“And loving one another with the charity of Christ, may the love you have in your hearts be shown outwardly in your deeds so that, compelled by such an example, the sisters may always grow in love of God and in charity for one another.” (Testament of St. Clare of Assisi)
“The brothers and sisters are co-responsible for the life of the fraternity to which they belong and for the SFO as the organic union of all fraternities throughout the world.
The sense of co-responsibility of the members requires personal presence, witness, prayer, and active collaboration, in accordance with each one’s situation and possible obligations for the animation of the fraternity.” (Article 30, SFO General Constitutions)
When the feast of St. Clare came around in the past, my columns usually was a reflection on what Clare can teach us about contemplation. This time I would life to reflect on what she can teach us about living in fraternity. She and her sisters had a very intense, very challenging experience of what it meant to be a fraternity, a community of Franciscans. Enclosed in a monastery, they experienced each others strengths, each others weaknesses. There must have been days when living together was full of joy and light, and other days of trials and darkness. Through it all, St. Clare was a light that guided her sisters. The early biographies of her describe her love, her compassion, her humility, her service to the community. She saw herself as servant to her sisters, was never comfortable with the title of “abbess.” Clare was a mother to the community, caring for those sisters who were ill, moderating the penances some of them may have taken on, and making sure they took care of their bodies. She was also a spiritual mother, encouraging the sisters by her words and example on how enter into the Lord’s Presence.
In our fraternity, we are called to love each other, to serve one other. We are called to bear with each others faults, and encourage the best in each other. We are to be examples to our sisters and brothers of what it means to be a Franciscan, a follower of Christ.