Mother Renata Maria: “The fraternal life in the cloister offers us the opportunity of learning to love”.

On the occasion of today’s Solemnity of St Clare, Br Massimo Fusarelli, Minister General, wrote a letter to the Poor Clares. Mother Maria Renata, Abbess of the Monastery of St Mary of Monteluce in S. Erminio (Perugia, Italy), commented with us on some passages of the letter, recounting the experience of the Poor Clares.

“This year, we are once again provoked to ask ourselves what the core of our vocation is and how it can give light and hope to this difficult time,” Br Massimo Fusarelli wrote. How do you, Poor Clares, perceive this difficult time?

I am so impressed by the number of people who write and phone us, asking for prayers. It really is a sign that we are there, and that people trust in the power of prayer. At the same time, this makes me realise that people know there is one more possibility than a purely human, “horizontal” view might think when faced with difficulties because of work, because of the pandemic. There really is this “more”, which then is Providence, God’s intervention in history, which remains the greatest hope for all.

What does it mean for you sisters to bring hope to the world today and to cross the night of life together?

Bringing hope is not just saying words of comfort; bringing hope is also taking on the burden of people’s hearts, fears, doubts, and suffering. So many people write to us who contact us, including many sick people. So giving hope is crossing the night with people, glimpsing the lights of dawn. These lights of dawn are the certain, firm faith that history is in the hands of the Lord, that history is not in the hands of the powerful in the great story of the world, but in the story of each person, that everything walks towards Him, in whom we first believe. Believing this, we can truly face the problems and difficulties that our lives go through with serenity.

Even when we suffer, suffering affects us all. We suffer with the Lord, and we know that we are not alone and can ask the Lord for the gift of hope because the Lord loves us and loves us completely. That is why we can join in people’s suffering with them: in sickness, in the problem of work, in the division of the family, in the suffering of having to leave the earth. I can join people in suffering because I know and believe that the authoritative word of hope can penetrate their night, making them see the light of dawn.

The Minister General wrote: “Clare shows the sisters the path of love and mutual care as the sure way to cherish the gift of vocation and choice”. How do you live this concretely?

The particularity of our life, which is given precisely by the enclosure, is a close sharing of everything: time, space, daily life, work, prayer at feast time, and recreation. Enclosure puts the heart in a corner. It opens it up to the possibility of change. In fraternal life, there are various ways of practising this. For example, closing oneself off from relationships or thinking that it is always others who must change. The opportunity that a cloistered fraternity life such as ours offers is precisely that of learning to love, learning to love in the concrete, caring for the sisters, sharing one’s time, sharing one’s labours, even during the meetings where we tell each other about ourselves. This changes the heart. Fraternal life strips away, it lays bare what dwells within our hearts, but it truly allows us to change it by grace.

What message would you leave to the youth of today?

I would like to tell them not to be afraid to give everything, not to be fearful of the radicality of a life, of a choice, which is first and foremost a response to love. Any form of life, not just our own, needs radicality, needs someone to throw themselves into it to the full. Clare and Francis did this: they showed us the beauty of a humanity accomplished and fulfilled to the end because they gave everything and even more, they received everything.