Thursday, August 11, 2011

Of Monks and Nuns

Today is the Memorial of St. Clare, Virgin and Religious. A contemporary of Francis of Assisi, she was moved to embrace a life of strict poverty and prayer. Saint Clare is noted for her intensity of prayer, patient suffering, and endurance, as she led the new founded order in a rather secular society. Clare based the spirituality of her order, as well as her own life, upon the ideal of gospel simplicity and following Christ Jesus.

In a letter to Blessed Agnes of Prague, Clare reflects upon the role of being a bride of Christ. "Look into that mirror daily and study well your reflection, that you may adorn yourself, mind and body, with an enveloping garment of every virtue ... most chaste bride of the King on high." I like that imagery. We probably do not make a big enough deal of it, but at baptism we give the newly baptized a garment, a candle and anoint them. These are powerful symbols that point to the fact that we are putting on Christ.

For those of us who went to catholic grade school, we remember that we had to change out our school uniforms after school. Those blue slacks and shirts, or skirts and white blouses for the other gender, communicated to others that we belonged to a catholic school community. In the same way our baptismal garment says that we embrace a particular lifestyle based upon Christ Jesus. So our words and actions are commensurate to that life.

The Monastic communities can teach us a lot of living out our baptismal commitment. Everything from treating each encounter as if we were meeting Christ, to the importance of not allowing anger to build up within us. There is a balanced life which challenges one to be fully human and alive for Christ Jesus. In a noisy and chaotic world quiet and heart-felt reflection give us the strength and courage to meet the challenges of life. Monastics are wonderful stewards whereas stuff does not own us, and our gifts and talents are shared with the community.

Monks and Nuns are some of those stumbling blocks that cause us to pause and consider what is important and what really matters in life. Maybe we do not live in a monastery or convent, but hopefully all that we do is done for the glory of Christ Jesus.

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