Saints Clare, Francis and Christmas
Copyright В© 2010 Bob and Penny Lord's Site
Christmas is and has always been a special time in our lives and
the lives of our brothers and sisters who have preceded us, the
Saints. Saints Francis and Clare of Assisi were great lovers of
Christmas. Francis was actually the one who created the Christmas
Creche, or Nativity Scene as we know it today. Although there are
those in our world who would like to do away with the Nativity Scene,
and anything that has to do with Christmas, we think it's important
to share with you two accounts that have to do with Christmas, from
the lives of St. Francis and St. Clare.
Saint Clare is transported to Bethlehem
We find Clare at the end of her journey on earth, and she is too
sick to attend Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve. It was the year 1252,
and she would live just one more year before joining her Lord and
Father Francis in Heaven. All her Sisters had gone to Mass and she
was a prisoner of her sick bed. Too feeble to rise, she prayed!
She shared with her Lord how sad she was that she would not be able
to receive Him, in the Eucharist, on this of all nights, the night
He was born.
A great, bright light broke through the darkness, illuminating the
bare room. It was followed by the sweet smell of incense filling
the air. Clare could hear Angelic voices intoning Christmas hymns.
Suddenly she was lifted from her bed; and before she knew it, she
was swooped over to the Basilica of Saint Francis, and was participating
in the Midnight Mass.
If that was not enough, then Clare found herself being whisked off
to Bethlehem of 1200 years before. She found herself in the cave
where Jesus was born. There, surrounded by adoring farm animals
and shepherds, was the Holy Infant. She looked lovingly toward the
Baby Jesus in His straw Creche, His tiny plump little Arms were
wide open, as if inviting her closer. Clare looked over to His kneeling
parents - His gentle Mother Mary and the earthly foster father who
cherished Him - Saint Joseph. Then Our Lord Jesus, the grown God-Man,
appeared. He tenderly placed the Sacred Host, His very Body, Blood,
Soul and Divinity on her tongue. With that she was transported back
to her convent of San Damiano, to await her Sisters. When they returned,
they shared with her how sad they were she was not able to attend
Mass with them. Then she recounted her whole experience, how God
in His Mercy would not allow her to miss Mass and most especially
be deprived of receiving His Body, Blood, Soul and Divine Self,
the Eucharist, on this of all nights. Needless to say, they fell
asleep praising God, accompanied by the sweet sounds of Angels singing
Gloria in Excelsis Deo.
When Clare had given up her comfortable, luxurious life to follow
Father Francis, the world she lived in thought her mad. Being very
beautiful, from a prestigious family, she'd had her pick of suitors.
She didn't even have the consolation of having Francis near her,
to guide her in her walk toward Jesus. But after having heard Francis
preach, she knew she belonged only to Jesus. She traded in a large
private room, with a soft, comfortable mattress for the stone floor
she slept on, and a mattress of straw, surrounded by her fellow
Sisters. And what was her reward? Her Lord did not betray her trust
in Him, nor His Love for her. All she had to do was be faithful,
which she was till the day she died, and He did the rest, rewarding
her with being present the evening He was born, and then, with His
parents, to adore Him as a Baby. If that wasn't enough, not wanting
her to do without Him, He, the High Priest, appeared and shared
His Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity with her, in the Eucharist. Did
He hear the silent prayers of her heart's desire, and answered her?
We believe, he not only answered her, He blessed her beyond her
Saint Francis of Assisi and the First Nativity Scene
Many Saints have had a deep love and close relationship with the
Holy Infant Jesus. There is not a Shrine that does not have and
venerate an Image of the Child Jesus, along with our Lord Crucified
on the Cross, the Two eternally interwoven. Have you ever wondered
where, when, and how the tradition of the Creche and Manger began?
To find the answer to that question, we have to journey in faith
to Assisi, Italy.
Let us travel back to the 12th Century, where we will find the Saint,
who would most imitate the life of Jesus - Saint Francis of Assisi.
Although coming from very comfortable surroundings, Francis began
life in a barn, very like the one Jesus was born in. His mother,
Madonna Pica, knew in her heart that her son was destined to serve
the Lord, and she wanted him to be born like her Savior in the humblest
of circumstances - a barn, like Jesus, with only the warmth of animals'
breath to keep him warm. Before Francis was born, she'd had a visit
from a mysterious visitor (we believe it was a messenger of God,
or in other words, an Angel), who instructed her to name him John.
Madonna baptized her baby John, but when his father returned from
France, he changed the baby's name to Francis after France, the
country he felt was most responsible for his wealth.
Father Francis spends Christmas in Greccio
Saint Francis always had a fascination with Christmas and the holy,
mysterious Birth of his Savior. In 1223, he went, with his fellow
friars, to Greccio, where he celebrated Christmas in a highly original,
most unique manner for his time. He reproduced the original Nativity
scene, placing a manger filled with hay in the middle of a rocky
ravine at the convent in Greccio. Then he brought cattle and donkeys
to stand beside it. He did this so that the Faithful could see the
impoverished surroundings and the suffering the Lord endured as
a New-born Child.
On Christmas Eve, friars, and men and women from the village and
the surrounding valley, came, candles and torches in hand, lighting
their way. They had heard of the Nativity scene Francis had created
and they wanted to give glory to the Little King in the manger,
singing songs and hymns to express their love. Francis was dressed
as a Deacon, as he never felt worthy to become a Priest. (Whenever
he approached a Priest, he would go down on his knees and kiss his
hand, the hand that brought Jesus Present in the Holy Eucharist
to him.) The Christmas Mass no sooner began, than it was time for
Francis to preach the homily! He preached on the Birth of the Baby
Jesus with so much passion, he could not call Christ Jesus; when
he opened his mouth to say Jesus, instead what came out was, Jesus,
Child of Bethlehem.
In addition, we have it on the word of a very pious man, who reported
that when he looked into the crib, instead of a statue, he actually
beheld a Baby lying still, as if dead. Then he testified, he saw
Saint Francis go over to the statue and lift the lifeless form.
Whereupon, it came to life, rubbing its eyes as if being roused
from a sound sleep. There, for all to see was Saint Francis, his
arms cradling and rocking the Precious One Who was alive!
Why did the Father allow this to happen? Well, great apathy had
been infiltrating the area, with people almost forgetting their
Lord, and the real meaning of Christmas. Their hearts had become
cold, filled with too much of the world below rather than the Heaven
above. Francis, neither eloquent nor handsome, by bringing them
miraculously the Child Jesus, ignited the almost dead spark that
lay hidden in their souls.
The hay upon which the Child Jesus had lain, was saved. Animals
suffering various illnesses, upon being touched by the hay were
immediately healed. Women undergoing very painful and stressfully
long labors delivered healthy babies, after having the hay placed
on them. Men, women and children, suffering from various illnesses
were healed. The people were so grateful, a church was later built
over the spot where the manger lay and the animals kept watch. And
till today, the faithful come and pray to the Infant Jesus to intercede
with the Father, on their behalf, for a successful delivery, and
a healthy, normal baby.
Bob and Penny Lord are renowned Catholic authors
and television hosts on EWTN, Global Catholic television. They are
prolific writers about the Catholic faith, especially the Saints for
which they have been dubbed "experts on the Saints." For more information
about Saints Clare and Francis go to: http://www.bobandpennylord.com/St_Francis_of_Assisi.htm
Re-published from TrueChristianity.info
in October 2012
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