Walking the path of the Poor Clares
“WRITE A SHORT vocation story of yourself, can?” I was, in typical Singlish, asked by my spiritual director to relate the journey that culminates in my present way of life as a postulant with the Order of St. Clare in Waverley, New South Wales, Australia.
The idea immediately seized me as one that I should grasp and not let slip. I recalled the words of Jesus, that a lamp is lit not to be covered or hidden, but to be put on a lamp-stand so that those who enter the room may see the light. I am the ‘lamp’ and Jesus the ‘light’.
Exuberant and filled with eagerness to offer back to God the love and protection He had shown me, is how I would describe the beginnings of my attraction to the religious life. The years, twice as a novice, first with the Little Sisters of the Poor and then the Carmelite Sisters in Singapore became, for me, fertile soil which nourished a woman who, on the word ‘go’, went forth with eagerness and sincerity to fulfil her desire.
On hindsight, my experience of both spiritual gifts, one, “to be little in order to come close to the poor” and the other, a life of prayer for priests and the needs of the human family, became a part of my journey, led by and, into God.
This leading, through 18 years, happily brought me into contact with one and the same contemplative order of the Poor Clares in Ireland and Australia. Life as a contemplative revolves around prayer in solitude and with the community. Every other aspect of our daily life, from work, community life and service, to contact with people, is oriented towards recollection, an awareness or mindfulness of the presence of God. This gives meaning to the purpose of life, which is to be found in God alone.
I can confidently attribute my Poor Clare vocation to belonging to the Franciscan parish of St. Mary of the Angels for 13 years. My faith flourished around the table of the Lord, and was further strengthened by the friars’ dedication to the various ministries within and without the church, especially their untiring effort in shepherding the youths. Three years as a communion minister and a year of journeying with catechumens and candidates in the RCIA, helped develop my sense of mission.
As I witnessed the solemn profession of three Franciscan friars in June 2008, the spark that was dormant within me after my previous experiences was rekindled. I thought to myself, “This is what I want, this is what I desire and long for with all my heart; to live my life totally given to Love, humbly consecrated and in close communion with Him!”
Thereafter, I found myself drawn to join the young friars on Tuesday evenings for evening prayer, followed by Mass and then the devotion to St. Anthony, whenever possible.
Before I could ‘chicken out’, contact was made with the Poor Clares in Faughart, Ireland and in October 2008, a ‘come and see’ stay at their new but ancient Celtic-style monastery was arranged. A stay-in experience at Waverley, Australia was also required. The process of discernment by the formator in Ireland was frequent and done through ‘Skype’!
(Skype is a software application that allows users to make voice calls over the Internet.)
For St. Francis and St. Clare, “to live according to the perfection of the Gospel” is to live as Jesus lived, adopting His attitudes and mentality, making His concerns our concerns. In other words, “following in the footprints of Jesus”.
Just as Clare’s attraction to Francis arose from the absolute identification of Jesus that she saw in him, so my attraction to Clare arises from her focused and resolute living out of the Gospel life. The longing in Francis and Clare’s souls was identical. All she longed for was Jesus, to love Him who became poor for us.
It is this call to imitate Jesus, poor and obedient, in simplicity and joy, the call to silence and solitude, living in community, in loving service to one another, offering prayers and singing praises to God, that hold so much attraction for me.
As part of my initial formation, I am currently attending the Kairos programme which brings together postulants, novices and formators from different congregations and orders, both male and female, to engage in a variety of formative learning experiences.
I am now a novice with the Poor Clares here in Bethlehem Monastery, Campbelltown, New South Wales.
There are four other Singaporean Poor Clares Sisters in Australia, one fully professed, the rest still in formation. n
By Bernadette Low