Clare of Assisi is a particularly strong and gracious model of how to resist the forces in
our world that dehumanize us. She teaches us how to use the strength of our character
and wills, empowered by our relationship with God, to build up loving communities and
invite greater collaboration toward the common good in all. In fact, Clare gives us a
process for this movement of gracious change—a process that has four integral steps.
First, she asks us to take a careful look at our lives and our world. “Gaze,” she says.
Take a long, loving look at the world around you. Do this in a small and immediate way
by taking a slow walk around your neighborhood or through a neighborhood of an urban
area near you.
What do you see when you engage your heart, your senses, and your desire for the
world to be a more loving place?
Second, Clare asks us to engage our mind in this process of gazing. “Consider,” she
says. Note that she asks us to engage the mind second, not first, bringing the
considerations of our mind into play once we have already engaged the heart, through
our eyes. Bringing in the mind after the heart will help us suspend our judgment, and, if
we truly “consider,” rather than analyzing, dissecting, or judging, we will be in greater
solidarity with whatever we are considering. We can think informed by our senses and
our affect, so that we engage the whole of our being in this connection with others and
the world around us. We might call this “holistic thinking,” but it is also relational
thinking. We are asked to “consider” and therefore to enter into the situation and
subjective reality of what we are seeing.
What new consideration does entering into someone else’s reality bring?
Third, Clare asks us to bring the divine into our considerations—to ask for and be
deeply open to God’s perspective on what we are seeing and considering.
“Contemplate,” she says. This word is sometimes intimidating to us, especially if we
have not been particularly creative in how we connect to the divine. For Clare,
contemplation is simply an openness to the deeper reality that we are created by a
loving God whose love continues to give us life, day by day. This God wants, in fact, to
share life with us, to be turned to daily; the warmth, love, reassurance, insight, and
sometimes challenging perspectives that we receive in the context of relationship with
this God is what keeps us vital and alive. This is, in part, why she encourages us to
“contemplate”—that is, to open ourselves to God’s loving presence—continually.
How does connection with God transform the ways that you see, think, desire, respond,
and sustain connections with others?
Fourth, Clare asks us to extend our connection with God into the broader world.
“Imitate,” she says. Encouraging us to “taste and see” the goodness of God through the
earlier steps, now she asks us to bring our transformed selves into deepening
relationship with others. “Imitate” the tenderness of God that we have learned at God’s
side. Clare had a strong and deep, intimate relationship with the incarnate God. She
spent hours in front of the cross of San Damiano in her community. She understood the
Christ on that cross to be asking her to “rebuild” the human community, just as Christ
had asked her collaborator Francis before her. Her daily practice of gazing, considering
and contemplating led her naturally to imitating the love that she had learned in
relationship with God. In asking us to “imitate,” Clare asks us not to be afraid to bring
God’s kindness into all of our relationships, as instruments of the healing love that we
find in the embrace of God.
Where is one relationship that could be transformed if you brought the love of God more
consciously into that relationship?
Resources for Renewal will be offering many tips, suggestions, workshops and other
offerings to help you deepen your contemplative practice; this is an integral part of our
mission: to open up the reservoir of wisdom and contemplative practices that can renew
us and our society.