Far greater than the beauties of the material universe are those that exist in the souls of the saints. The life of St. Clare of Montefalco is full of wonders.
Newsroom (Gaudium Press) St. Clare of Montefalco was born in 1268 in Montefalco, a town in Umbria, Italy, and died in 1308. Throughout her life, she was passionate about prayer.
At the age of five, realizing the dangers of life in the world, she asked her sister, Joanna, to admit her into the small community that Joanna led, which followed the rules of the Third Order of Saint Francis. However, the sister didn’t grant her request until a year later.
Once, when she was nine years old, she let her little bare foot slip out of her bed. Her sister Joanna, who observed, scolded her and told her that this was unbecoming of a virgin. Little Clara was so sorry that, after that, she always wrapped her feet very tightly before going to sleep.
Moreover, she didn’t even allow the religious to touch her with their hands. She advised her daughters never to uncover their own bodies, even in the dark. She observed this so strictly for herself that she never wanted to show the doctor any part of her body without a veil.
She also said that virgins should have no familiarity with either men or married women, because this perfect integrity gives immortality to the body, which, embalmed by the flower of virginity, is thus preserved from all corruption.
On the death of her sister, Jeanne, she was elected abbess, and she filled this position with such prudence that the devil was never able to deceive her by any means whatsoever. Observing that she was very assiduous in contemplating the Passion of Jesus Christ, the devil once appeared to her in the form of a crucifix, with his body completely uncovered, in order to arouse ignoble thoughts in her. But the virgin recognized her adversary’s weapon and laughed. The demon, furious, disappeared.
God gave her such intelligence about divine things that she dared to fight a heresy of her time, taking part in discussions and publicly accusing one of its adherents of lying and dissimulation.
She knew people’s hidden thoughts and sometimes had the gift of prophecy.
Our Lord Jesus Christ himself once came to give her Communion.
After death, her body remained incorrupt
One day, she became slightly impatient with a sister who assured her that, despite her best efforts, she found no softness in prayer.
It didn’t take much more than that for her to be immediately deprived of all consolation and overwhelmed with inner sorrows. The dark night in which she was plunged lasted not one week, not one month, but eleven whole years. After that spiritual night, the Divine Sun flooded her soul with its immortal clarity, and she found herself elevated by a concatenation of ecstasies, seeming to belong more to Heaven than to Earth. In this state, she heard the concert of the Angels, saw the Child Jesus in the manger of the poor stable in Bethlehem, and the Magi kneeling to adore the Child Jesus.
One day, she heard these words from the lips of Our Lord:
– Come Clara, come! Your coming will please me.
– “Lord,” she replied, “I would like to dissolve in order to unite with you.
– You must wait a little longer, my child. Your day has not come,” replied the Lord.
Another time the Lord appeared to her in the form of a pilgrim, carrying a cross on his shoulders, and said to her:
– My daughter, looking for what I could offer you that would be most pleasing to your heart, it seemed to me that my Cross would be the thing that would suit you best. Receive it, embrace it and give me your heart, so that you can die for the Cross, on the Cross.
She died in 1308, the day after the feast of the Assumption, at the age of forty. Her body was buried in her monastery, where it still lies today. Preserved intact and with a supple flesh as if he had just been buried yesterday, his body is as white as alabaster. Its complete preservation was verified again under the pontificate of Pius IX, of happy memory.
In her heart, the instruments of the Passion
Clare’s holy soul, leaving her body, had fixed on it evident signs of her glory. And since the sisters knew of her tender devotion to the Passion, and had heard Clare say several times before her death that she carried Jesus Christ crucified in her heart, they were overcome with the desire to find out exactly this fact before entrusting her body to the earth. They therefore decided to do an autopsy and examine the mystery of her body, finding that her heart was very swollen and the size of a small child’s head. In addition, one area was completely hard.
According to the doctors, it is impossible for a human being to live in this state. They opened his heart and found the instruments of the Passion in it, naturally in small pieces. A sister divided the heart into two parts, and her hand was so happy that none of the instruments of the Passion that were there were hit. The sisters, deeply surprised and happy, gave thanks to God for this.
The body of Our Lord Jesus Christ was marked on the right side, attached to the Cross, about the thickness of a thumb. Our Lord had his arms outstretched, his head tilted to the right, slightly over his shoulders. His right flank was livid with an open, bleeding wound. There was bloodstained tissue around the kidneys. There were also three areas of tissue in this part of the heart to which three hard, pointed nails were attached, one of them noticeably larger than the others. Above the nails was an iron-colored group of tissues with a hard point. This point was sharp, penetrated like iron, and represented the spear with which Longinus had pierced the Savior’s flank.
Finally, in the same part of the heart, there was a ball of smaller tissue, representing the sponge with which the gall and vinegar were given to Our Lord. On the left were the scourges: five bands of tissue intertwined with many knots and joined by a common cable. After the whip was a larger scar, representing the column of scourging, surrounded by bleeding tissues, representing the ropes with which Our Lord was tied. Above the column was the crown of thorns, made up of tissue intertwined like hard, pointed thorns. All these insignia, although made of flesh, were as hard as the real instruments of Our Lord’s Passion.
When the nuns saw all these wonders with respect and admiration, they informed their vicar Béranger – in the absence of the Bishop of Spoleto – who carried out a thorough examination and was able to ascertain the reality of what had just been said. He was amazed, above all, by the fact that these instruments, separated from the heart, had taken on a consistency due to the hardness of wood and stone. Several of these insignia were placed in the hands of Pope John XXII when he examined Clare’s life for beatification.
Symbol of the Holy Trinity
The sisters collected the blood that flowed from the heart when it was opened and put it in a glass ampoule.
The blood then gave off a faint smell. It remains coagulated to this day. And when a serious storm threatens the Church, this blood is seen to stir and boil, which signifies the wrath of God.
The hardened area was also opened and examined by the doctors. There they found three small spheres, ash-colored and stained red. All three were the same thickness and weight, hard as flint, and placed in the shape of a triangle. They clearly represented the mystery of the Holy Trinity, being absolutely the same as each other in every way. What is most astonishing is that each of these balls was exactly the same weight as the other two.
This is all the more remarkable because it seems like a contradiction: if you put the three balls on a two-shell scale, each time you put a separate ball on it, it weighed as much as the other two. This is highly theological, because it’s another way of expressing the fact that the three Persons of the Holy Trinity are so equal to each other that it can’t be said that two are worth more than one. This is the pinnacle of equality.
And when one of the balls was placed in one of the shells of the scales, and a stone or any other object of equal weight was placed in the other, and the other two balls were added to the scales, where there was already one, the scales remained as still as they had been during the first operation.
Without a doubt, a real miracle
It was a manifest sign of the Holy Trinity; one in essence, different in Persons. One of the three balls broke on its own at a time when France, tainted by Calvin’s heresy, had caused so much harm to the Church.
Saint Clare of Montefalco was canonized by Leo XIII on December 8, 1881.
Compiled by Camille Mittermeier