Trust in Jesus, Trust in Prayer

Detail depicting Saint Clare from a fresco (1312–20) by Simone Martini

Detail depicting Saint Clare from a fresco (1312–20) by Simone Martini

Communities around the world have been touched by violence over the past spring and summer. Here in our own country, one repercussion of this experience is a lack of confidence. Many people wonder if they can rely on their neighbors, our elected leaders, or those whose job it is to protect us and our communities. Some lack the conviction that peace and security can be established or sustained.

This is not something new to our time, in fact, Saint Clare, the 13th century holy woman whose feast we celebrate today, had to confront the reality of an army that was set on plundering the religious places of Assisi, but she knew there was someone we could rely on. In the face of this danger, Clare chose to place her trust in Jesus and to seek his protection.

Years before, with the assistance of Saint Francis, Clare had founded a contemplative religious order that came to be known as the Poor Clares. They lived according to a rule of strict poverty and prayer – yet that was enough.

As the plundering army drew near to her monastery, Clare went out with the ciborium containing the Eucharist, placed it where it could be seen by the soldiers, and prayed, “Does it please Thee, O God, to deliver into the hands of these beasts the defenseless children whom I have nourished with Thy love? I beseech Thee, good Lord, protect these whom now I am not able to protect.” She then heard a voice saying, “I will have them always in my care.”

Clare continued to pray and then said to her nuns, “Have no fear, little daughters; trust in Jesus.” Consequently, the forces that were about to enter the monastery fell back and left.

This story of Saint Clare demonstrates in a dramatic way the power of prayer that flows from being close to the Blessed Sacrament. From the first generation, in fact, the devotional life of Catholics has been intensely Eucharistic.

When Jesus established the Blessed Sacrament, he gave a command: “This is my body, which will be given for you; do this in memory of me” (Luke 22:19). The Acts of the Apostles then reports that the people of the early Church “held steadfastly to the Apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to the prayers (2:42). What is more, Jesus made it clear that the Eucharist is not something optional in Christian life. “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you” (John 6:53).

The Second Vatican Council describes the Eucharist as being the source and summit of the Christian life (Lumen Gentium, 11; CCC 1324). It is Jesus – and so it is the source of our life and love. Further, the Eucharist is not just the focus on our liturgical worship. We also need to keep the Eucharist at the center of our prayer life because that is how Jesus himself designed our prayer life.

As Catholics, we will always feel a kind of gravitational tug toward Jesus’ Real Presence. If you do not have a practice of visiting our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament and you yearn to feel closer to him, to draw strength from him, the doors of our parish churches are open for you to come be near him and pray. Many of our parishes have a number of hours every week for Eucharistic Adoration, but we can also benefit from Jesus’ nearness in the Eucharist reserved in the tabernacle. When we come before him in this way, we are making an act of faith. We are acknowledging the effort he has made to remain with us.

Prayer in communion with Saint Clare and all the saints, and entrusting our communities and cities to the Lord, is a practical way to respond to the uncertainty we may feel in the midst of social turmoil. Visiting with the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament is trusting Jesus when he said, “I am with you always.”