Introduction to the Novena of St Clare
The feast of St Clare falls on 11th August, so the novena leading up to the feast begins on 2nd of August, but the novena can be prayed at any time. St Clare is a great saint and a powerful intercessor. In this novena we offer a daily prayer prayer, invoking her intercession for our different needs. In addition we offer a different reflection each day, covering different themes, which will help us to appreciate her relevance for our everyday lives. We will also include a prayer with the reflection, which will invoke her help for the particular intention that was covered in the reflection. Many (but not all) of these reflections are from our book “Calm the Soul”. (published by Hachette Ireland)
Novena Prayer to St. Clare
Day 4: In Times of Insecurity and Anxiety
Day 5: On the Grace of Work when Employed
Day 6: The Grace of Work and Dealing with Unemployment
Day 7: When Our Fears Overwhelm Us
Day 8: For Our Sense of Self-Esteem, Dignity and Worth
Day 9: Commitment
Novena Prayer to St. Clare
Blessed St. Clare,
You trusted in the Blessed Sacrament
as your only protection.
In your hour of need you heard a
voice from the Sacred Host:
“I will always take care of you”.
We entrust our needs to you, especially .…
(here mention requests)
Enkindle in us a tender love for Jesus and Mary.
Help us to trust Him as you did.
Intercede for our families, our friends,
our youth and all those who need our prayers.
We pray for our church, our country and our suffering world.
Reflection for Day 1: Intercession and power of the Eucharist
We participate in a novena for various reasons. While thanksgiving can be a motive, very often we come because we are in need. And St Clare is a powerful intercessor when we need help. There are many incidents recorded where people were healed when she prayed. One of the most outstanding examples of the value of her prayer, is this one:
Once, St. Clare’s monastery (which lay just outside the city of Assisi) was being invaded by Saracen troops. Not only were the sisters in mortal danger, but the soldiers were on the way to attack the city also. St. Clare was bed-ridden, but the sisters came to her in crisis. She asked to be brought to the door of monastery and that the pyx containing the Blessed Sacrament be brought out also. Then, though she was sick, she prostrated herself before the Lord in prayer, begging Him to defend her sisters, whom she could not defend. After that a voice, as if of a little child, was heard which said, “I will always defend you”. She then prayed, “My Lord, please protect this city which for Your love sustains us.” This incident, along with showing the efficacy of her prayer, also illustrates movingly her great devotion to and trust in the Eucharist. It is why she is usually depicted with the Blessed Sacrament in a monstrance.
In her writings, she wrote,
“Happy, indeed, is she to whom it is given to share this sacred banquet,
to cling with her whole heart to Him,
…Whose love inflames our love.”
It was because she had experienced the reality of having her own love inflamed by the love of God, that she could turn to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament with full confidence in her time of need. And He responded in a miraculous way.
Reflection for Day 2: Praying for Guidance in Difficult Times
At the beginnings of St Clare’s new religious community, the sisters had to contend with many difficulties. St Clare goes as far as outlining some of them in her rule – ‘poverty,
hard work, trial, shame or the contempt of the world’. When St Francis saw how well the sisters had coped with all their difficulties, he was very moved and he gave them a Form of Life, which was to be their guiding inspiration. In it he said they had ‘… taken the Holy Spirit as a spouse’, and it is clear from her life that St Clare had. This is an
unusual term for a nun, as Saint John Paul II said, but he also said that it showed that there was a ‘resonance’ between her life and Luke’s account of the Annunciation,
when Our Lady was filled with the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit strengthened Our Lady to deal with suffering in her life. And the Holy Spirit was the source of St Clare’s inner strength too. As she lay dying, St Clare spoke these words to her soul:
“The One who created you has infused the Holy Spirit
in you and then guarded you as a mother does her littlest child.”
St Clare lived her life in the light of the Holy Spirit’s grace and this sustained her in all her difficulties and carried her at this final hurdle. In this spirit, we pray a prayer written by St Francis (Lt Ord 50–52).
