These words can roll off the tongue with relative ease when we are speaking of the darkness “over there.” Someone needs to take a look at that person, group or institution over there and cast a light on what exactly is going on.
It is another story altogether, when we speak of shining a light on ourselves. The thought of it makes us squirm at least a little if we are honest with ourselves. If I am honest with myself. After all, I don’t know what all might be revealed. I can’t be certain of what might be lurking in that place of inner darkness.
It helps, in the midst of our squirming, to remember whose light we are talking about. The light of the “Most high, glorious God.” The light of Love.
St. Clare of Assisi chose to take on the poverty of Christ for herself and her order. The Rule of Life she wrote was much more austere than that of her beloved Francis – so much so that she had to petition Pope Gregory IX for permission to practice this “highest poverty.” This practice has been described as ‘sacramental,’ because it was an “outward expression of a much deeper reality,” a state of poverty that reveals, in the words of Clare, that one’s only true possessions are one’s sins and vices.
In that light, we are able to release to God all that we have and to open ourselves to the Holy Spirit. Perhaps Clare understood something that our friends in 12-Step programs understand: once we have allowed our acts and our secret thoughts to be exposed to another, we often have an easier time handing it all over to the One who loves us completely, who stands ready to transform us.
Every day we are invited to let the light shine on the egocentric trappings of this life – on those parts of ourselves that are tucked comfortably in the shadows. We are invited to encounter our true selves in a deeper way – in the light and love of Christ.
St. Francis offers us this simple prayer:
enlighten the darkness of my heart
and give me, Lord,
a correct faith,
a certain hope,
a perfect charity,
sense and knowledge,
so that I may carry out Your holy and true command.
 Prayer and biographical information on Clare from Francis and Clare: the Complete Works, translation and introduction by Regis J. Armstrong, OFM, CAP, and Ignatius C. Brady, OFM.
(photo taken in crypt at Holy Cross Monastery)