A frequent question we are asked is, what do you do all day?
Here is a glimpse into a day in the life of a Poor Clare Sister. We begin our day when a “little knock” is heard at our cell door (monastic term for bedroom) at 5.30 a.m.! “God reward you” are the first words we speak as we start our day!
At 6 a.m. we pray the Angelus and we offer our day to God through the Morning Offering Prayer. At this time we commence Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, and there is always a sister in prayer with Jesus while the Blessed Sacrament is exposed. Our entire day is centred around Jesus who is truly present in the Blessed Sacrament. During these early hours our community gathers together for our first Meditation of the day and Morning Prayer which consists of chanting the Divine Office, the official prayer of the Church. The Divine Office is composed of Hymns, Psalms, Scripture readings and intercessions. Six times throughout the day and once at Midnight, we chant the Divine Office together: offering praise, worship, intercession and Thanksgiving to God.
At 7.30 a.m., on weekdays, we are privileged to attend Mass of the day. Saturdays and Sundays Mass is 10.00 a.m.. As one sits in our little public chapel one sees, just to the left hand side of the altar, a glass partition designed with a chalice and a host. Before Mass this is opened which enables us to join in with the people in our chapel for the celebration of Mass. After Mass we spend time in thanksgiving and then we have our breakfast. Each Sister has her duties: cooking, sacristy work, gardening, letter writing, answering the door bell, cleaning and other household chores. Our work is simple so that our minds may be free to be in dialogue with the Lord so that we can keep united with Him. At 9.15 a.m. we do spiritual reading from the Bible or the lives of the Saints. In the words of the Gospel: "As for Mary she treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart." Luke 2:19
At 9.45 a.m. we celebrate Terce, the first of three ‘Little Hours’ from the Divine Office. At 10.30 a.m. we are open to receive the public until 11.30 a.m., to give people the opportunity to call to ask for our prayers. We are closed on Mondays. People ring a bell and after a few moments a sister will come to greet them with the salutation "Praised be Jesus Christ." It is her privilege to listen to requests and give an assurance of prayer for many special intentions. Various intentions are included in our prayers: people sitting exams, people experiencing financial problems, those who have come to live in our country, the sick, the unemployed, young adults discerning which vocation they are being called to—the Priesthood, Religious Life, a vocation to marriage or the single life. These intentions and many more are included in our daily prayers. Our parlour closes at 11.30 a.m.
The Bible, which is the Word of God, is the most important Book; the life of a Saint or a book on prayer would also be beneficial. At 12 Noon we pray the Angelus together followed by our second ‘Little Hour’ which is called Sext, (Divine Office), afterwards we have our Dinner and then we do the wash-up together. At 1.30 p.m. we pray for the dead including in a special way our benefactors, those who die tragically all over the world and all those recommended to our prayers. This is followed by our final ‘Little Hour’ which is called None. From 2—4 p.m. our parlour is again open to callers. We are not open to visitors during Lent, November and December and when we are on retreat.
Each Sister has a period of Eucharistic Adoration daily. We are privileged to have Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament throughout the day and everyone is welcome to share in it, in our public chapel. This is a very special time for each of us, as not only do we give praise and worship to our God but we are also nourished, strengthened and refreshed by Jesus. The Stations of the Cross are part of a traditional Franciscan/Poor Clare form of our prayer life. There is a study time also in the afternoon—this provides anopportunity to deepen the knowledge of our faith, to learn the spirituality of our Franciscan/Poor Clare vocation, to develop our talents, community skills etc. Some sisters are following a study programme on the Catechism of the Catholic Church at the moment. Our day would not be complete without praying to Our Blessed Mother who is the “highest honour of our race,” so at 5 p.m. we recite the Rosary in our public chapel and to our delight many people join in with us. We pray Evening Prayer at 5.30 pm. On Sundays also we have the Rosary at 5.00 p.m. followed by Evening prayer and Benediction which is always well attended. At 6 p.m. it is time for the Angelus, followed by our second period of Meditation, then we have Supper at 6.30 p.m. and Recreation. Recreation is our time of relaxation. During the day we try to do our work in a spirit of silence and prayer. At Recreation we update one another on prayer requests, we exchange family news and enjoy a chat at the end of the day.
All throughout the day the Monastery bell is rung calling us to prayer and our final bell of the day is at 7.30 p.m. bringing us once more to gather around Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament to pray Night Prayer of the Divine Office. We retire at about 8 p.m. We have maintained the Poor Clare custom of rising at 12 Midnight to pray the Divine Office which we call Matins, this is followed by Adoration until 12.45 a.m. During this time we hold in our hearts all those who have to work through the night, parents caring for young children who may have to rise from their beds a couple of times during the night, young people out at night, our emigrants, the sick and the dying. Our prayer reaches out to places where we are physically not able to go! As we enter and leave our Choir (monastic term for our Chapel), we pray the prayer which has come down to us for over 800 years from St. Francis:
We adore You O Most Holy Lord Jesus Christ,
Here and in all the Churches throughout the world,
And we bless You because by Your holy Cross,
You have redeemed the world.
Francis and Clare
During the period of COVID 19 restrictions the community created a home video called Francis and Clare.
The video captures a day in the life in an enclosed monastery, Laborare est Orare.