Prayer for Guidance in Difficult Times
Almighty, eternal, just and merciful God,
Give us miserable ones
the grace to do for You alone
what we know You want us to do
and always to desire what pleases You.
and inflamed by the fire of the Holy Spirit,
may we be able to follow
in the footprints of Your beloved Son,
our Lord Jesus Christ,
and, by Your grace alone,
may we make our way to You,
Who live and rule
in perfect Trinity and simple Unity,
and are glorified
forever and ever.
Reflection for Day 3: St Clare and Healing the Sick
St Clare was a saint who knew the reality of sickness at first hand – she was bed-ridden (more or less) for the last twenty-seven years of her life. According to the testimonies of her sisters, she bore her infirmity well and was a source of consolation and refuge for all of them. Not only that, the sisters came to her when they were finding it too difficult to cope with their own illnesses. Many of them testified that they were cured by her prayers.
St Francis also turned to her when healing was needed. He sent friars in need of healing to her for prayer and, when very ill himself, he came to San Damiano, the monastery of St Clare, in order to be taken care of.
At this time, when he was extremely sick, he wrote a canticle for the sisters in which he said,
‘Those weighed down by sickness and the others wearied because of them, all of you: bear it in peace’ (Ct Exh 5).
Her own experience of illness enabled St Clare to respond with compassion for those suffering. And yet she encouraged them to see beyond the present pain.
If you suffer with Him, you will reign with Him,
weeping with Him, you will rejoice with Him. (2 LAg 21)
Confident of having someone who knows what the pain of sickness involves, we ask her to pray for us now.
Prayer to St Clare in Sickness
St Clare, lover of the poor Christ,
Who bore your own sufferings with patience,
whose trust in God’s promises
helped you to keep going in your own suffering.
You lovingly tended the sick in your own monastery:
you were there for anyone who asked your help,
and interceded for them in their misery.
We ask you to intercede for us with Jesus,
who always heeded your prayers
and obtain for us the healing of which
we are in such need.
Reflection for Day 4: In Times of Insecurity and Anxiety
In this time of great change, when so many things we took for granted are no longer certain, when the world seems to be out of control, we can marvel at how St Clare trusted that Jesus would always come through for her – He Himself was the Way, when it was unclear what would happen next. In response to a friar who was encouraging her to be patient during her final illness, she replied in a firm voice:
After I once came to know the grace of my Lord Jesus Christ through his servant Francis, no pain has been bothersome, no penance too severe, no weakness, dearly beloved brother, has been hard.
What is striking is her courage, right to the end. She lived trusting that ‘by turning everything to their good God co-operates with all those who love him’ (Romans
8:28). In this spirit we pray.
Prayer In Times of Insecurity and Anxiety
in these insecure, anxious times,
we are stretched
in so many ways,
People are no longer given
their true dignity,
and so much that we treasure is gone.
It is hard at times to trust.
Help us to anchor ourselves in You,
whose love for us is unchanging.
May Your Spirit lead us in Your way.
May Your hope give us
the peace of soul You promise.
Reflection for Day 5: On the Grace of Work when Employed
(On Day 6 we will look at unemployment)
St Clare was determined that the sisters would not earn revenue from property. Instead, she wanted the sisters to rely on the providence of God, keeping themselves by the work of their hands. She spoke of ‘the grace of work’, for she realised that to be able to work was, in itself, a great gift. When we can do something productive, it gives meaning to our lives.
The reality of life in their monastery was very difficult, with about fifty sisters living in a very cramped space, with no fixed income. What prevented this from disheartening them and reducing their existence to mere drudgery was the attitude that St Clare inspired in them.
She stressed that they were to be employed in such a way that ‘idleness, which is the enemy of the soul’ is banished and which would not extinguish the ‘spirit of prayer and devotion’. For her, as for St Francis, this ‘spirit of prayer and devotion’ was the most important thing and everything else had to take a back seat. She saw their work as enabling them to return to the Lord an increase in the talents given by Him and so kept the Lord’s goodness to them before their eyes constantly, as their incentive.
