Meet Sister Clare Crockett: A Contageous Joy at the Service of the Church

The witness of a life of service to the Church led with generosity is an example for those who wish to embrace with integrity the religious vocation.

Newsroom (February 18, 2022, 1:25 PM, Gaudium Press) The different paths taken by thousands of men and women who set out to follow a religious vocation in the history of the Church are as varied as their faces are different.

Throughout the history of humanity, the beautiful and moving aspects of these lives are models for those who wish to embrace the path of the practice of virtue, either by their integrity or by their example of penance and amendment.

In fact, divine Providence never fails to raise up souls with specific gifts and charisms to meet the needs of this or that historical period: after all, it is the example that attracts!

In this sense, without going back decades, very much within our reach, the great good that the diffusion of the biography of a young Irish woman, Sr. Clare Crockett, [1] servant of the Mother’s home, [2] has done for many souls causes special attention.

Unlike what might be expected of a candidate for the religious life, whose paths God was treading amidst the mishaps of the worldliness in which she lived absorbed, Clare Crockett had a dream: to parade the famous carpets of Hollywood.

Two ways

However, the paths she had traced for herself would fork.

Although she had a very expansive, loquacious, and manifestive way of being, since childhood her natural aptitudes often made her stand out from the others, either by sympathy or by dissuasive mannerisms. Moreover, her character flaws were very harmful to her, as her childish pride and vanity would surface in any situation, not caring about others.

Endowed with a sense of leadership, she used to do well in complicated situations, without much effort. In her family, among acquaintances and neighbours, she was always very flattered; and it was in this cradle of flattery that her ambitions were heightened: she wanted fame!

On the other hand, belonging to a Catholic family very attached to the Irish national identity, her childhood was spent in an environment linked to the Church, although without much enthusiasm on her part. However, despite her lack of attention to the family rosary, “the Virgin Mary had looked upon Clare with motherly affection,”[3] and had watched over her ever since.

When she was only seven years old, she saw scenes from the Passion at a Via Crucis in the parish church, accompanied by her sisters and mother, and could not help but express her compassion to the point of tears, seeing “this man”[4] suffer, without knowing exactly who he was…

These were the first contrasts between the two paths that were emerging on her inner horizon.

Now, the shades and overtones that were making up the background of her soul were giving way to colours less and less beautiful, since she was away from religion, from the age of fifteen, she joined undesirable company in the vicinity of the church – where her parents supposed she was – spending the money they offered for candles on cigarettes and drinks…

The search for worldly glory, the driving force of her affairs, became more pronounced: she managed to form a band at her high school; however, this was insufficient, for she wanted to be an actress, and, of course, “not just any actress, but a famous actress.”[5]

Here a fundamental trait of her character shines through: Clare was very radical. She stated flatly that “it was ‘all or nothing!’: either be a famous Hollywood actress or nothing at all.”[6]

God enters the picture

It is not uncommon, however, that in the history of souls called in a special way by God, the denim of selfishness is mixed with the most valuable gold; and it will be in this inner mining willed and demanded by Providence, that the incipient yearning for greatness planted in that chosen soul will show itself.

Money, fame and prestige: this is the triad on which the character of this young Irish girl rested. Surrounded by so many friends, working for England’s “Channel 4,” achieving success upon success, her talents made her divine her goal, but with a growing nagging: “am I happy?”[7]

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It is at that precise moment that God enters the scene: at the age of only sixteen, she receives an invitation that is extremely promising for her career, simultaneously, two of her acquaintances suggest she attend a retreat organized by a Catholic youth group,[8] to which, begrudgingly, she assented.

“The Lord had set his eyes on her,”[9] says Kristen Gardner, for from then on, the world of sin into which Clare had been entering and, at the same time, the call of God collided. As she herself relates, she went through times when she wanted to change her life, without persevering for many days, because she “needed God’s grace to enter her and strengthen her will.”[10]

Years later, invited to participate in another program of the same youth group, this time in Spain, through one of her countrymen, Clare thought she would take advantage of the occasion for a vacation: “free trip to the Spanish sun! Ten days of beaches and parties!…”

The unexpected and special grace

It was God who was plotting his itinerary, for when he landed on the peninsula, he realized that it was a pilgrimage? and by then it was too late.

In these circumstances, during Holy Week 2000, Clare came into close contact with the Handmaids of the Home of the Mother and received the grace that would change the course of her life, even though she was in a 16th-century monastery [11] lost in the mountains.

