Here’s a Franciscan ‘Chiara’ by Sister Mariella Erdmann, OSF and ‘St. Clare of Assisi’ by Stephen B. Whatley

by Sister Julie Ann on August 1, 2009

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This August the Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity are pleased to highlight an image mariella-06.JPGof St. Clare of Assisi, devoted follower of St. Francis,  that is the artwork of one of our own Sisters, Sister Mariella Erdmann, OSF.

Sister Mariella comments on how ‘Chiara’ came to be:

I was honored to be asked to design an image of St. Clare for Chiara Convent, the new home for the Sisters working at Silver Lake College. Chiara is the Italian name for Clare. Since we are Franciscan Sisters we wished to name our new home after St. Clare of Assisi, the great Franciscan Saint. The name Clare means light and I have designed Chiara holding a candle – light, and also holding the bible. As I reflected on the life of St. Clare and prayed for guidance to create this piece, I came up with the image of Clare showing her  simplicity, inner strength, peace, and deep prayer. It is through her eyes that these qualities are most reflected. Clare was dedicated to gospel living in the following of Jesus the Christ. He was her center and it was from Him that she radiated the qualities I listed. She truly became a light to the world of her day as each of us need to become lights to our world as we follow Christ. Clare summed up her spirituality in these four words –Gaze, Consider, Contemplate, Imitate. This was her life in imitation of the Crucified Christ.

formsrootedinnature.jpgThe image of Clare is sandblasted into limestone panels. The recessed areas were then blackened which makes the image stand out from quite a distance. The panels were set into the stone masonry work on the façade of the building. This in itself was a feat as there were four panels that had to be carefully set in and then finished off with the curved arch at the top. The rough stone masonry that surrounds Clare is fitting in its setting in a wooded area. Thus use of natural materials is keeping with the Franciscan spirit. Clare is a most welcoming image as a person enters Chiara Convent. I pray that her image does not only welcome us in but permeates our being in the following of Christ as Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity. St Clare and St. Francis have done their part now we must do our part in the furthering of the Kingdom of God in our world. 

August 11 – Stephen B. Whatley 

On the actual feast of St. Clare of Assisi we also add a portrait done by friend of the Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity, Stephen B. Whatley.

Stephen comments:

saint-clare-of-assisi-2008-stephen-b-whatley.jpgSt Clare, described as a great beauty, was born in 1194 in Assisi, Italy to a family of great wealth and from her earliest years had a great yearning for a more spiritual life. She was greatly inspired in her teens by hearing St Francis of Assisi preach; and with all her heart desired to imitate Francis and to live a poor humble life for Jesus. Along with her younger sister Agnes, she co-founded a community of nuns, still known throughout the world as Poor Clares. In 1234, through the depth of her prayers, God saved Clare and her Sisters when the army of Frederick II launched an attack on Assisi; planning to raid the convent first. Clare was very sick, but she pulled herself up from her bed and proceeded to face the invaders at an open window – placing the Blessed Sacrament in clear view of them. In artistic depictions St Clare is often shown holding the monstrance (as in Stephen’s tribute )or the ciborium; as she prays for help and protection. She begged God to save the Sisters: “O Lord, protect these Sisters whom I cannot protect now”. At this moment the attackers were struck with sudden fear and fled.Her prayers would defeat future dangers in her lifetime; before St Clare passed away in 1253.Clare was canonised in 1255. St Clare is Patron Saint of among other things, ‘sore eyes’; and as recently as 1958, Pope Pius XII chose St Clare of Assisi to be Patron Saint of Television.Recognising the importance of this then relatively new communications medium, he qualified his dedication by recalling a time in St Clare’s life when she was too ill on Christmas Eve to attend Midnight Mass. She sighed, “See Lord, I am left alone with You” as the Sisters left for Mass. At that moment God granted Clare a vision in which she saw and heard the Mass as if she had been present in the convent chapel…



Any comments?

22 thoughts on “Here’s a Franciscan ‘Chiara’ by Sister Mariella Erdmann, OSF and ‘St. Clare of Assisi’ by Stephen B. Whatley”

  1. When we ask a child what she/he wants to be when she/he grows up; we normally will not get the answer “myself.” The author, Ilia Delio, in her book Clare of Assisi, writes that Clare’s hope and prayer to Agnes was just that; that she would become herself because in that self God lives, and where God lives, God acts, and where God acts God is made visible to the world.

    It is so appropriate for our Sisters who serve at Silver Lake College as instructors, administrators, staff, mentors, professors… have St. Chiara as the patroness of their convent; they give their lives helping students discover their true selves, making God visible to the world! Like Sister Mariella, using her gift of art, our Sisters make God known sharing the gifts of their unique selves.

    Any thoughts/examples of how God’s love is diffused through others to the world?

  2. I have seen Chiara up close and from Alverno Rd. She does indeed, radiate peace and beauty, reflecting light back to everyone who sees her. Chiara was a true follower of Christ as we are also called to be. May the Lord be with you wherever you are and may you be with Him always. (St. Clare’s blessing)

  3. And may the Lord be with you in all your computer ministry with us Sister Mary Frances! Peace and all good!

  4. My Poor Clare friends in Belleville, IL, recently sent me a reminder of each facet of thier novena leading up to the feast of St. Clare on August 11. What a great time to post all this information as we move toward the feast. I sent them this image so they could enjoy Sr. Mariella’s gifts as they pray in their enclosure.

  5. I like this image, but seeing Chiara up close was a must for me to personally appreciate its beauty. Sister Mariella’s ‘Clare’ is bigger than life. And isn’t that fitting for this first feminine follower of Francis who continues to leave a profound impression in our time?

