“Love Him totally Who gave Himself totally for your love.” – St. Clare
By religious consecration, we are totally set apart for God in a personal covenant of love, making a complete gift of self to the Divine Bridegroom. To the ordinary vows of obedience, poverty, and chastity, the Poor Clare adds a fourth vow of enclosure. These vows draw us deeply into the life of Jesus and are the source of profound and enduring joy. God is always faithful, and His fidelity makes ours possible. Each vow entails a sacrifice, but the reward that the Lord bestows in this life and in the life to come far surpasses what has been relinquished.
By the vow of obedience, we share in the redemptive mission of Christ, who was surrendered to the will of the Father in all things, even to death on the cross. We are obedient to the Holy Roman Church and all her teachings, as well as to our abbess. There is a marvelous spiritual freedom in obeying God’s will as it comes to us daily through the Rule and Constitutions, our superiors and the needs of our sisters. Living this vow opens our hearts to place ourselves at the loving service of God’s plan.
Saint Clare’s devotion to the Poor Christ, from the crib to the cross, was so manifest that in her time the sisters were known as the Poor Ladies. The Franciscan concept of poverty is based on the life of the Son of God, who emptied Himself and became poor for our sake, that we might become rich (cf. 2 Cor 8:9). By the vow of poverty, we claim nothing as our own in order to be emptied of worldly things and filled with eternal riches. Our identification with Jesus in His poverty is shown both by outward signs such as simple furnishings and our type and manner of work, and in our interior disposition of continual availability to the Spirit of the Lord. Thus focused on the “one thing necessary” (Lk 10:42), the life and love of Jesus can fill us completely.
Our love for Jesus is a bridal love. The vow of chastity is the response to being chosen to enter into a spousal relationship with Jesus, to Whom we pledge ourselves with an undivided heart. Union with Christ endows our lives with a remarkable spiritual fruitfulness, as we become the mothers of souls.
Saint Clare brought to birth her first dwelling at San Damiano as a monastery of strict enclosure. The walls around the monastery, and the grille in the parlor and chapel are important indications of who we are and for Whom we are. By living the vow of enclosure, we are conformed to Christ’s hidden and Eucharistic life. Physical separation from the world provides the atmosphere of silence and solitude necessary for a life dedicated to contemplative prayer, and it is our very particular
way of living and expressing the Paschal Mystery of Christ. The liberating gift of enclosure leads those who receive it over that threshold which opens upon a life of profound union with God. Within the Heart of Christ, we embrace the world in a sacrificial love which unites us to it in an eminently spiritual way, enfolding the needs, miseries and hopes of all mankind.