Coming together to celebrate Saint Clare

On Tuesday, August 11, the Poor Clares of Jerusalem celebrated St. Clare, accompanied by their Franciscan brothers. Mons. Shomali, Auxiliary Bishop of Jerusalem, represented the Latin Patriarch, who was held up in Amman. Melkite Archbishop, Mons. Joseph Jules Zerey, was present, as well as many friends from the community, to share the sisters’ joy.

Clare gave everything in a daily life that was contemplative, fraternal and given to God. Her example continues to inspire the Sisters, as well as the Franciscans, since together the two saints founded the two orders. The homily recalled how she left her family, her familiar setting and all of life’s comforts for a life of poverty and detachment, for her love of Christ and of all those who suffer. Mons. Shomali also thanked the sisters for their lives rooted in faith. In a context where religious fundamentalism has been detrimental, they pray for both victims and criminals.

The day before, mother superior Chiara Cristiana had welcomed the brothers who came for first vespers presided by Br. Stéphane Milovitch and for the Office of Readings, led by Br. Diego Dalla Gassa. They could hear the reading of the Transito—or death—of St. Clare, and kiss one of her relics. The small congregation faced the altar. On the other side, behind a gate open for prayer, stood the sisters. Their clear and melodious voices rose in thanksgiving. An African-inspired Te Deum, Italian songs dedicated to the Madonna de povertade, the founder of the Poor Ladies, the Our Father in Arabic in addition to some French hymns. The multicultural nature of the Jerusalem community was palpable.

The convent was founded in 1888 by French sisters. Since then, it has become international, and of the 10 religious who make up the religious community, five are Italian, three are Rwandan and two are French. An Italian took her first vows and joined the convent. With the presence of the Deputy Consul General of France, Mrs. Minh-di Tang, the link with the convent’s founding country was recalled.

After the mass, everyone came to see the sisters in the parlor for hugs, to wish them a “happy feast day,” as well as to share some special words with them. Refreshments were served in a hall near the chapel.

Hélène Morlet

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