august 17. Clare of montefalco, whose heart has a crucifix in it
1268 to 1308
Clare’s sister Giovanna set out to live a life of prayer and sacrifice in a tiny hermitage built by their father. Once the ecclesiastical authorities approved, Giovanna was permitted to accept candidates, and the first one was her six-year-old sister Clare. From her earliest years, Clare had a burning love inside her for the Lord in His Passion. As a child she kept strict silence, took only bread and water, and slept on the ground. She often disciplined herself to blood.
Once, when Clare broke the hermitage's rule of silence, she imposed on herself a penance of standing in a bucket of ice cold water with her arms outstretched high above her head, praying the Lord’s Prayer 100 times. Around 23 years of age, Clare entered the realm of mystical experience, which permitted her to predict the future, read nuns’ thoughts, and perform miracles.
STABBED IN THE HEART IN A VISION
During the celebration of the Epiphany, after making a confession, Clare fell into ecstasy and remained in that state for several weeks. The other nuns kept Clare alive by feeding her sugar water. During this time, Clare had a vision of Christ as a pilgrim or poor traveller who was searching for a place to plant his cross. Clare reached for his cross, making known her desire to help him carry it. He said, “Clare, I have found a place for My cross here. You must receive it and help it take root.” and he then implanted it in her heart. There followed an acute pain that wracked her body and remained with her until she died.
One chronicler describes her pain as such: “In her brows she felt agonies of torture as vivid as though the thorns were piercing through to the brain. The taste of vinegar and gall was in her mouth; her hands and feet quivered as though the nails were tearing through flesh and sinews; her body was tortured as though men had scourged it till they were weary of scourging.”
In the days leading up to her death, Clare remarked that she didn’t fear death because she carried the Crucified Christ in her heart.
RELIQUARY HEART MIRACLES
The night of Clare’s funeral, the nuns opened her heart preparing it to place in a reliquary. To their amazement, cradled in the softness of the Grand organ was the perfect form of Christ Crucified, with all the tiny details present, from the Crown of Thorns to the wound in His Precious Side. The crucifix in Clare’s fibrous tissue is about the size of a thumb. The corpus is white and clearly formed as if sculpted, except for the tiny wound of the lance, which is bright red. A white tissue covers the corpus’ loins. Another symbol of His crucifixion, a scourge, was also found there.
Also unearthed in her corpse: three hazelnut-sized pellets in her gallbladder: a symbol of the Holy Trinity.