Tuesday, August 11 is for Franciscans throughout the world a special day to celebrate the feast of St. Clare of Assisi. Clare was born in 1193 into a family of the nobility of Assisi, Italy. As a young girl she showed great compassion for the poor and devotion to prayer. Hearing Francis of Assisi and his followers preach she felt the call to follow their way of life in living the Gospel. Though facing great opposition by her father and brothers Clare secretly went to the small church of Our Lady of Angels on Palm Sunday in 1212 and was received into religious life by Francis.
At the time of Clare all religious nuns lived behind cloistered walls. Initially Clare and her followers lived with the Benedictine sisters but eventually were able to move to the church of San Damiano in Assisi where a convent was established for the sisters. Because the culture of the Middle Ages and Church regulations would not allow women religious outside the cloister, Clare and “the Poor Ladies” as they were called devoted themselves to a life of prayer and sacrifice.
All her life Clare fought (even the Pope!) for “the privilege of poverty.” It was only on her deathbed that Pope Innocent IV relented and signed the papal document giving that privilege to Clare and all the “Poor Clares” who would follow after her. Clare was canonized in 1255, two years after her death.
As the premier Franciscan saint, after Francis of Assisi, we honor St. Clare as a woman who fought to live the Gospel as faithfully as she saw Francis and his followers trying to follow Christ. I pray each one of us who worship here at St. Peter’s may have such passion and grace from God to follow the Gospel as Christ leads us. Let us remember our Poor Clare sisters throughout the world in a special way today in our prayers as they celebrate “Our Holy Mother Clare.”
Saturday, August 15 we will celebrate the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. On November 1, 1950 Pope Pius XII defined the Assumption of Mary to be a dogma of our faith. In his declaration he said, “We pronounce, declare and define it to be a divinely revealed dogma that the immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul to heavenly glory.”
The Church has held belief in the Assumption as far back as the fifth century. In the midst of this unusual summer of 2020 we pause on Saturday to recall the important role Mary has played in salvation history. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI wrote a few years ago that, “…precisely because Mary is with God and in God, she is very close to each one of us. While she lived on this earth she could only be close to a few people. Being in God, who is actually ‘within’ all of us, Mary shares in this closeness to God.”
While the Solemnity of the Assumption (August 15) is NOT a holyday of obligation this year, we will celebrate this special feast of Mary with a Mass on Saturday at 12noon. As with other Masses at this time of the coronavirus please call the Church Office at 314-372-5111 Monday - Friday between 9:00am and 6:00pm to reserve a place at this special Mass. Everyone entering the building must wear a face mask and practice social distancing. Please enter the church through the handicapped doors to attend Mass.
Having mentioned the need to wear a mask while in the church building, I heard that last Sunday someone came to one of the Sunday Masses insisting that she would not wear a mask and it was her right to refuse to wear a mask. Our greeter and security people gently but firmly informed this person that is not optional. That medical authorities have shown that wearing a mask DOES help one from getting the virus and from giving the virus to others. As I wrote in my bulletin article a couple of weeks ago, quoting the Archbishop of Toronto, wearing a mask is not just following civil and medical directives, it is also following our call as followers of Jesus to "respect all of life."
As Archbishop Collins stated, "While it makes sense for all citizens to follow the reasonable restrictions that have been imposed to contain the virus, for Christians doing so is also a matter of faith, charity and justice. As he stated, "We are responsible for others. In justice, as well as charity and we have no right recklessly to endanger others, or to cause their death.
Over the centuries the Church, following the commandment of Jesus to love our neighbor, has cancelled the public celebration of Mass in time of pestilence. Our ancestors may not have had as thorough an understanding as we do now of how epidemics spread, but they did know that in such a situation when people gather for any reason, even religious, they can spread infection and harm their neighbor.
We should also recall that we Christians defend the sanctity of human life from the first moment of conception until natural death: in a time of pestilence, that commitment of ours requires us to follow the reasonable norms designed to protect the lives of those around us.
So we insist on wearing a mask, washing hands, keeping social distance and other preventive health measures not only for the safety of ourselves and others but because doing so helps us to be people who "respect life and all of God's creatures."
I've been here almost a month now and I am gradually getting to know my way around St. Peter's. I would like to take this opportunity to say THANK YOU to the friars, church staff, volunteers and those who come here to St. Peter's for worship for helping me feel at home and offering your help. St. Peter's Church could not function without all of you who give so much of your time and talents to helping make St. Peter's a holy place in the midst of the city.
We all wish that "everything would go back to normal, like it was before the onslaught of the coronavirus."
But as we learn more and more each week, we continue to have to adapt to the changing circumstances of our world so that we might continue to bring the message of Christ to others. In the midst of the dangers facing us today, the uncertainty of the future and the disruptions of our everyday lives, I encourage you to read again the words St. Paul wrote to the Romans in their troubled uncertain times centuries ago. He wrote,
"...I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor present things, nor future things, nor powers, nor depth, nor any creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord."
In these difficult times may we make the words of Mary in the Gospel for the feast of the Assumption our words and trust in God to watch over us and our loved ones; "God has come to the help of his servant, for God has remembered his promise of mercy, the promise made to our ancestors, to Abraham and his descendants forever." (Luke 1:39-56)