In fact, Clare had not thought of participating in the liturgical acts of Good Friday, but she entered the Church after all, given the insistence of the coordinators of the pilgrimage: “Out of respect, you should come in. Today God died for you.”[12]

Then, sitting in a pew at the back of the church, she received a special grace, as she herself relates: “The moment came when everyone in the church lined up in the central aisle […] for the adoration of the cross. I saw that some made the genuflection and then kissed the feet of Jesus nailed to the cross. It was the first time I had seen something like that. I got in line, not because of any pious or fervent impulse, but simply because it was the right thing to do. When my turn came, I knelt down and kissed Jesus’ feet. That simple act lasted no more than ten seconds. Kissing the cross, something apparently trivial, had a very strong impact within me. […] I can’t explain exactly what happened, I didn’t see any choir of angels or even any white dove descending from the ceiling to me, but I was sure that for me the Lord was on the Cross.”

“But how to respond to Our Lord, there crucified for her? Sr. Clare wondered. “The only way, by which I could console what I was seeing on the Cross, was with my life.” [13]

Indeed, so deep, sincere and honest had been the divine gift she had received that she soon confessed it:

– “My plan was to get to be a famous actress, but after this, I am confused, because I believe that God wants [me] to be ‘one of them’ [of Hogar de la Madre].”[14]

In the next activity, in the midst of other circumstantial people, while giving her testimony about her impressions of that day, Clare outlined her calling: “My name is Clare. I’m 17 years old and I’m from Ireland. [Today we talked about vocation and I thought, ‘My God, I have a vocation! But I want to be famous.'” [15]

The purification

It was the exclamation of the called soul, still emerging from the inner struggles she was going through and who, faced with fame and holiness, wanted to have all her longings fulfilled.

A long trajectory of purification was beginning, of the choice made by God against the world.

About this period of abandoning the world and giving himself to religion, permeated with temptations, new professional offers, and struggles against his vices and defects, added to the surprises of the trials and indecisions that would come to him, Clare summarized it with the words of St. Augustine: “With the weight of my miseries, I fell back into earthly things and was reabsorbed by the usual things, becoming captive to them.”[16]

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In short, “Clare was torn between two worlds and two loves. Christ had shown his great love for her, showing her the way to true happiness, but she was nevertheless unwilling to accept the sacrifices that entailed achieving such happiness.”[17]

In her biographical account, the honesty and probity of her “confessions” causes admiration, without fear of making her pugnaciousness less beautiful. On the contrary, the truthfulness with which she describes her weaknesses makes her life a clear witness of holiness, of someone who admits that she is weak, recognizing in total that the grace of conversion is, first and foremost, a gift from God!

It was the life that Clare embraced with “determined determination”, as St. Therese put it because the peace she longed for could only be found in her God-given vocation as a religious.

Despite family misunderstandings and other no small concerns, Clare was finally accepted as a candidate in the Servants of the Hogar de la Madre on the day of St. Clare of Assisi: the paths of her great desire, to deny herself and follow Our Lord, were open.

The intense religious life would lead her to give proof of an impressive dedication: from her reception as a novice in Priego (Spain), taking on the tasks of the community press, to other houses where she would exercise the most different activities. Always radiant with joy, her attitude reflected the generosity of the great souls that only find satisfaction in giving themselves to their neighbours.

Contagious joy and dedication

Already as Sr. Clare Maria de la Trinidad y del Corazón de María, having taken temporary vows, her evangelizing mission would overflow in many directions: still in Spain – in Belmonte or Zurita – where she would be in charge of recording television programs for children; in Jacksonville (Florida, USA), where she would take care with the untiring zeal of the formation of boys and girls in a school, opening doors for the spread of the work of the Hogar de la Madre; or, later, back in Spain, assisting spiritually in hospitals.

In all these places, the characteristic note of her conduct was joy, without which she knew it would be impossible to instill in others a deep and sincere desire to practice virtue – notably modesty and chastity, which she carried out with unblemished spirit since her conversion.

It was during this period of apostolic labour that Providence began to empty her of the masks of her superficiality, in order to destroy the wall that still distanced her from God, through the humiliations and trials to which all those who embrace the ways of sanctity are subjected, to which she would exclaim: “Purify my love, Lord, that I may have a clean and pure love. So that I may love others with your love. Love in me, since I do not know how to love.”[18]

Indeed, a few months before her definitive religious profession, when her surrender would be sealed, the process of her purification was reaching a new level, making her recall the words of a certain author: “the greatest sensation of freedom – when one has peace of soul and a sense of permanent security – comes when a man abandons himself completely to follow the will of God.” [19]

God’s will called her this time to Ecuador, to the newly founded Hogar house, where she would consummate her holocaust.