Prayer: On the Grace of Work when Employed
Lord, we thank You for the gifts You have given us.
We thank You especially for the grace of employment.
We thank You for the work that we do
and the people we work with.
We ask You to help us as we work,
so that we may apply ourselves to
the best of our ability.
When we struggle or feel stressed out,
or are just bogged down with the drudgery of it all,
help us to have a clear vision of purpose in our lives.
We pray for those who are unhappy in their work,
especially those who experience bullying.
May Your grace help and sustain them.
Reflection for Day 6: The Grace of Work and Dealing with Unemployment
So many people cannot work, either because they cannot find work (which is a very big issue today) or because they are unable to work. St Clare appreciated that our dignity does not depend on what we do; it is the quality of our lives that matters. Every human being has an inherent dignity because we are made in the image and likeness of God. In this, she is a great witness to us today.
She knew the interior struggle of being unable to work because she was invalided for the last twenty-seven years of her life. This brought her into dependence on others, so she can empathise with us in our daily struggles.
St Clare outlined some of the difficulties that the community in San Damiano, which had about fifty sisters in it, had to struggle with – ‘deprivation, poverty, hard work, trial, shame or the contempt of the world’.
As their leader, she was intensely aware of what was needed to provide for them all.
And, in the midst of all of that, she fell ill and remained bedridden for the remainder of her life. It is clear that, though not unemployed in the sense that we would look at it today, she experienced many of the things that those who are unemployed have to contend with – insecurity, the sense of not being able to contribute in the way that we would like to, not being able to exercise our abilities. In addition, there are the things she mentions herself – poverty, deprivation and shame.
Yet somehow, living in such dependence, she came to a serene acceptance of what was her lot. She saw that Christ was most powerful and accomplished the most when everything was stripped of Him on the Cross. She gained inspiration from that.
Prayer on The Grace of Work and Dealing with Unemployment
We thank You for the gifts that You have given us.
We thank You also for our present condition, of not
being able to work.
It is hard to thank You for that, but even so we believe
that Your Will for our lives
is where we will find most fulfilment.
And so we ask You for the graces we need at this time,
to cope with it all, because it is very difficult.
We ask You to provide for our needs.
Help us when the insecurity and fears rob us of peace.
Help us also when we feel intimidated and our dignity
Let us find employment in which we will find fulfilment
and contribute in a positive way to society.
We ask this in Jesus’ name.
Reflection for Day 7: When Our Fears Overwhelm Us
We will all experience times when the fear within seems to engulf us. When this happens, it seems that we cannot see the way forward. We are often paralysed by these fears and anxieties. It is part of the human condition. Perhaps that is why one of the things we hear most in Scripture is ‘Do not be afraid’ (Isaiah 43:1) or ‘Do not let your hearts be troubled’ (John 14:1). It seems that God knows that we need to have it hammered home to us. He is stronger than our fears and He has conquered. We need only entrust ourselves to Him and we can claim His strength, which comes from the Holy Spirit.
St Clare had very little material security in her life. She faced huge obstacles bravely, trusting in God. In writing to her friend St Agnes of Prague and seeking to encourage her in the difficulties she was experiencing, she said (2 LAg 13–14):
securely, joyfully and swiftly,
on the path of prudent happiness
believing nothing, agreeing with nothing
that would dissuade you from this commitment.
In this spirit we pray.
Prayer When Our Fears Overwhelm Us
I am often filled with fear when I think of the future.
I am haunted by past mistakes and hurts,
afraid of what the future might hold
and I feel paralysed.
I surrender it all to You now.
I ask You to heal all that is wounded in me
and trust You to take care of all I worry about.
You are the One
who makes all things new.
With You I will go forward,
securely and joyfully,
Reflection for Day 8: For Our Sense of Self-Esteem, Dignity and Worth
Today, self-fulfilment is of concern to many people – and, of course, it is important to develop ourselves to our full potential. However, if our focus is concentrated on ourselves, we will never find contentment, because a life that is self-centred is not a happy one. What is important is to try and find the balance between realising that everything we have received is a gift and, then, having the liberty to relax into enjoying this with a grateful heart, because Jesus came that we may have life to the full (John 10).
