ST. CLARE’S FOUNDING FATHERS – THE AUGUSTINIANS
Many Augustinians gave some of the very best years of their lives to the spiritual and temporal direction of St. Clare Parish from its beginnings in 1926 until 2012. At the same time, intent upon being true spiritual sons of St. Augustine, they also sought to give a living example to all, through their life in community and of true unity in Charity. Their efforts have without doubt entailed hard work and not a few sufferings. But these Augustinians found great joy in being instruments of spiritual growth as individuals and as parish community.
The most outstanding legacy left to the Church by St. Augustine of Hippo was the founding of the monastic form of life. His style of monasticism, which he put into practice after his conversion, influenced the whole western Church. Before Augustine’s death in 430, there were several monasteries established in North Africa and by the end of the 13th Century, the Augustinian form of monasticism had spread to Europe.
The founding chapter of the Order of Brothers of St. Augustine was held in Rome in 1244 because the Pope, Innocent IV, said he did not wish to see these hermits “wandering about without a shepherd like sheep lost among the mass of the flock.” Thus came into being the Order known as “The Hermit of St. Augustine” or the “Augustinians.”
During the pontificates of Innocent IV and Alexander IV, the order was placed under papal protection. In the year 1256, an event known as the “Great Union” occurred and many more communities were added to the order.
Through the centuries, Augustinians have served the Church as theologians, teachers, preachers, missionaries, parish priests, and even as navigators. In modern times much work has been done in secondary schools by Augustinians in various countries of the world.
The Augustinian Friars serving in the Midwest section of the United States are members of the Province of Our Mother of Good Counsel with headquarters in Chicago, Illinois. There are two other provinces in the United States-the Province of St. Thomas of Villanova on the East Coast, and the Province of St. Augustine on the West Coast.
OUR PATRON SAINT: ST. CLARE OF MONTEFALCO
St. Clare of Montefalco, who is also known as St. Clare of the Cross, was born in Montefalco, near Spoleto, Italy, in the year 1268. From her early childhood she gave evidence of a personal sanctity which she was one day to attain to a high degree.
Her father’s name was Damian. He was a man of deep faith and regularly helped the convent financially where Clare and her sister, Johanna, lived as nuns. He died when Clare was twenty-three years of age. After his death, Clare’s mother, Giacoma, entered one of the hermitages (convents) of the neighborhood.
Clare entered the Order of St. Augustine in the convent of Santa Croce at Montefalco. Her sister was the superior of the community of cloistered Augustinian nuns. After Johanna’s death, Clare was chosen by the community to fill her deceased sister’s position.
Under the title of Abbess, she showed herself liberal and indulgent in dealing with nuns. Towards her own self she was most severe. One subject she never tired of studying and meditating upon was the Passion and Death of Christ.
The nuns supported themselves by needlework, transcription of books, and cultivation of their garden. Along with this they received help from their relatives and benefactors.
Clare was called to her eternal reward on August 17, 1308, at the age of forty. After her death an autopsy took place and the impression of the instruments of Christ’s Passion was found engraved upon her heart. Shortly after her death, the city of Montefalco established an annual holiday in honor of St. Clare, which is still observed.
Today, her body, after almost 700 years, is well preserved and may be seen in back of the chapel at the convent in Montefalco. Likewise one may see the instruments of the Passion found in the fibers of her heart.
The process of her canonization was begun by Pope John XXII and completed by Pope Urban VIII. She was solemnly canonized by Pope Leo XIII in 1881.