The Imprinting of the Symbols of the Passion upon the Heart of St. Clare of Montefalco

October 30

Frescoes on the walls of the Augustinian Convent chapel at Montefalco portray some of St. Clare’s conversations with Christ concerning his cross. In her talk with him in 1294 when she only twenty-six she asks him: “Where are you going, Lord?” He answers, “I’ve been searching the whole world over for a strong place to plant my cross in. But I have found none.” Later he tells her. “Clare, I have finally found a place for my cross: I shall place it in your heart.” From that day on, Clare’s body ached with acute pain caused by the token of his cross, marked there by Christ himself. Thus began the last of her three trials, that of physical illness.

By July of 1308, her illness became so severe she was bedridden. When nuns visiting her would trace the sign of the cross upon her as a blessing, Clare would respond, “Why do you make this sign over me sisters? I already have Christ crucified in my heart.”

On Thursday,15 August, she summoned all her nuns to her room, gave them her last spiritual will and testament, and asked to receive the holy anointing of the sick. On Friday, very tired, she asked that her brother Francis be sent for. It was night by the time he arrived. He waited until the next morning to speak with her physician, who told him, “She slept well. She is completely healed.” As Francis was leaving to return to his own monastery, for he was a Franciscan friar; two nuns asked him to remain a while longer. “Mother Clare wants to speak with you,” they said. Entering the chamber, he saw that she was truly well, her face was full of color and beaming. They spoke at length about spiritual topics.

Then she called the monastery chaplain Friar Thomas and confessed her sins. Later, to her nuns, she revealed: “There is little else for me to say: Today, you shall all be with me in Christ, because I go to him.” She lay there unmoving. Those were her last words. Her eyes were turned heavenward. Finally, at nine in the morning Francis thought it wise to take her pulse. It had stopped.

Clare’s nuns thought it unsuitable to bury her, for they remembered her words: “The life of a soul is the love of God.” They embalmed her body. As for her heart, they placed it within a wooden bowl carved with flowers.

After the funeral the very next day, Clare’s heart was examined carefully by learned persons and lay folk. Just as she had said, the marks of the passion were upon it: the cross and the instruments of Christ’s passion.

To this day, her body lies in state, incorrupt, in the church of the Augustinian nuns at Montefalco, Italy.

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