"Icons" of the Mystery of Mary


Dear Sisters in Christ,

It is with great joy that, coming to Assisi to pray for peace in Europe together with my brothers in the Episcopate, the representatives of the other Churches and Christian Communities and others who believe in God, men and women of good will, I have wanted to visit you gathered here in the Basilica of Saint Clare, in this city on a hillside, now a worldwide symbol of prayer and peace...

You, dear Sisters, who belong to the communities of religious life in this Diocese, are a living representation of all the places of Europe and of the whole world, where day after day contemplatives are raising their insistent prayers to the Giver of all good things, so that the spirit of love and forgiveness, of harmony and peace may descend upon all. The world needs you to "pray, lifting up holy hands, without anger or argument" (1 Tm 2:8), imploring peace.

You represent the Church, the Bride, the "Ecclesia Orans," who in her perseverance and single-hearted prayer in the monasteries of the west joins in the ardent intercession of the monasteries in the East "for peace which comes from on high and for the unity of all" (prayer for peace of the Byzantine Liturgy).

I am happy to be with you, dear daughters of Saint Clare, on the threshold of these jubilee celebrations. It is a time of grace which will allow the entire community of believers to pause in admiration before the charism of this "evangelical Woman" who radiates in a special way the mystery of Christ. Like Francis, Clare is a living image of the Poor Christ. The most authentic disciple of the Poverello, she liked to refer to herself as "Clare, the unworthy servant of Christ and the little plant of the most blessed Francis..." (Rule of Saint Clare, 1,3). Both of them expressed the primitive Franciscan ideal of the complimentary nature of preaching the Gospel, done by Francis and his Friars, and the contemplative life of poverty and penance embraced by Clare and her Sisters. If it is true that Clare is a "reflection" of Francis, and that in him "everything was seen as in a mirror" there is no doubt that in the communion of the same Spirit the light of Clare's purity and poverty enlightened the countenance of the Poverello, just as the memory of her and the certainty of her prayer enlightened his heart in times of difficulty and trial. For this reason Clare is indissolubly linked to Francis, and the Gospel message of the two is complimentary.

In our age it is necessary to repeat Saint Clare's discovery, because it is important for the life of the Church. You do not know, hidden and unknown as you are, how important you are in the life of the Church; how many problems, how many things depend on you.

We need the rediscovery of that charism, that vocation; we need the rediscovery of the divine legend of Francis and Clare. I ask you to continue to support my universal Petrine mystery by the power of your unceasing prayer. Yes, by prayer which reveals itself to be a special aspect of the Church's Marian profile. Within the Church, in fact, you are particular "icon" of the mystery of Mary, according to the word Francis addressed to Clare and her Sisters. 


Excerpts taken from the Pope's address
to the Poor Clares of Assisi, 10/93

Return to Pope's Page