were with us!” Clare answers them: “My most beloved sisters and daughters! Praise and thanks to our Lord Jesus Christ! On this most holy night, I also received a great consolation in my heart. Through the prayers of our Father Francis and by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, I was present in the Church of Saint Francis. My body and mind were healed for a time from all pain and sickness. I heard everything. I saw everything. I was blessed to enjoy all of the Divine Office. I listened to the music of the organ. And I received Holy Communion. For such miracles showered upon me, I praise and give thanks again to our Lord Jesus Christ!”
Over the years, this miraculous event has been interpreted more as a vision than as a literal transporting of Clare from location to another. Was she there in person? Was she there in spirit? Does it really matter? We don’t know. Only God knows for sure. But whatever happened, the story sill captures the imagination of the People of God.
In 1958, seven centuries after Saint Clare’s Christmas Miracle, Pope Pius XII declares her the patron saint of television. The Holy Father writes: “This marvelous instrument…can be the source of very great goods, but also of deep misfortune because of the singular attraction that it offers to the human spirit and to the family home. So it seems good to give television a celestial safeguard that prevents its misdeeds and promotes its honest use. We wish this patronage for Saint Clare of Assisi (Apostolic Letter, 1958).” In this spirit and in the spirit of Christmas, we pray now for her intercession:
O Saint Clare,
ardent lover of Jesus in the Most Blessed Sacrament,
help us to grow in love
for Christ Jesus, our Redeemer.
With strong faith and unwavering hope,
gather our wounded church,
our suffering world, and all people
into your loving heart
and lift us up to Jesus
with absolute confidence in his merciful love.
O Saint Clare,
help us to be like you:
peaceful, kind, gentle,
strong, patient, and persevering
in the face of every difficulty.
Trusting in your powerful intercession,
we confidently praise and thank God, our Father,
for every blessing we have received.
Glory, praise, wisdom, and thanksgiving,
honor, power, and might to our God,
forever and ever. Amen.
At Christmas and always,
may the powerful intercession
of Saint Francis and Saint Clare of Assisi
bring us closer to Christ, closer to the Church,
and closer to each other.
May their prayers comfort us,
empower us, and protect us
as we strive to live the Gospel,
share God’s love,
and rebuild the Church. Amen.
Saint Francis of Assisi, pray for us!
Saint Clare of Assisi, pray for us!
Our Lady of the Angels, pray for us!
About the Presenter
Cliff Garvey is a co-founder of the Assisi Project. He is a graduate of the University of Southern Maine, Saint John Seminary College, and the Catholic University of America. Cliff is a writer, spiritual director, retreat leader, and university lecturer. He also serves as Associate Minister of the Catholic Community of Gloucester & Rockport in Massachusetts where his ministry focuses on adult faith formation. Thank you for listening to Clare’s Christmas Miracle. These audio recordings are produced by the Assisi Project, Inc. For more information about the Assisi Project: A Fellowship of Franciscans in Spirit and our ministries for adults of all ages and backgrounds, please contact Cliff at firstname.lastname@example.org. Copyright 2021. All rights reserved. May the Lord give you peace!
Art Credit: Elisa Bistocchi via Dreamstime.com
Text Credit: Source Material Adapted from the Little Flowers of Saint Francis (1899)
Founded in 2007, the Assisi Project is a Fellowship of Franciscans in Spirit with friends and followers throughout the world. We are dedicated to helping Christian believers of all ages more faithfully live the Gospel of Christ in the spirit of Saint Francis and Saint Clare of Assisi. The Assisi Project is a non-profit, tax exempt charitable organization. All are welcome to support our ministry via PayPal or AmazonSmile (links below); or by sending a tax-deductible donation to the Assisi Project, Post Office Box 3158, Gloucester, Massachusetts 01931-3158. For more information about the Assisi Project and our upcoming opportunities for formation, prayer, and pilgrimage, please contact Cliff Garvey at email@example.com. May the Lord give you peace!
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In Memory of John J. Garvey, Jr. (1911-1999)