During the middle ages, there were two major political powers in Europe: the Guelphs, who were people loyal to the Pope and to the Papal States, a country in central Italy governed by the Pope; and the Ghibellines, who were people loyal to the so-called Holy Roman Emperor and usually at odds with the Pope and the Papal States. During the 13th century when Saints Dominic and Francis were alive and founding their respective Orders, Saint Francis had a devoted friend and collaborator in Saint Clare, a young woman from Assisi who wanted to follow Saint Francis in his spirituality and way of life. Saint Francis received her as a follower of his, clothed her in the primitive Franciscan habit, and put her and several like-minded women into a convent in Assisi.
One time, a Ghibelline army in which there were many Muslim mercenary soldiers beseiged the convent, intending to capture it and plunder whatever they could find. Saint Clare who was its abbess, and was gravely ill, asked her sisters to take her to the chapel where she removed the Blessed Sacrament from the tabernacle. Then she had them take her to a window overlooking the entrance of the monastery. She placed the vessel containing the Eucharist in the window facing the enemy, then prostrated before it and begged the Lord not to allow “his lambs” to be snatched and destroyed by “those beasts,” the Muslims. Her prayers prevailed; the Muslims went away without harming the monastery or its nuns.
This episode in her life is interesting to us as we celebrate her feastday this Friday because we are again being beseiged by Muslim terrorists. We all know what happened on “9/11.” We know of the bitter fighting between Muslims and Israelis right now in Israel and Lebanon, and between one sect of the Muslims against another in Iraq. We know about the Muslim terrorist groups: Hamas, Hezbollah, and Al Quaida. We know of their attacks upon the civilian populations in New York, London, Madrid, and now, their attempts to take their murderous war into the air by blowing up planes in flight. A number of people are now suggesting that the universal Church begin a campaign of prayer for the conversion of Islam as we did for years for the conversion of Russia. And Saint Clare would be a very appropriate intercessor in that campaign which would substitute love for hatred, peace for war.
We might well pray daily the prayer we use each Good Friday: Almighty and Eternal God, enable those who do not acknowledge Christ to find the truth as they walk before you in sincerity of heart. Help us to grow in love for one another, to grasp more fully the mystery of your godhead, and to become more perfect witnesses of your love in the sight of men. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Thank you for seeking God’s truth, God Bless you. Father Victor Brown.
Note: This message was composed some years ago.