BY SCO Admin | August 3 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS     print icon print


All welcome at the Poor Clares’ 800th celebrations

— IAN DUNN looks forward to events in Bothwell to mark the founding of the order, finishing with Mass, concelebrated by Cardinal O’Brien, on St Clare’s feast day

An 800th anniversary is not an everyday celebration yet next weekend Catholics from across Scotland are encouraged to attend just such an event.

The Poor Clare nuns in Bothwell, like others in their order around the world are, are marking 800 years since the establishment of their order with celebrations this year.

Cardinal Keith O’Brien will be celebrating Mass on the Saturday August 11, the feast day of the foundress of the order St Clare, at the Poor Clare Monastery in Bothwell but before that in the coming week there will be a series of events for the nuns, the parishioners of St Bride’s parish (to which they are attached) and all who are interested.


Exciting, challenging time

Sr Angela, the abbess in Bothwell, told the SCO it was a very ‘exciting’ time for the nuns of their community.

“We feel very privileged to have been called to this Poor Clare vocation,” she said. “Though we’re also a little sad because there don’t seem to be many young women in this country interesting in becoming Poor Clare nuns anymore.”

Founded by Ss Clare and Francis in Assisi, the Poor Clares now have 20,000 nuns in communities all round the world. They live in closed communities, with limited contact to the outside world, and their lives centre on prayer in praise of God, and on intercession for the needs of others

Sr Angela explained that prayer is at the heart of daily life for the nuns.

“We get up early in the morning at about 5.30am and have prayers until 7am then breakfast and then at 9am more prayers until 10.30am and then Mass,” she said.

The focal point of all that prayer is the Eucharist and communal recitation of the Divine Office, the Prayer of the Church. Seven times a day the community gathers for the Office.

“We also have Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament taken in turns by different sisters,” Sr Angela added. “At one stage we had matins every midnight but we are not able to do that anymore as the sisters are ageing although we do still do it for feast days. I think it is important because the night is a time when people need prayer I think,

a time when they face suffering and temptation.”


St Clare

This focus on prayer can be traced back to the Franciscan order’s founder St Clare was who was famous to her devotion to prayer. In her rules for the order, established in Assisi in 2012, she stressed the importance of prayer, saying ‘they ought to desire above all to possess the Spirit of the Lord and His Holy working’ and ‘praise God when they saw beautiful trees, flowers and bushes; and likewise, always to praise Him for and in all things when they saw all peoples and creatures.’

During St Clare’s lifetime she was famous for her willingness to pray for all who needed it from the mother with her toddler who had a pebble stuck in his nose to the city of Assisi being threatened with an army; from St Francis to the Pope, she would pray for all of them.

That legacy of prayer has never left the order throughout its history which, in 1952 brought it to Scotland.

“Initially the monastery was in Blantyre but in 1978 Bishop Thompson (of Motherwell) decided it was best that we move to next to St Bride’s parish because he could foresee a time when he would not be able to spare a priest to celebrate Mass just for us,” Sr Angela said. “It has worked very well, we go to Mass every day, people from the parish come to see us and we generally involved in parish life.”

Another significant event in the history of the nuns in Scotland came in 2005 when they were joined by five nuns from the Poor Clare monastery in Neath, Wales, when it no longer had enough sisters to support itself.

“That was a very big event,” Sr Angela said. “All of our monasteries are autonomous and we were founded from Cork and Neath was founded from Dublin. Every monastery has its own way of doing things so it took a while for the communities to come together but we are very happy now, we are all Poor Clare sisters.”


Abbess’s story

Sr Angela’s own history as a nun tells a vivid story of the pull of St Clare.

“I remember when I was about 11 at Christ the King parish, in Kings Park, Glasgow,” she said. “The priest told me about closed orders and that sowed a seed. I felt I wanted to do something for God because God had done many things for me.

“Later the priest told me all about closed orders because a friend of his had entered an enclosed orders. ‘She was a little chatterbox just like you,’ he said. And later he went to see her and asked ‘how do you manage with the silence’ and she said ‘it’s amazing what you can do with your eyes.’ It was just something that stayed with me.”

She went on to consider a life in the missions but decided she could do more good embracing a life of prayer.

“I thought about the missions and my aunt, who was not a Catholic, questioned me, saying ‘there’s lots of problems here why go abroad’ and I started to think about that,” she said. “I realised that through prayer you can help everybody, that you’re unlimited in who you can help. That means a lot to me.”

Later, though still a teenager she saw a leaflet about the Poor Clares at the back and soon after she got a bus to Blantyre. “I just felt God was calling me,” she said.

The process of becoming a poor Clare nun involves becoming a postulant for a year, three years in the noviate, and two years in semple vows.

“It wasn’t easy because I was so young and I missed my friends and my family who I could only see three times a year,” Sr Angela recalled. “But I’m very happy I stayed.”



Sadly, the 11 nuns now at Bothwell are considerably older than Sr Angela was when she joined but they hold out hope others may join them.

“There are no young nuns now really but we would love to have some so we can keep this tradition of St Clare alive in Scotland as it continues elsewhere, like Spain and the Philippines,” Sr Angela said.

Perhaps next weekend’s series of celebrations will attract some young Catholic women to this inspiring and traditional way of life. Asked to summarise its essence, Sr Angela did so succinctly.

“It is about prayer and joy,” she said. “About living a life of prayer with great joy and great love.”


Anniversary events at the Poor Clare Monastery, Bothwell


— Wednesday, Thursday and Friday August 8, 9, and 10  at 9.30am:  Holy Mass with a homily by Fr Kieran, OFM.*

— Wednesday August 8 at 7pm: Benediction with a talk on St Clare by Fr Kieran, OFM.*

— Thursday August 9 at 7pm: Benediction with a talk on St Francis by Fr Kieran, OFM.*

— Friday August 10 at 7pm: Transitus of St Clare with a talk on Clare of Assisi and Longing by Fr Kieran, OFM (The Transitus is the commemoration of the passing of St Clare to Eternal Life).*

*Fr Kieran will be available for the Sacrament of Reconciliation after Morning Mass and the Evening Service on the above dates.

— Saturday August 11 at 12 noon: Concelebrated Mass, Cardinal Keith Patrick O’Brien. All priests are welcome to concelebrate.


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