Memorial of St. Clare of Assisi, virgin
(Ezekiel 2:8-3:4; Matthew 18:1-5.10.12-14)
Jesus’ teaching in today’s gospel was institutionalized by St. Clare of Assisi. Asked who is the greatest in God’s kingdom, Jesus answers, in effect, the least of all. He means that those who serve humbly most conform to God’s blessed. Those who use their positions to take advantage of others, on the other hand, have lost their way. Jesus gives as a model a child who seen and not heard is also subservient to her parents. He is exhorting his disciples to work as earnestly as this little one for their heavenly father.
With the help of St. Francis, Clare started a monastery to pray for Franciscan friars. She intended that the monastery break from the custom of the day. It embraced women from all societal levels, allowed every member to participate in its governance, altered the tradition of monastic enclosure, and described the role of abbess as that of sister and servant. Like St. Francis and like Jesus, she did not intend that her followers dominate one another.
It is sometimes said that in the Catholic Church, the laity are only to “pray, pay, and obey.” To the extent that this is true, it is anti-evangelical. Of course, everyone is to pray and to obey the will of God. Likewise, we all should pay -- whether with money, time, or services. But we are also to support one another in the discipleship of Jesus. This applies to laity helping clerics as well as other laity. We encourage one another to live the gospel as Clare and Francis exhorted their followers.