  6. I loved gazing at St. Clare on Chiara Convent when I was there this summer. It brought back many prayeful memories of my trip to Assisi and the Basilica of St. Clare. Sr. Mariella’s work is truly a work of art and of meditation. It is little Assisi right there in our woods. Thank you, Sr. Mariella, for sharing your gift of art with all of us.

  7. Sister Sharon Paul says:

    Sr. Mariella, Thank you for sharing your God-given talents in creating St. Clare, a fitting image of our Franciscan way of life.
    Thank you too for sharing your inspiration of how it came to be. Also I was very interested in HOW it was created. It will withstand the test of TIME and BE a witness to all WHO enter. God’s special blessings always! Gratefully, Sister Sharon Paul

  8. Kudos, Sister Mariella. I am so happy that you incorporated the candle into the image of our holy Mother St. Clare. It is my understanding that, as Abbess, Clare initiated the community custom of choosing a symbol to mark the personal clothing and choir books of each Sister. Santa Chiara’s symbol was the candle–the perfect summary of the meaning of her name. I just love to imagine her embroidering a small candle onto her personal things, probably using the custom as a reminder to “live into” her symbol, as it were.

  9. Sister Marlita Henseler says:

    When I saw the image of St. Clare for the first time on the new College Convent, I was struck especially by how beautifully it fit into the stone decore of the building, and drew my attention to itself, standing out as if to say: “HERE IS THE LIGHT! FOLLOW IT!” I think it is a lovely image for all of us as Franciscans, reminding us to be that light of Jesus to all whom we serve.

  10. Sister Mary Ann Nugent says:

    Those of us privileged to be the first residents of Chiara Convent are pleased to have the image of Santa Chiara showcased on the FSCC blog this month. Watching the image emerge from an artistic sketch by Sister Mariella to its present form in stone was a thrill for all of us. May it serve as a light of welcome to others seeking to follow in the footsteps of Francis and Clare!

    Sister Mary Ann Nugent

  11. Sster Mary Bodwim says:

    THe image of Clare is beautiful. Every time I walk past Chiara Convent I have to stop and admire it. Thank you Sister Mariella for sharing your time and talent with us.
    Sister Mary Bodwin

  12. srwinifred says:

    Enjoyed the song & the explanation of the making of St. Chiara’s stonework. I thought once the trees were all out we wouldn’t be able to see her,but the break in the trees allows us to see her from the college road.
    Also enjoyed the “cherry trip” with cheery smiles,the Talent show (which I missed) and the Holy Father’s trip by Sr. Elizabeth
    Thank you for all your efforts.

  13. Sister Jan Villemure says:

    This image of Clare has traveled with me to Yuma, AZ. Now it is a memory as I begin my teaching high school for the new school year out here in Arizona. I was blessed to live at Chiara Convent for the summer. I saw Clare daily, on the building, in the lives of the Sisters who live there and in our daily prayer times together. Our Franciscan way of living is rooted in the lives of Francis and Clare. I am sure they are smiling down on the new home.

  14. Sister Pat Sevcik says:

    Thank you, Sister Mariella, for the beautiful design that you created for our new convent. Chiara is beautiful! She captures the attention of those who gaze on her and brings one into her glowing, inviting embrace. She will always be a reminder of the call to each of us to bring light to the world around us by the way we live our lives as Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity. She will inspire all who see her image and all those who pray to God through her intercession. God bless you!

  15. Happy Feast of St. Clare to all! I was able to be at the festive Eucharistic celebration this morning at our Motherhouse. The music was uplifting, the petitions in tune with Clare’s devotion to poverty and the homilist mentioned her deep devotion to the Eucharist and her bravery in the face of an army attempting to overtake San Damiano. I pray that this great and holy woman will be a continued inspiration to me and others.

  16. The colors of Clare in this lovely image by Stephen B. Whatley are so true to who St. Clare was and continues to be for us!

    St. Clare, Franciscan Woman of Light, pray for us as we too desire to mirror Jesus’s love to the world!

  17. Thanks, Stephen, for your visual reflection of St. Clare of Assisi.

    Received this Australian link from another friend who mirrors many ‘Clarian’ qualities and who found this meditation from the Capuchins en’light’ening:

    St. Clare’s letters will ever be a source of inspiration and direction for women desiring to live the Gospel life.

  18. Sister Rosangela says:

    I remember seeing the image of Clare on Chiara convent for the first time. We were waiting for it to appear and then to be uncovered. What a thrill to see the size and beauty of her image. We are most grateful to Sister Mariella. I pray that St. Clare will bless all of us who live at Chiara and all those who visit us.

  19. Sister Sue Ann Hall says:

    St. Clare’s image on Chiara Convent right away sends me a message of light to the Gospel. Clare’s name means light and she faithfully followed the Gospel. Our life as Franciscan Sisters is to radiate that same light of the Gospel to the people our lives touch each day. That we/I respond to the moment.

    The brilliant colors of Stephen’s painting of St. Clare tells me of St. Clare’s all encompassing, whole-heartedness, total surrender to her God. There is never a doubt in Clare’s mind to whom she belongs, whom serves and whom she loves. This flare of beauty is totality.

  20. This is a really a nicely put together project of St. Clare. I will be sure to check her out when entering the building where she is on display.

  21. Sister Mariella Erdmann says:

    Thank you for sharing your image of St. Clare, Stephan. It is so great to see different artists interpretation of the same theme in various media. Your image of Clare is is filled with light and has an ethereal quality about it. Clare means light and you have captured the spirit of light and other worldliness in your work. Congratulations.
    May God continue to bless you in your artistic endeavors.

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