Religious Studies

A Franciscan Open Letter: Adoration

How Saint Clare’s approach to prayer can guide and inspire us during Adoration 

If you haven’t done Eucharistic adoration, you should.  It seems self-evident that you can’t love those who you don’t know, and loving someone makes us desire to know them more.  Nothing is more quintessentially Clare than the aspirational vision to be in a loving relationship with Jesus, and following in his footsteps.  How though, do we practice Eucharistic adoration?  What do we do at adoration?  Clare’s prayer formula can provide an inspirational roadmap: Gaze, Consider, Contemplate, Imitate.[1]

Gaze

Begin adoration by looking at God.  In Genesis, “in the beginning,”[2] after God created light, God saw that the light was good.  Subsequently when “God created humankind”[3] God saw it was very good.  God began his relationship with us by gazing and observing.  It is only appropriate we reciprocate by “gazing upon that mirror each day.”[4]

Consider

Consider your relationship to God.  What happens when you sit before him?  The Catechism of the Catholic Church (2628) states, “adoration is the first attitude of man acknowledging that is a creature before his Creator.”[5]  Clare takes this idea further by pointing out “the soul of a faithful person, the most worthy of all creatures, because of the grace of God, is greater than heaven itself, since the heavens and the rest of creation cannot contain their Creator; only  a faithful soul is His dwelling place and throne, and this only through the charity that the wicked lack.”[6] 

Contemplate

Contemplate the relationship of charity, poverty, and grace, all of which are central to Clare’s philosophy.  Clare states clearly, “Finally contemplate, in the depth of this same mirror, the ineffable charity that He chose to suffer on the tree of the Cross and to die there in the most shameful kind of death.”[7]  Although modernity has come to interpret Charity with donating unwanted goods, the example of Charity for Clare was God’s ineffable love for humanity which caused him to voluntarily sacrifice himself for our salvation.

Imitate

Imitatio Christi – Imitate Christ.  In Clare’s first letter to Agnes of Prague, Clare beautifully presents poverty as one way we can imitate Christ.  “O blessed poverty, who bestows eternal riches,” “O holy poverty, God promises the kingdom of heaven,” “O God-centered poverty whom the Lord Jesus Christ Who ruled and still rules heaven and earth, Who spoke and things were made, came down to embrace before all else!”[8]  Clare continues this comparison in her second letter, “If you suffer with Him, you will reign with Him.”[9]

To new Catholics, and even to those veterans who are unfamiliar with the practice, Eucharistic adoration, at first glance, may seem complicated, confusing, or even dull; however, nothing could be further from the truth.  “The Liturgy of the Hours, which is like an extension of the Eucharistic celebration, does not exclude but rather, in a complementary way, calls forth the various devotions of the People of God, especially adoration and worship of the Blessed Sacrament.”[10]  Clare’s prayer formula can serve as inspiration to diverge from corporate ecclesial devotion to personal relationship building with our God.  Clare argues that only through the imitation of Christ to we receive the necessary grace and charity required to “reign with Him.”  Imitation, though, requires that we first gaze upon God, consider our relationship with him, and contemplate “in the depth of this same mirror” as well as “throughout the entire mirror […] suspended on the wood of the Cross.”[11] So the next time you wonder what to do during adoration, take a seat in front of God and begin by opening your eyes. 


[1] Clare and Regis J. Armstrong, The Lady: Clare of Assisi: Early Documents Hyde Park, NY: New City Press, 2006, 49.

[2] The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version Nashville, TN: Catholic Bible Press, 2020, 1.

[3] Ibid., 2.

[4] Clare and Regis J. Armstrong, The Lady: Clare of Assisi: Early Documents Hyde Park, NY: New City Press, 2006, 55.

[5] Catechism of the Catholic Church: With Modifications from the Editio Typica New York: Doubleday, 2003, 693.

[6] Clare and Regis J. Armstrong, The Lady: Clare of Assisi: Early Documents Hyde Park, NY: New City Press, 2006, 53.

[7] Ibid., 57.

[8] Ibid., 45.

[9] Ibid., 49.

[10] Catechism of the Catholic Church: With Modifications from the Editio Typica New York: Doubleday, 2003, 334.

[11] Clare and Regis J. Armstrong, The Lady: Clare of Assisi: Early Documents Hyde Park, NY: New City Press, 2006, 56.

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