Saturday, September 27, 2014

St. Francis' Love of Neighbor

On October 4th we will celebrate the Solemnity of our Holy Father St. Francis.  In order to prepare for this great celebration, during these next few weeks I have been sharing a series of reflections on his life, written by one of our novitiate Sisters. The purpose of this study is to introduce the reader to our Poor Clare Spirituality through the lens of the edifying life of our holy founder, Saint Francis of Assisi. 

Part Two:
First Fruits of Conversion

Love of Neighbor
    Eager to serve God and to please Him in every way, Francis soon found that his principle means of doing so was through love of his fellow men.  Moved by the Holy Spirit to overcome his natural repugnance and fear of lepers, he walked among them and showed them mercy, even embracing and kissing them.  Thus he came to see all men as precious in God’s eyes.
    God created every human being and loves each one infinitely.  He desires to unite Himself to every soul and bring all to perfect love and joy in His Heart.  There is not a single person who does not belong in the Sacred Halls of Heaven.  Therefore a lover of God is necessarily a lover of all mankind. 
    A Poor Clare expresses her love in a unique way by combining the spirit of Saint Francis with the Mystery of Enclosure.  Like Francis she wishes to give herself fully for everyone in complete unselfishness.  She longs for universal salvation and wishes to sing the message of Christ so that it may be heard in every heart.  Her great desire is to see her Lord united with all His beloved children without exception.

   Her love is so expansive that she cannot be restricted to only a small circle of people.  God has raised her to royal dignity as mother and she must serve all her children with dedication and selfless love.  Her life is consecrated to the sublime mission of rendering praise and petition to our Creator and King.

    Although she is in solitude, her solitude is in the Bosom of Christ where all souls are united.  Her silence and separation from people intensifies her love and spirit of sacrifice.  The free gift of faith in the power of her Beloved assures her that He is using her entire life as a vessel and channel of graces.

   This mystical purpose which has become clear and concrete to one with a Poor Clare vocation also has outward manifestations.  Saint Francis utilized physical contact to give the full expression of his love.  His daughters in the enclosure are not detached from the physical world and must express their love outwardly at every moment.  They do this by earnest dedication to the life of penance and the pursuit of holiness, by abundant generosity and charity to their sisters within the community, and by providing a living witness to the Gospel for those outside the enclosure with whom they come in contact.  No opportunity to render love, service, and sacrifice escapes them.

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