1958: Pope Designates St. Clare Of Assisi Patron Saint Of Television
St. Clare on the set. Source: Wikimedia Commons
There had to be a patron saint of television -- sooner or later, it was bound to happen. Clare of Assisi got the job, due to a strange television-like ability she demonstrated, but this is a duty that would have fallen to some saint or other, because as we now know, television is huge. All it took was a Pope with foresight (and possibly a sense of humor) to make it so. Impressively, the Pontiff in office way back in 1958 foresaw the dominance of television, and put Clare on the case. And Catholics all over the world put Clare on their sets -- yes, some true believers have been known to put a statuette of the patron saint atop their TV, to ensure good reception.
Pope Pius XII has often been decried for his silence during Hitler’s regime. The criticism of his behavior during the Holocaust is typically what people remember about him. But there is a lot that people don’t know, such as his fascination with the latest developments in science and technology. In fact, one time a group of astronomers held a private meeting with Pius XII, expecting to hear him speak of religion, but he instead gave a treatise on sun spots. That very fascination with science and emergent technologies, in particular the television, led him to declare Clare of Assisi the patron saint of television in 1958.
St. Clare Was A Runaway
St. Clare, who was born in 1194 after a difficult birth and her mother named her Clara, meaning “clear or light.” She ran away from home as a teenager because her parents wanted her to marry. Inspired by the words of St. Francis, She became the first Franciscan nun and in several of her writings, called herself “little plant of Francis”. Clare was perhaps St. Francis of Assisi’s closest colleague. Her sister Agnes and others joined her at the Church of San Damiano shortly after she ran away. They formed the “Order of Poor Ladies.” At the age of 21, St. Francis obliged her to become the abbess and she accepted and remained abbess until her death in 1253.
Becoming A Saint
St. Francis believed passionately in Christ-like poverty and humility, and while many Franciscan monks could not completely adhere to this strict life, St. Clare and her nuns refused to own anything that would generate income. She and her nuns ate no meat, walked barefoot, and slept on the ground. They also observed almost complete silence. They adhered to this extreme asceticism but eventually Clare implored the sisters to moderate their practice. Two popes tried to get her to back down from her asceticism, but she refused to fully relent. On her deathbed, in 1253, Pope Innocent IV traveled to see her and present her with a papal document , formal approval for her rule. To become a saint requires that the person be a servant of God, live a life of heroic virtue, and have at least two verified miracles. All of this was the case with Clare, who had several verified miracles throughout her life. For example, one of her miracles occurred when the Saracens were about to attack; she placed the Sacrament on the walls of the convent, and they retreated. A second miracle occurred when a large force was besieging Assisi, and after Clare prayed, a storm dispersed the attackers. Two years after her death, she was canonized.
Pope Pius XII Sees Her As A Woman Before Her Time
However, this doesn’t seem justification for her role as the patron saint of television; to be a patron saint, the canonized saint must be the holy advocate for that person, place, or thing. Pope Pius XII’s decision was based on an incident in her life.
One Christmas, Clare was too ill to attend Midnight Mass. When the nuns left her that night, she said “See Lord, I am left here alone with You.” She had a vision of the Mass and could see and hear it as clearly as if she were physically present in the chapel. Pius XII considered this a sort of miraculous simulcast, thus making her the Saint of television.
Tags: Catholicism | Pope Pius XII | St. Clare Of Assisi | Television
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