"On such an important jubilee commemoration, St. Clare urges all to understand in a much deeper way the value of the vocation, which is a gift given from God, intended to bear fruit."
(Pope John Paul II)
St Clare herself said that we must express the deepest thanks to the glorious Father for the gift of our vocation, because among all the gifts we have received, it is the more perfect and greater.
When we looked at our vocation earlier in the year, one aspect we looked at was mystical motherhood. And so, in this reflection we want to explore this a little bit more. At that stage, the Holy Father's letter had not yet come out and it is really amazing that he focused on this more than anything else. In fact, he urged us all in that letter to live out the spousal dimension of our lives, so we have a sort of mandate from him to particularly reflect on this aspect of our vocation. In leading the way for us, he emphasized the importance of the "Form of Life" given to Clare by St. Francis.
"Since by divine inspiration you have made yourselves daughters and servants of the Most High King, the heavenly Father, and have taken the Holy Spirit as your spouse, choosing to live according to the perfection of the holy Gospel, I resolve and promise for myself and for my brothers always to have that same loving care and special solicitude for you as [I have] for them"
He said that this is the fundamental nucleus of our charism and that it emerges in the Gospel of the Annunciation, in its Marian and Trinitarian dimensions. In other words, what encapsulates our vocation in a nutshell, is the vocation of Our Lady and her relationship with each member of the Trinity, as revealed in the Annunciation gospel, when the Word became flesh - WITHIN HER. The Holy Father goes on to say:
"Clare perceived her vocation as a call to follow the example of Mary, who offered her own virginity to the action of the Holy Spirit to become the Mother of Christ and of His mystical Body."
That St. Francis intended this is clear, because he uses the same terminology - the humble handmaid of the Lord, who, overshadowed by the Holy Spirit, became the Mother of God. In fact, when he composed the Office of the Passion, he wrote an Antiphon in honour of Our Lady, which uses the same words:
You are the daughter and the servant of the most high and supreme King,
and Father of Heaven,
you are the mother of our most holy Lord Jesus Christ,
you are the spouse of the Holy Spirit
It is clear that St. Clare cherished the "Form of Life" which Francis gave to her, which was why she quoted it in her rule. We are also told that St. Clare had great devotion to this Office and said it frequently, with great devotion. Can we imagine the joy she must have experienced, then, when St. Francis gave her the Office of the Passion, and she realized that he had written of Our Lady in the same terms as he had used of herself and her sisters? It must have been an incredible moment for her, causing a great surge of joy within her heart. Surely it was similar to the great cry of recognition that St. Therese had when she read the first letter to the Corinthians and exclaimed, "At last I have found my vocation"! And for Clare, her call was the same as Our Lady's!
This Antiphon is said at all the hours and replaces the hymn, so it must have become like a mantra for Clare, repeated over and over again in her heart, in honour of Our Lady, and yet, constantly reinforcing the conviction of her own calling.
When we take time to reflect prayerfully on the account of the Annunciation, let us try to imagine ourselves receiving this call, and respond in faith and love, knowing that it is our vocation too.