When St Clare was called by the Lord, she deliberately set out on a path that was uncertain, living a life of poverty that left her exposed and vulnerable. In this, she learned to depend on God to carry her. As she grew into this way of life and saw that the Lord actually did support her, she came to appreciate more and more how much she was loved.
And it was this that nurtured her true self-worth, and gave her an inner strength that continued to grow. When the time came for her to die, she cried out,
‘May You be blessed, O Lord, You who have created my soul’ (L Cl 46).
It is very beautiful to think that at the end of her life, she had no regrets and was happy to be who she was. It shows a great inner strength and harmony. And so we pray.
Prayer For Our Sense of Self-Esteem, Dignity and Worth
You tell us in Scripture that we are precious in Your
eyes and that You love us (Isaiah 43:4).
Help us to truly believe this, so that we can come to
appreciate our true worth.
We seek happiness in many ways,
chasing the latest products,
thinking they will make us more acceptable.
And yet our hearts are created for greater things and
remain restless until they rest in You.
We ask You to heal the wounded areas of our hearts.
Help us to make a gift of ourselves to others,
so that we may find ourselves in this giving.
Let us come to appreciate our giftedness, so that we
can come to thank You for creating us.
Reflection for Day 9: Commitment
In our novena mediations, we have taken a look at many of the problems that occur in modern life and reflected on what wisdom St Clare would have to contribute, to help us deal with these issues. As we conclude the novena, we remember that our lives should be a sign of what we believe interiorly; in this vein, Clare urged that we “praise God by our very life”. While it is important to try to develop a relationship with the Lord and have a deep spiritual life, it is vital that our interior life corresponds with the reality of how we live out our lives. If this is out of sync, then we begin to lack authenticity and may find it leads to disharmony within.
Looking at how St. Clare gently leads her friend St. Agnes of Prague, we see that the main way to synchronise our lives with what we profess to believe, is to be clearly focussed on the Lord and try to stay committed to whatever we begin. There is a general fear of commitment nowadays, but it is very true that in being dedicated, we grow and mature. Pope Francis calls it the ‘Culture of the Temporary’, and has said;
“you have great fear of making mistakes — it is true, one who journeys can go the wrong way — you are afraid of getting too involved in things — you have felt, many times; the temptation to always leave open a little means of escape, that can always lead to new scenarios and opportunities. This temporary nature is not good; it is not good because it makes the mind dark and the heart cold.” (Abruzzi 5th July 2014)
Clare herself kept before her eyes the “one thing necessary”(Luke 10:42), as Jesus said to Martha, and she can even say, “I bear witness to that one thing and encourage you, for love of Him to Whom you have offered yourself as a holy and pleasing sacrifice, that you always be mindful of your commitment”
What follows is so beautiful, we let her speak to us herself
“What you hold, may you hold,
What you do, may you do and not stop.
But with swift pace, light step, unswerving feet,
so that even your steps stir up no dust,
may you go forward
securely, joyfully, and swiftly,
on the path of prudent happiness,
agreeing with nothing
that would dissuade you from this commitment
or would put a stumbling block for you on the way,
so nothing prevents you from offering
your vows to the Most High in the perfection
to which the Spirit of the Lord has called you.”
In this spirit, we pray:
St. Clare, we ask for the grace, through your intercession,
of being focussed and single-minded.
Help us to remember how much God loves us.
May we be true to the commitments we have made and not be afraid.
May we have courage, when this is needed
and go forward in hope as you said,
“securely, joyfully and swiftly”,
on the path of prudent happiness,
so that we may glorify God by our lives. Amen
Do not be afraid of Christ!
He takes nothing away, and he gives you everything.
When we give ourselves to him, we receive a hundred-fold in return.
Yes, open, open wide the doors to Christ - and you will find true life.