Truly it is com-passion, that “suffering with” which is at the same time our glory and our willing burden. Yet sometimes, especially when the horrors we read about happening to anonymous people suddenly appear in the faces of those we recognize, our hearts come to the breaking point and even faith is stretched to its limit. So, what does a Poor Clare do when confronted with this much grief? She does as her Mother St. Clare did when enemy soldiers, bent on abusing her Sisters, were scaling the cloister walls: she prostrates herself before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament and hears from Him the assurance that He “will always take care” of her. Yet she knows this “care” does not mean immunity from suffering, but that it will never become too much because He is with her in it. A Poor Clare also takes in hand the Holy Scriptures, particularly the Psalms, and prays the laments of David: “How long, Oh Lord, will you forget me? How long will you hide your face? How long must I bear grief in my heart day and night? How long will my enemy prevail?”
Poor Clares also take refuge in what I like to call the sanity of the mundane. Manual labor,given by the Creator to the human race after the fall as a penance, also provides a homey sense of usefulness that can be very comforting in the midst of seemingly impossible situations. I may not be able to cleanse the “filth” in the Church, but I can clean this bathroom; although the angels are not permitted to pull up the weeds in the world for fear of tearing up the wheat, I am able to dig out the weeds afflicting my vegetable garden. One wonders how many problems would be solved or never even occur if more people spent more time making beauty shine and grow for their families rather than plotting and scheming for pleasure and power at the expense of the vulnerable poor. One Sister expresses her experience in the following poem:
The awful abyss of absurdity
Sucks the substance of reality.
Sickened by the vertigo
I sway unstable on the heaving brink.
But I grasp the ready hoe
And deal a fatal blow
To a stubborn weed.
Straightening, I feel
The glowing vault of summer glisten me.
Pressing the plainly real,
While the garden glimmers clean
From last night’s rain.