His Eminence Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith presided at the solemn Eucharistic celebration of 800th Anniversary of the Founding of the Poor Clare's Sisters Congregation, at the Poor Clare's Monastery of Mary Immaculate at Tewatte, Ragama on Saturday 11th August 2012.
His Grace the Archbishop Emertius Nicholas Marcus Fernando, His Grace the Archbishop Emertius Oswald Gomis, Rev. Fr. Sherad Jayawardena, Rev. Fr. Robert OFM and several other Fathers concelebrated at the jubilee Mass.
Saint Clare, was born in 1194. Her life was one of poverty, and service to her sisters and all who sought prayer and counsel. She was canonized a Saint in 1255, two years after her death.
From Pope Innocent III, St Clare obtained, about 1215, the ‘Privilege of Poverty’, that is, permission for her nuns to live wholly on alms without possessing any property whatsoever, either personal or communal. The Poor Clares’ mode of life was harder than that of any other religious sisters at that time and perhaps that is still the same now. Clare herself was in the front rank of medieval contemplatives, and she has been called “the most authentic expression of evangelical perfection as understood by St Francis of Assisi”. Clare guided her community with discretion for 40 years, during many of which she was suffering from serious ill health. Clare herself outlived St Francis of Assisi by some 27 years – and her way of life continues as an outstanding example in the world of today.
St. Clare represents for us intense devotion to the person of Jesus Christ. As we think of Mary carrying Christ in her womb on this, the Feast of the Visitation and then presenting him to the world before living out his private life and then public ministry with him, before receiving his body from the cross – so too with Clare and her focus on the person of Jesus Christ. For her, Christ was literally everything and, as we have thought about in that logo for the Jubilee Year, for her Christ was indeed yesterday , today and forever!
His Eminence preaching at the Jubilee Mass said, that Saints are humans and not angels, yet what shines in and through them is the glow of holiness and goodness of God.It is a glow that touches and transforms those who come in touch with them,"
"It is God's power then that takes hold of His servant, the saint and makes him or her glow and achieve what humanly speaking is often impossible and unthinkable. Human nature indeed is weak but in God it is rendered glorious. St Paul feels strengthened through this even in the consideration of his weaknesses (2 Cor. 12:10)," His Eminence said. Referring to the Book of Exodus Chapter 34, His Eminence expressed, "My mind recalls a beautiful explanation of the Book of Exodus on the transformation that takes place in the life of a person touched by God or to whom God has deigned to reveal Himself. This is the incident when Moses went down from Mount Sinai carrying the Ten Commandments, his face was shining because he had been speaking with the Lord; but he did not know it," His Eminence explained.
"The indication is clear, he who is touched by God and draws near Him shines with the glow of God's holiness and beauty."
His Eminence also referred to the Book of Deuteronomy Chapter 35:10 where 'it states, 'There has never been a prophet in Israel like Moses: For the Lord spoke to him face to face'. So, what makes Moses so transformed, is this intimate communion with God which allows God to own and glow in him," said His Eminence.
"Among those who had the spirit of the intimacy with the Lord, we count the great Saint Francis of Assisi and Saint Clare who adorned the Church in an age filled with many political upheavals and a sense of loss in direction even within the Church.
"In 1993 Pope John Paul II writing to the Poor Clare's on the occasion of the 800th birth anniversary of St. Clare described her as "the passionate lover of the poor, Crucified Christ, with whom she wanted to be identified absolutely" [4,1993].
"Beloved brethren all of this shows how much God loves humanity, continuing to send us saints of the type of St. Clare especially in moments of crisis be they within the Church or in the world.
His Eminence expressed that today too we need these saints. "Ours are difficult times indeed. In fact as it was in the time of Ss. Francis and Clare of Assisi, there is a tremendous crisis of spirituality in the world at large and of disorientation and confusion among the members of the Church. Even though mankind has evolved beyond the digital and cyber age and is even on the search for the so called "God particle," there is so much of spiritual and inner emptiness around."
He said that the Church too is going through a period of soul searching. Questions are being raised about some of the options it had taken in the past 40 to 50 years. People are asking "is this the right direction that the Church should take? He said that the men and women of the Church somehow seem to be experiencing a sense of inadequacy in meeting the challenge.
"And so, the need for saintly and heroic men and women of faith who are profoundly rooted in the Lord, prophetic yet fiercely loyal to the Church like Sts Francis and Clare become a need in our own times," His Eminence observed.