Who was St. Clare of Assisi?

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It was wonderful to see St. Clare on the front page of The Telegram just before her feast day. Bringing attention to her silent corner presence at St. Clare’s Mercy Hospital gives reason to tell her story.

St.  Clare was born in Italy, in 1194, to a wealthy family. As a little girl she was known to be gentle, prayerful and kind. As a young woman, the words of St. Francis kindled a flame in her heart; she was inspired to live a poor and humble life. She left her rich home and founded the first community of the Order of Poor Clares. St. Clare and her sisters wore no shoes, ate no meat, lived in a poor house, and kept silent most of the time. Their generous spirit was found in caring and praying for the sick. Comfort and love was brought to suffering souls and their loved ones.

St. Clare was sick and suffered great pains for many years, but she was brave and cheerful to the end, dying in 1253. She demonstrated an eloquent determination in her work; a charitable encouragement to the poor; and a loving mercy for the sick.

The silent influence of a peaceful statue of St. Clare in a hospital corner appears to be bringing fear to some who feel threatened by her faithful service to Christ.

There is a battle going on — it’s one of spiritual warfare. After the Catholic symbolism has been removed, then the name of the hospital will be in question, as is some of the saint-honoured schools. We’re living in a city named after St. John the Baptist.

Will demands be made to change the name because it’s not all-inclusive?

Remove the light of the world, and there will be darkness.

Elizabeth A.S. Coleman

St. John’s

Organizations: The Telegram, Mercy Hospital, Order of Poor Clares

Geographic location: Italy

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Recent comments

  • Matthew
    August 16, 2013 - 09:48

    I came here as a foreign student from a country where religious bigotry and politics intertwine. I find it ironic that so called 'progressively-minded' Canadians can still be offended by the sight of any religious iconography in public (taking down crosses at St. Matthew's Elementary, banning turbans on Quebec soccer fields). Christianity has played an important and beneficial part in the history of Newfoundland and Canada through its contribution to healthcare and education. To rename these institutions in the false spirit of inclusitivity is not only an attempt at historical revisionism but shows an utter lack of gratitude.

  • tom power
    August 16, 2013 - 09:27

    @ Observer, I've never heard any Hindu, Muslim, or Chinese Doctors,Surgeons or Specialists complain about Catholic symbols at that hospital. I've met and known many left leaning non Christian Caucasians who feel they can speak for non Christian minorities. I imagine Politically Incorrect above would keep its mouth closed were that hospital named after the Dalai Lama. We are seeing that those who scream inclusion and tolerance are quite intolerant.

  • Loss of Identity
    August 16, 2013 - 09:27

    Canada is a welcoming country and Newfoundlanders are some of the most accommodating people in the world. But at some point you need to ask where do we accommodate the values of others to the detriment of the values and traditions we hold dear. I'm an atheist but I don't mind the hospital being named St.Clare's. We value women here and expect to treat women as equals while other cultures do not. I also find it rediculous when people complain about Christmas pageantry and iconography displayed in public spaces as being non-inclusive of other faiths. To my knowledge, no one here suggests we outlaw symbols of other faiths from public places. This from an atheist.

  • Observer
    August 16, 2013 - 08:00

    At St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto, there is a large statue of St. Michael the Archangel situated prominently in the foyer for all to see as they enter and leave the hospital. It would have been placed there in a similar fashion to the statue of St. Clare by the Sisters who founded St. Mike's which is now under the umbrella on the Govt of Ontario. Toronto is one of the most inclusive cities in the world and it seems to me that no one in the larger community there has made complaints about that statue like the ones we are hearing now is St. John's . If people of all faiths, from every corner of the world can live together in harmony and tolerance like they do in Toronto and respect one another's beliefs, then surely the minority among us in St. John's who seem determined to have things their way can step back and learn that we have to respect the traditions found wherever we live. We will all be the better for it.

  • Politically Incorrect
    August 16, 2013 - 07:00

    No demands are not being made to change the name of the city. I also find it a little arrogant that you declare to represent the "light of the word." This fallacious straw-man argument coupled with the light/dark mentality only further portrays the desperation of a once-powerful lobby forced to come to terms with an evolving and inclusive civil society.

    • Not Likely
      August 16, 2013 - 08:57

      And there it is. I have always found it interesting that the only people complaining about Christian symbols on hospitals and schools are white Westerners who have either never professed what is, after all, the cultural religion of Western society, or have abandoned it. They have a grudge against Christianity and they want to put it in its place. I would lay money that that grudge is based on a mixture of historical fact, stereotypes, misinformation, misunderstanding, and good old adolescent rebelliousness held on to for far too long. I find it more than a little arrogant that people, in the interests of "inclusivity", seek not only to ignore but to fly in the face of the sensibilities of a significant chunk of the population. I'm not Roman Catholic, and the statue of St. Clare is in a fairly hidden part of the hospital. Not exactly some manifesto of the desire of Christianity to oppress the good "progressive" people who have rejected it. I've worked at St. Clare's and seen patients and their families take great comfort in those religious images in very trying times. But, because these people have an axe to grind, other people are to be deprived of a bit of comfort in their hour of need. Yeah, ever so inclusive, ever so "progressive", ever so compassionate and caring that is. Their grudge against Christianity, trendy though it may be, is more important than any comfort suffering people can receive. I have yet to hear a Jewish person, a Muslim, or a Hindu complain about this, if I were to, I'd listen to them and discuss the issue calmly and respectfully. But it's only ever white people dressing their personal grudges in the costume of "inclusivity". I think that members of other faiths know the benefits faith has in their own lives and respect the role it might have in the lives of others. I think that's a lesson some might want to try learning, instead of thundering at us lesser mortals about how much better they are because they hate Christianity.

    • politically incorrect
      August 16, 2013 - 10:51

      Why do you assume I'm white and a westerner? If I identified as an immigrant asserting my right not to be subjected to Christian imagery in schools and hospitals, how many of you would demand I go back to where I came from lest I undermine "the values and traditions we hold dear." If I say nothing I'm presumed to be approving of Christian dominance in civil society. I'm patted on the head for my ability to "integrate." Never mind that I just know to keep my mouth shut in what is essentially a racist society. If I am a white westerner, I have abandoned "the cultural religion of Western society" (sic.) and should therefore be censored as a traitor to ‘my culture.’ I have nothing against Christianity as a religion. Once it assumes itself to be the de facto keystone of civil society from which none may dissent, (as evidenced here), yeah, I’m totally scared of it.

    • St. Bertie
      August 16, 2013 - 11:29

      I went to the City Hall today. No crosses or little statues. I have never been so offended! How can these places function without proclaiming the glory and grace of God, His Son and the Most Holy Virgin Mary??? What kind of City Hall is THAT? No wonder they call it Sin John's. It's Sodom and Gomorrah out there all over again, folks!