It has been said that Ignatius of Loyola learned his rules of discernment by comparing worldly reading to reading the lives of the saints.

“When Ignatius reflected on worldly thoughts, he felt intense pleasure; but when he gave them up out of weariness, he felt dry and depressed. Yet when he thought of living the rigorous sort of life he knew the saints had lived, he not only experienced pleasure when he actually thought about it, but even after he dismissed these thoughts, he still experienced great joy.”

I called this to mind as I finished a book titled: Saint Clare of Assisi: Light From the Cloister by Bret Thoman, OFS. To be honest, I often watch the news, or old movies, or football; but I don’t, as often, read the lives of the Saints. But after I read this book, I found myself realizing, again, what St. Ignatius himself had already learned: I may enjoy the distraction of the TV, but I am spiritually fed when I read books like this one on Clare. As soon as I finished reading, I preached on it the next day at a school Mass and on the following Sunday as well.

So, I asked myself, “Jarrod, why don’t you read the lives of the saints more often?” Good question. So, I want to encourage you to read the lives of the saints with me, too.

As for this book, Clare was such a cool saint! Born in 1194, Clare was thirteen years younger than St. Francis. This means that, as a young girl, she would have witnessed St. Francis’ conversion from start to finish. Having seen the remarkable things God did in St. Francis’ life, she began to pray for Francis and yearned to live a life of poverty as well. At age sixteen she met St. Francis, and he began to secretly instruct her on the Spiritual life. In her Francis came to see the first woman to embrace the life of poverty to which God called him.

But like St. Francis, she was from a family of nobility, and, also like Francis, her parents would not approve of her life of celibacy and poverty. For this reason, on May 9th, 1212, at the age of 18, Clare snuck out of her parents’ house at night, went outside the city walls of Assisi down to the Church of San Damiano—the same Church where St. Francis heard Jesus speak to him from the cross.

There, on that night, in that Church, St. Clare received her vows and cut off her hair as a sign of her consecration. Then, covering her head with a veil and putting on new clothes, she hid for weeks in a protected monastery so that her parents couldn’t drag her back home.

Soon after, when she knew her parents understood her call, she moved back to San Damiano, where she lived the rest of her life dedicated to God in prayer, fasting, service, and poverty. There, in her convent, Clare welcome dozens of women into her order, from which many other convents grew. She had to defend the charism of poverty from bishops and popes of the time, only receiving full permission for her way of life on the day of her death—Aug 11, 1253.

Before that, she lived quite the life. She withstood a band of marauding Saracens intent on sacking her convent by worshipping the Lord in the Eucharist in the front entrance. Her piety and tenacity confused the Saracens and the army fled in dismay. She received the dead body of St. Francis the day after he passed to offer prayers and supplications on his behalf. Upon her death, Clare was immediately declared a Saint and buried in Assisi in her own Church (just like St. Francis) where she can be visited to this day.

I strongly encourage you to read this book. And maybe you will learn the same lesson I hope to take to heart: reading the lives of the saints is more fulfilling than watching TV.

Father Jarrod Lies, Pastor