Penitential Prayer Life for Spiritual Vitalization
St. Clare of Assisi was the harbinger of a penitential prayer life by which she and her followers, the Poor Clares believed would vitalize the spiritual life of the Church. As the Church remembers her fondly on 11th August, we must look into our lives and revitalize this spirit of penitential prayer. As we are all ‘keeping quiet’ in our homes we must meditate on those aspects where we have failed before our God. Some of us consider the Covid-19 pandemic a punishment from God, but it is far from it. Nevertheless, it doesn’t diminish the fact that we have faltered immensely and that we need to be sorry and repent, promising our Lord and master that we will make efforts to improve.
St. Clare seems to have inculcated in her followers the willingness to give up all pleasures and embrace penance and a life of sacrifice. Sacrifice according to the Poor Clares spreads joy all over the world. Why should one be penitential? Because one loves Christ and wants to dedicate oneself to Him totally. Why did Jesus come onto the earth and become the only sacrificial offering for the sake of all humanity? It is because He loves, loved, and will love us forever. His sacrifice was once and for all; the perfect sacrifice. Therefore, we have to reciprocate that love and through a life of prayer, penance, and sacrifice we do the same.
At this time I remember our beloved Cloistered Carmelite Religious Sisters at Chicalim, Vasco. I always believed that they are the powerhouse of prayer. Their dedication to the celebration of the liturgy and contemplative prayer is commendable. There is a certain aura that one feels when one enters the chapel of the Cloistered Carmel. Though voluntarily confined to the four walls, they feel the pulse of the people outside. And they raise their prayers to God to have mercy on us all. Late Pope John Paul II always considered that the cloistered nuns are at the heart of every mission of the Church because by their life and prayer they dispel the darkness and spread the light. In a world that is worshipping technological gods, the life of a cloistered nun reminds us that only in God can we find eternal happiness and therefore, we must worship Him alone.
The Cloistered Nuns dedicate themselves to praying seven times a day. Praying the breviary, reading sacred scriptures and documents of the Church, reading the lives of saints, and meditating upon them is what they are completely dedicated to. They strive to attain union with God and pray for the salvation of souls.
Their life of sheer poverty inspires and strengthens me. Isn’t it wonderful to keep away from the luxuries of life? The pandemic has taught us that we can very well do without many things. Take, for instance, the solemn celebrations and parties we would hold on our birthday, wedding day, wedding anniversaries, etc. Far from family-friendly interaction, it would just be flaunting of one’s wealth. But now that we celebrate with our nearest and dearest friends, and family we know that we enjoy the best of time, we cook and share the tales of yesteryears. And it feels like we met after years together.
The life of St. Clare of Assisi invites us to check our spiritual lives. To give importance to things that matter the most and value that which endures forever. The gifts that we are blessed with are not meant to be utilized only for our sake but for our brethren. These gifts are given by God to us we shouldn’t forget that fact. And if it is the Lord who gives us these gifts we ought to use it for his glory. Our life of prayer will wake us up to this fact.
So penitential prayer begins with the dedication of our wills and intellect totally to God, when we dedicate ourselves it means that we believe in His divine providence. We believe that He can nurture and mould us the way He wants and desires. But then when we live our lives we falter just like we faltered after our baptism. Therefore we need to get back to grace and the sacrament of reconciliation helps us to revive ourselves and save us from our spiritual maladies. Many take penance for granted thinking that it is a denial of life, but in its truest sense, it is the affirmation of life. Our penitent life though makes its expression outwardly what matters most is the interior of ourselves. Because when our inside is directed towards God our external too will be focused on God through the works of mercy and love.
As we remember St. Clare let us strive evermore to live a fervent penitential prayer life that as we come victorious post-pandemic we will be able to live out to the fruits of our penance. St. Clare of Assisi said, “We become what we love and who we love shapes what we become.” May she intercede for all of us that we may love Christ and be like Him to the world.