If we don't usually think of Poor Clares as exuberant that's because we haven't met these Poor Clares. 140 strong with a median age of 35. And with 100 young women waiting to enter.
At the heart of this stunning transformation of a 400 year old Spanish Poor Clare community which hadn't had a new vocation in 23 years when she entered, is the 43 year old prioress, Sister Veronica.
"According to the newspaper, she “has become the biggest phenomenon in the Church since Teresa of Calcutta,” as “she has made the old convent of Lerma into an attractive recruiting banner for female vocations, with 135 professional women with a median age of 35 and 100 more on a waiting list.” The paper adds that Sr. Vernoica has also “opened a house in the town of La Aguilera, 24 miles from Lerma, at a huge monastery donated by her Franciscan brothers."
"It is an unexpected boom in vocations when the Jesuits have just 20 novices in all of Spain, the Franciscans, five, and the Vincentians, two. And it’s happening at a time when nuns are being imported from India, Kenya or Paraguay to prevent the closure of convents inhabited by elderly nuns, and when most of our priests are above the age of 60," the report indicated.
On weekends the convent welcomes hundreds of pilgrims: families, young members of ecclesial movements and church groups arrive in buses to attend the prayers, theatrical plays and talks on fully living the Christian life."
Notice the incredible, creative, focus on hospitality and evangelization in a community that is enclosed. And the exuberant singing, hand motions, and even dancing. And the constant focus: a direct love relationship with Jesus! They name the Name and talk constantly about personal relationship! A whole convent of in-your-face intentional disciples.
Do they not know that "real" Catholics don't talk about "personal relationship with Jesus"? But of course, they are Spanish and so happily don't possess the American Catholic paranoia about not being Protestant. And they also know that they stand firmly in the tradition of St. Theresa of Avila, whose early Carmelites sang and danced and used castanets to praise God. And very much in the tradition of Sts. Francis and Clare whose love of Jesus was expressed in poetry and embodied in the Christmas creche.
Read the whole CNA story. And then you have got to watch this video featuring Fr. Cantalemessa and the whole Poor Clare community. The memory of it will make you smile all day long.