Sidelights on Clare

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Empereor Frederick II with Melek el Kamal

Empereor Frederick II with Melek el Kamal

Clare & Islam

The witnesses at the process of Clare’s canonization in 1253 testify that Clare wanted to go to the near east. Sr Balvina tells that she wanted to go ‘to those parts of Morocco where the friars had been’.

A later writer, Bartolomeo of Pisa says that Clare was so moved by her knowledge of the lives of Moslem women that she wanted to go and help them receive the good news of Christ. If this was so, Clare may have listened to the witness of her mother, Ortulana, who had been on pilgrimage to the Holy Lands and naturally must have heard Francis talk of their experiences when he went to Egypt and made friends with the Sultan, El Melek el Kamal.

The Order, to this day, has certain traditions derived from Islam; semi-prostration, for example, and a reluctance to see not only the Word of God, but any written matter - from whose letters the Name of God could be formed - treated inappropriately.

Friars meeting Melek el Kamal

Friars meeting Melek el Kamal

The Praises of God of St Francis with which we conclude Matins, as many scholars have noted, resembles the Islamic prayer of the Subha; the names and titles of God recited like a rosary.

Arabic like Hebrew is written right to left and back to front and to this day, we always place religious books,

Marie d’Oignies

Marie d’Oignies

Clare & the Beguines

Clare and Marie d’Oignies (1167-1214) had two powerful mutual friends. Bishop Jaques de Vitry who gives the earliest written account of Franciscan women in Assisi, also wrote Marie d’Oignies biography. Gregory IX, both as Pope and as Cardinal Hugolino knew, esteemed and wrote to them both.

After Clare had received the habit from Francis at the Portiuncula in 1212 he took her first to the Benedictines at San Paolo and then on to what we now know, according to Regis Armstrong OFM Cap, to have been a Begiunage, at San Angelo de Panzo on a remote and rather grim mountainside. The earliest biographer of Clare said that her spirit was not at rest there.

However. the hallmark of Begiune devotion is adoration of the Living Presence of the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. This Clare does seem to have taken on board. A fellow Belgian of Marie's, Juliana of Liege, was instrumental in having the feast of Corpus Christi adopted in Liège in 1246. It became part of the life of the universal church in 1264.

But the Beguines at San Angelo saw these things differently; they, themselves, according to Arnaldo Fortini, became Poor Ladies and were the second Clare Convent in Assisi.


Clare and the media

This picture shows an early symbol for radio waves - circles of light with a lightning flash, all radiating from a central point. This point is now placed between Clare’s open hands, reaching out from the heart. This is because, like prayer, TV is a communication of the heart. It can project, beyond the capacity of other art forms, emotion, sympathy and the ability to enter into the experience of others. Underneath are the words, Broadcast and Truth, united by the same T, the tau sign which was St Francis’ symbol for his way of life, a type of the Cross, and the mark of redemption.

Clare was called by God, through Francis of Assisi, to lead a life of love and prayer in community, radiating God’s love invisibly, to the world. One Christmas, Clare was too ill to be brought down to the church at St Damian’s to join in celebration of Matins and midnight Mass. So, according to a legend in the Fioretti, the Lord enabled her to see and hear from her bed, the celebration in the church of St Francis - as on a webcam!. This miracle influenced Pope Pius XII to name Clare, the patron of radio and TV.

St Clare’s life was spent in praise and adoration of God. She gave thanks for everything, in the same spirit which led Francis to bless God for the gifts of sun and moon, wind and water, fire and earth. If we want to join our prayer with Clare’s, we might make three resolutions:-

1 To thank God daily, for his gift to us of the media, and to praise and adore him when we use it.

2 To pray daily for all who work in broadcasting - for directors and producers, writers and actors, cameramen, and those whose hidden services are needed to put the show on the air. We should ask God to make his Word incarnate in them and in their work.

3 Whenever we encounter media that broadcasts truth in whatever form, we should write and thank those concerned. This will have far more effect on what is shown than any amount of criticism.


Be praised, my Lord,
in all that you have made:
be praised through television,
that can make near what is distant,
that can bring understanding
where there is fear,
that can bring light
where there is error.
Be praised, my Lord, for all
who work to broadcast truth.
Let all your creatures praise you.