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In Memory of Chiara Augusta Lainati, O.S.C.

By Dominic Monti, OFM
Published in News & In Memoriam
March 12, 2024
3 min read
In Memory of Chiara Augusta Lainati, O.S.C.

On Monday, March 4, in Matelica (Macerata, Marche), Italy, the Franciscan world laid to rest Sister Chiara Augusta Lainati, O.S.C., 85 years old, esteemed philologist and scholar of the writings of Saints Clare and Francis.

Born in Saronno (Varese) in 1939, she studied classical philology at the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart (Milan) where she obtained her doctorate in 1962 with a thesis "Studies on Saint Clare of Assisi," under the direction of Professor Ezio Franceschini, dean of the faculty and noted medievalist. Only two weeks after defending her thesis, she entered the Protomonastery of St. Clare in Assisi, where she received the habit on January 21, 1963. She made her first profession April 19, 1964, and her solemn profession April 20, 1967. The Poor Clare monastery in Assisi a boasted a connection with the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart since its foundation in the time of Fr. Agostino Gemelli, OFM, and Sr. Chiara Augusta was able to continue her scholarship on the Franciscan sources.

Author of numerous publications on Franciscan-Clarian spirituality over many years and a frequent participant in days of study and conferences, she was a major voice in the transmission of the Franciscan-Clarian charism. She devoted much of her life as well to the formation of Poor Clares in several monasteries, including S. Erminio and S. Agnese in Perugia, S. Lucia in Città della Pieve, and Buon Gesù in Orvieto. Together with Giovanni Boccali, OFM, in 1977 she discovered "Audite poverelle," the exhortation in the vernacular that the dying Francis of Assisi sent to the community of San Damiano. Among her numerous studies and publications are the "Spiritual Themes from the Writings of the Second Franciscan Order," two powerful volumes for a total of 1648 pages, and a life of Saint Clare continually reprinted and translated into many languages. Besides her keen intelligence, she was noted for her kindness and warm personal relationships with a wide variety of people.

Sr. Chiara Augusta became a member of the Matelica monastery on March 3, 2001, where in her later years she endured a number of serious health conditions. Significantly, she made her own "transitus" on Saturday, March 2, 2024, the feast of St. Agnes of Prague, who carried on a deep correspondence with St. Clare.

Her poem "Maternità claustrale" ("Claustral Maternity") captures Sister Chiara Augusta's contemplative vocation:

In silence, the day is born behind the storied windows
spreading wide blades of color in the monastic ‘choir.'
Side by side, in the silence of meditation,
nuns are brown silhouettes of loneliness.
God, what a void of human things,
what immense poverty this silence is
that stabs into the heart the yearning and thirst for you, infinite good,
in which to become lost like a ray in its source. . .

You have given me a woman's heart, Lord,
a warm and trembling heart,
made to love and be loved:
a heart that implies the warmth of a home
and the joyful laughter of children
and deep brown gazes that rest tenderly on their children.

And you set apart this heart of mine for you,
like a virgin soil for your Word.
You have surrounded it with a vast and silent solitude,
the jealous solitude of your love,
God with eyes as huge as infinity.

"Oracle of the Lord: I will draw her to me,
I will lead her into the desert and speak to her heart.
I will make you my bride forever...
and you shall know the Lord" (Hos. 2,14. 20).

And while you ‘speak to my heart'
in the humble and prayerful silence of this newborn day,
the whole world is in me like a child that wakes and calls
and turns to you, O Lord, with the name ‘Father.'

There's an immense crowd of people in me reaching out to you,
a humanity that awakens early in the morning:
disturbing voices of anguish and pain,
joyful voices of children going to school,
angry voices of workers who have lost their jobs,
of exploited people crying --
everything is in this poor ‘separated' heart
everything is assumed and presented to you in an offering which is the size of the world.

Lord who loves me and who has fallen in love with me,
my day, even today, will be solitary, dark,
hidden from everyone's eyes, perhaps swollen with fatigue and pain.
But my heart is warm and trembling,
It is a woman's heart made to love and be loved.
And in the silence in which you own it, you make it a cradle
where every person is reborn to your Love.

Dominic Monti, OFM

Dominic Monti, OFM

Professor of Franciscan Research in the Franciscan Institute of St. Bonaventure University

Dominic V. Monti, OFM, is a Franciscan Friar of Holy Name Province (USA) and currently professor of Franciscan Research in the Franciscan Institute of St. Bonaventure University. He devoted the greater part of his ministry to teaching the History of Christianity, in particular the history of the Franciscan movement. He has contributed two volumes to the Works of St. Bonaventure series and is author of Francis & His Brothers, a popular history of the Friars Minor. 


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