I think there is a curious interest embedded deep inside us all into the life of a contemplative.

And that’s why this mornings Feastday of St. Clare ticks so many boxes, we get to meet the Poor Clares individually, we get to celebrate with them their feastday – firstly here around the altar with Mass and later in the Convent or in the grounds around the enclosure over a cup of tea.

We all love the cup of tea … Barry’s, Lyons, Tetleys, it doesn’t matter … it’s the warmth of the hospitality and all it signifies.

Remember the film a few years ago ‘Of Gods and Men’ telling the very moving story of the seven Cistercian monks who were taken hostage from their monastery in an Algerian mountain village and killed.

The gruesome detail of their deaths is not material for this time of the morning, safe to say their martyrdom will earn them their place around the eternal altar in heaven.

The lovely thing about their lives in that French subtitled movie is that these monks did just ordinary things … praying, eating, working, healing, meeting, sowing seeds, making honey, gathering firewood, counselling the young, even doing the wash up … until their lives were shattered by a civil war.

And that’s what happens inside contemplative walls – ordinary life continues to breathe and go on.

There was a great moment when a villager approaches the enclosure and pleads with the monks not to leave them, not to abandon them despite the prevailing threat of war:

“we are birds, you are our branches: if you leave us, where would we perch ourselves?”

What a beautiful image, John’s gospel this morning about the vine and the branches immediately comes to mind.

I know the special place the Poor Clares have in the story of Graiguecullen, in the story of Carlow, and indeed in the story of the Diocese and far beyond.

Just like the Monks of Tibhirine, each one there had a name … there was Br. Luc, Br. Christian, Br. Christophe, Br. Amédée and Br. Paul … who were the gods and who were the men?

Well some weeks ago I met a woman on Tullow Street who told me with the greatest of sincerity: “I love the Poor Clares, Bishop, but I don’t know one from the other, they all kind of look the same!

Well there is Mother Rosario, Sr. Francis, Sr. Dominic, Sr. Mary, Sr. Paschal, Sr. Canice, Sr. Anthony, Sr. Therese, Sr. Anna Maria, Sr. Veronica and Sr. Analiza.

Now you all know the Poor Clare’s!

But you know them for something much deeper, their intercession on your behalf when you needed it most.

Leaving everything and following Jesus … it was a radical call two thousand years ago and its radical nature hasn’t in any sense diminished since.

Pope Francis took his name after St. Francis of Assisi, remember the message whispered in his ears during the conclave as the votes were amassing in his direction: ‘don’t forget the poor’.

Well Clare was the spiritual sister or companion of St. Francis and she was born 821 years ago – the Poor Clare’s came to these parts 700 years later, 122 years ago!

Figures are fascinating … think of all the intentions that have been prayed for in these walls over those years – 115 of the 122 years have been right here, the first seven at the edge of Wellington Bridge, better known as Graigue Bridge to all of you, marked by that Old Carlow Society plaque we pass by and barely notice when we are in congested traffic.

Think of all the intercessions prayed for, all the letters written, all the candles lit, all the holy hours prayed.

Leaving everything and following Jesus … just for a moment think of three things you couldn’t do without.

Might they be your mobile or smartphone?

Perhaps I might add the soaps on television … Fair City and its anything but fair, having watched an episode last week!

Could we include the car? … the holiday? … the little treats we pamper ourselves with?

Clare embraced Mother Poverty.

There is no doubting the fact that Pope Francis has indeed raised the share price on Francis of Assisi and Clare!

There was a time people went into a spin when a particular saint seemed to be dropped from the official calendar of saints … like Philomena, like Christopher and yet we never sit behind the wheel before invoking his name.

There is no fear of Francis of Assisi or Clare being dropped from Division 1 for the foreseeable future, certainly under this Pope!

They were both born into tremendous wealth.

Their family needed for nothing, as they say in certain parts of the country!

Clare like Francis embraced the three virtues of poverty, chastity and obedience.

On the eve of the day when Leaving Cert results will be announced, you couldn’t blame her family for being slow to understand this CAO option for the average eighteen year old then or now!

And worse still, she the eldest and a younger sister Agnes would soon follow her!

Leaving everything and following Jesus.

The Poor Clare’s do it in imitation of St. Clare – we’re invited to do it every time we look on Him in adoration or receive Him in communion.

In our brokenness He makes us complete; in our tiredness He offers us rest and in our emptiness He gives us food that outlives all hunger.

A few days back I called into another Cistercian Monastery a few miles from my home in County Meath – the Monks in Collon, the monks of New Mellifont.

The same commitment is there that allowed the Tibhirine monks to wait behind with their afflicted people, the same commitment that allows the Poor Clare presence to continue in these parts and the same commitment we are invited to make every day we respond like St. Clare did to the Lord’s invitation to follow Him.

I return to the words of the villager as he pleaded with the Tibhirine to stay put:

“we are birds, you are our branches: if you leave us, where would we perch ourselves?”

And that’s our prayer to you, the Poor Clare’s this Feast day morning!