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Grains of wheat, when ground in the mill, turn in to flour. With this flour we make the wafer of the holy Eucharist. Grapes, when crushed in the wine press, yield their juice. This juice turns into wine. Similarly, suffering so crushes us that we turn into better human beings.

St. Alphonsa to novices


St. Clare and growing in The Spirit

The journey one has to take to respond to God's call in a life dedicated to Him can be very challenging. Reading St Clare's third letter to St Agnes of Prague and Fr Garrido's conference notes on this letter highlights critical elements of what our life and calling is about. These concepts are woven into our everyday life:

Reflection 1

"I am filled with such joys at your well-being, happiness, and marvellous progress through which, I understand, you have advanced in the path you have undertaken to win a heavenly prize. And I sigh with so much more exultation in the Lord as I have known and believe that you supply most wonderfully what is lacking both in me and in the other sisters in following the footprints of the poor and humble Jesus Christ". (Third Letter of St. Clare to St. Agnes)

It is the great Pauline principle: "We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and so you will fulfil the law of Christ". The whole being and entire vocation of Christ is summed up here. He alone bore the sin of the world: by his wounds we were healed. In one way or another this mystery continues with us: that mysterious communion in which all the faithful not only travel individually towards the same end, but travel united to one another; and in this union there is not only love, but also a mysterious communication of life. (Fr Garrido)

Reflection 2

"Truly I can rejoice - and no one can rob me of such joy - since, having at last what under heaven I have desired, I see that, helped by a special gift of wisdom from the mouth of God himself and in an awe-inspiring and unexpected way, you have brought to ruin the subtleties of the enemy, the pride that destroys human nature, and the vanity that infatuates human hearts. I see, too, that by humility, the virtue of faith, and the strong arms of poverty, you have taken hold of that incomparable treasure hidden in the field of the world and of the human heart, with which you have purchased that by whom all things have been made from nothing." (Third Letter of St. Clare to St. Agnes)

"Father, all mine are thine". We are therefore one, we have within our ranks a common life, a common existence, that these may be one. And so, in effect, St Clare spontaneously makes the riches of Agnes her own. Love is the source of their being, and there is a mysterious current in which the life of God circulates. Without this exchange of gifts there is no love, and it is one of the deepest joys of our faith. St Francis says repeatedly in his Admonitions that the Spirit of the Lord is seen here: when I rejoice at what belongs to another as if it were my own. Our heart is so subtle, and envy is always latent. It is really one of the signs of inner freedom: to rejoice at the good which God says and does in our brothers and sisters and by means of them. (Fr Garrido)

Reflection 3

"I consider you a co-worker of God himself and a support of the weak members of his ineffable body". (Third letter of St Clare to St Agnes)

It is a valuable and most attractive expression of what is a contemplative vocation: placed in this vocation of love, of unconditional offering of praise and intercession, we co- operate with God himself. (Fr Garrido)

Reflection 4

"Who is there, then, who would not encourage me to rejoice over such marvellous joys? Therefore, dearly beloved, may you too always rejoice in the Lord. And may neither bitterness nor a cloud of sadness overwhelm you, O dearly beloved Lady in Christ, you of the angels and crown of your sisters! Place your mind before the mirror of eternity! Place your soul in the brilliance of glory! Place your heart in the figure of the divine substance! And transform your entire being into the image of the Godhead itself through contemplation. So that you too may feel what his friends feel as they taste the hidden sweetness that God himself has reserved from the beginning for those who love him. And, after all who ensnare their blind lovers in a deceitful and turbulent world have been completely sent away, you may totally love him who gave himself totally for your love, whose beauty the sun and the moon admire, whose rewards and their preciousness and greatness are without end; I am speaking of him who is the Son of the Most High, whom the Virgin brought to birth and remained a virgin after his birth". (Third Letter of St. Clare to St. Agnes)

Joy expresses this communion. The overflow of love always expresses itself in joyfulness. Where love is plentiful, so also is peace, because joy expresses a love that is shared. What we call sharing is one of these essential dimensions of the Eucharist, the mystery of Christ. The entire New Testament is a proclamation of this superabundance of love; hence it is a joyful announcement, gladness for this world given up to darkness and distress. This gladness, as expressed here, always arises from the same source of love, from a joyful contemplation of the Beloved. (Fr Garrido)

Reflection 5

"May you cling to his most sweet Mother who gave birth to a Son whom the heavens could not contain. Yet she carried him in the little enclosure of her holy womb and held him on her virginal lap". As the glorious Virgin of virgins carried him materially, so you, too, by following in her footprints, especially those of poverty and humility, can, without any doubt, always carry him spiritually in your chaste and virginal body, holding him by whom you and all things are held together, possessing that which, in comparison with the other transitory possessions of this world, you will possess more securely". (Third Letter of St. Clare to St. Agnes)

The contemplative mystery of Motherhood and Virginity are fulfilled in Mary. It is a mystery of love whereby we are made fruitful by the Spirit of God, by the personal love of God, a fruitfulness which we must live with a love which remains intact, exclusive and total. And so, after Christ, the contemplative, like the Church, is the heart of the world and gives life to it in faithful following of the poor and humble Jesus. (Fr Garrido)

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