Total surrender

Clare became a true mother, guide, and friend to all those whom the Lord entrusted to her, so much so that “she was delighted not to have any time for herself,”[20] making her conviviality so beneficial, the transmitter of charismatic happiness.

Her aspirations, moreover, were that there should never be a sad or depressed atmosphere, preventive against any kind of action of the devil: “one thing I see”, she affirmed, “is that I can never let myself be led by lack of virtue: weariness, anger, tiredness… when I deal with the girls”, otherwise she would be defrauding her mission. This explains the gigantic willpower that drove her to act with untiring dedication wherever she went, according to her own testimony: “It’s no merit of mine because it’s easy for me to adapt wherever I am: with the rich in the United States, with the poor in Ecuador, with the sick in hospitals in Valencia, or with the most lively girls in Belmonte. Really, I experience that any community is my hogar (home).”[21]

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Despite the many difficulties and privations in this mission, Sister Clare did not spare her efforts, yearning for the exact fulfillment of religious obedience, which would earn her, in these last months of her life, exclamations of satisfaction: “I am happy, happy, happy! Even though there are days when many things cost me. It’s worth it to give my life for God, who is so great. This is what my heart has always desired and what no human love, no plan or thing could fill.”[22]

As a fruit of this generous life given to Our Lord, since He had seized her on that Good Friday in 2000, being in Playa Preta (Ecuador), in apostolic activities, Providence would reap her soul on the occasion of a tragic earthquake that buried her with five other girls, on April 16, 2016, the eve of the feast of the Good Shepherd and the birthday of Benedict XVI, for whom she always felt a special spiritual bond.

Indeed, if St. Therese’s generosity of soul was able to go beyond the cloistered walls of a Lisieux Carmel, becoming fruitful to as many souls as admire her, why should the good caused by this joyful and virginal soul, whose charism – latent in the luminosity of her gaze – is increasingly an appeal to the youth of our day, be any different? “I know that on my fidelity and docility many souls depend.”[23]

[1] Clare Theresa Crockett was born on November 14, 1982, in Derry, Ireland. Daughter of Gerard Crockett and Margaret Doyle. The biography referred to is written by Sr. Kristen Gardner. Hna. Clare. Sola con el solo. U.S.K. Mamie: Cantabria. 2020. The author of the book, Kristen Gardner, met Hogar de la Madre about the time Clare Crockett entered as a candidate.

[2] The Hogar de la Madre is a Catholic congregation, founded in Spain in 1982 by Father Rafael Alonso Reymundo, a diocesan priest from Toledo. It has two branches, one male and one female, both approved at the diocesan level in Spain in 1994. Todo Hogar de la Madre received pontifical approval in June 2010, as an International Public Association of the Faithful.

[3] GARDNER, Kristen. Hna. Clare Crockett: Sola con el solo. Zurita (Cantabria): Fundación E.U.K. Mamie, 2020, p. 27. (Personal translation).

[4] Cf. Ibid., p. 28.

[5] Words of Sr. Clare in an interview for the program “Creados para amar”, H.M. Televisión. 2010. In: Op. cit., p. 40.

[6] Ibid., p. 40.

[7] Cf. ibid., p. 43.

[8] Grupo COR (Christ in Others Retreat).

[9] Ibid., p. 53.

[10] Ibid. p. 54.

[11] This is the monastery of St. Michael of Victories, built in thanksgiving for the victory of the Catholics at the Battle of Lepanto in 1571.

[12] Op. cit.

[13] Clare Crockett, testimony August 2011. In: Op. cit. p. 64.

[14] Ibid. p. 63.

[15] Ibid.

[16] Cf. Confessions, L. X., Chap. XV. Quoted in Sr. Clare’s 2014 written testimony. In: Op. cit., p. 82.

[17] Op. cit.

[18] Ibid., p. 213.

[19] Authored by Fr. Walter Ciszek, in the book Caminando por valles escuros, second cited by her. Op. cit., p. 231.

[20] Op. cit., p. 281.

[21] Email to Fr. Rafael Alonso, November 11, 2013. In: Op. cit., p. 312. (Personal translation).

[22] Email to Fr. Rafael Alonso and Mother Ana, September 15, 2015. In: Op. cit., p. 412. (Personal translation).

[23] Email to Mother Ana, July 14, 2014. In: Op. cit., p. 428. (Personal translation).

 

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