The feast of St. Clare was interesting here in Rome. On Friday afternoon I came home from school very tired, both from the week itself and also from having just taken the test to pass over, Deo volente, to the next level Italian class. I was looking forward to a quiet afternoon, and maybe a chance to do some laundry. Instead, one of the friars appeared to tell me that we had been invited to a solemn vespers next door at the monastery of the Capuchin Poor Clares. Within their walls, of course, the feast of St. Clare is a solemnity, complete with first vespers.
It was good to pray and sing in the worship of God and the veneration of our holy mother Clare. However, the surprises continued when, at the end of the prayer, the abbess announced that there would then be ice cream. And so I was led into the cloister where we all sat down in the courtyard. Everyone was given an ice cream cone. It was a curious thing, suddenly meeting, in the most ordinary fashion, these women with whom I had been praying the Mass each day for a month. One of them turned out to be an American.
The feast of St. Clare was also the occasion of my learning a curious little bit of Franciscan trivia that I had never known in all of my eighteen years of varying relationship to the movement. It started when I read the martyrology yesterday. This is why I enjoy reading and praying through the martyrology; you learn stuff.
The first entry for yesterday was, of course, our holy mother Clare: Memoriae sanctae Clarae, virginis, quae, prima planta Pauperum Dominarum Ordinis Minorum...I love how it includes the autobiographical 'little plant.' (For those with the 2004 LEV edition, note the unfortunate typo.)
But then, reading on, I came across another familiar personage: Asisii in Umbria, sancti Rufini, qui primus huius civitatis episcopus et martyr habetur. 'At Assisi in Umbria, San Rufino, held to be a martyr and first bishop of the city.'
Rufino is, of course, the patron saint of Assisi. If you arrive in Assisi by means of the local bus from Santa Maria degli Angeli, and are smart enough to take the bus all the way to Piazza Mateotti so you don't have to walk anywhere uphill, San Rufino, the cathedral, is probably the first church you will see.
Reading all this I began to wonder. How does this work liturgically, since the feast of St. Clare and the feast of San Rufino seem to be on the same day? So at supper last night I asked the friars. They then explained to me this fun little Franciscan fact that I had never known: the feast of St. Clare of Assisi is celebrated on August 11 everywhere in the world except in Assisi itself, where it is impeded by the titular observance of San Rufino. In Assisi, the feast of St. Clare is put of until the next day, August 12.
However, in the midst of all this liturgical trivia, let us not miss the truly edifying example of St. Clare in her very devout act of passing from this life on the feast day of the patron saint of her hometown.
Pray for us.