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The way to stop the rains from coming is to offer eggs to Sta. Clara. How true?

The way to stop the rains from coming is to offer eggs to Sta. Clara. How true?

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HEAVEN AND EGGS

by Paterno R. Esmaquel II

 

It’s more than just an urban legend now, since many Filipino Catholics attest to it: If you don’t want it to rain on a special day, say a fiesta or a wedding, then offer eggs to the miraculous Sta. Clara.

 

This is faith, devotees say. Or is this just another superstition?

   

The Poor Clares

 

The people behind the tradition—at least according to Sta. Clara’s devotees—are a contemplative order called the Poor Clares. The Poor Clares are nuns who, quite literally, are boxed within the four walls of their monastery till death, and can only talk to a limited number of people, including their helpers. Neither do they allow interviews.

 

But a former Poor Clare, who left the order in January 2007 due to health concerns, is unveiling the tradition as well as the sisters behind it.

 

"The name Poor Clares stands for poverty in spirit," says Tess Matubis, who herself lived in the monastery for three and a half years. Founded in 1253 by St. Clare of Assisi, a noble who left her riches in the name of Christ, the Poor Clares have nothing of their own—not even their own habits (nun's gown)!

 

The sisters rely on Providence alone for their day-to-day needs, for a job that entails praying almost 24/7.

 

She adds, "Among the three contemplative orders in the Philippines—the Carmelites, the Pink Sisters, and the Poor Clares—the Poor Clares have been known to be the most traditionalist."

 

The Poor Clares have stuck to some practices that predate the Second Vatican Council, explains Matubis. The council, more commonly known as Vatican II, turned the Church from being strictly traditionalist to being flexible to the needs of all, especially the lay.

 

The outfit of the nuns, for instance, looks as medieval as the saints’.

 

Bakit ganyan pa rin ang damit ninyo (Why is your habit like that)?” Matubis was often asked by nuns from other monasteries.

 

Sa iba may body-fit pa …. Kami kasi one inch below the floor (Nuns in other congregations even have their habits measured to be body-fit. Ours are so long that the standard length is an inch below the floor).”

 

In the monastery, she adds, the Poor Clares still use Spanish terms like licencia, permiso, and culpa, and call each other “Sor,” the traditional Spanish term for “Sister.”

 

 

As cloistered nuns, they aren’t even allowed to watch the news or hold a newspaper—only the Mother Abbess can—and are only allowed to receive visitors thrice a year: on their birthday, on Christmas, and on the anniversary of the day they entered the monastery.  

 

Matubis says, “The Poor Clares are very conservative …. But being with them for three and a half years, really, [I can say] they are very holy."

 

History

 

Contrary to popular notion, the sisters have almost nothing to do with the tradition of offering eggs for good weather. In fact, they themselves aren’t sure where it came from. “’Yan din ang tanong ko,nung kapapasok ko lang (I was also asking that when I first stepped in the monastery),” she adds.

 

There are popular legends, though:

 

Legend No. 1

 

An egg has a part that is called claro in Spanish, says Jesse Seriban, who has been the monastery's receptionist for nine years now. Claro, which means "clear," is supposed to be a symbol of St. Clare.

 

Legend No. 2

 

An old nun once told Matubis of this story, which was handed over by the Spanish sisters. According to this story, there was once a rich family that asked the Poor Clares to pray for good weather—there was a storm at that time—and offered eggs in return. The storm stopped, as if at the snap of a finger.

 

Then the story spread through word of mouth, and the Poor Clares began to be known as intercessors for good weather.

 

Legend No. 3

 

Another story associates eggs with new life and, ergo, good weather.

 

Given all these stories, though, even Matubis admits that there is nothing in the official history of the Poor Clares, even outside the Philippines, about them being associated with eggs.

 

The story that is closest to the tradition of donating eggs, she explains, is that of the Poor Clares' foundress, St. Clare, and her "idol," St. Francis of Assisi, who founded the Franciscans. “St. Francis and his brothers were the ones begging for food, so after that, ibinibigay nila ‘yon sa mga sisters.”

 

“[The Poor Clares were] just depending on what the brothers can give them. Kung walang pagkain, wala (If the Franciscan brothers don’t give anything, the sisters wouldn’t eat anything).”

 

This, she supposes, is how eggs have come into play—as a form of donation to the sisters.

 

Asked if the Poor Clares have a special power to control the weather, Matubis exclaims, “No! The sisters cannot do that, only God!”

 

Jesuit priest Catalino Arevalo, an expert in Filipino popular devotions, adds that there is no theological basis to believe that the Poor Clares have a special power to control the weather. Neither do eggs have spiritual properties.

 

Arevalo says that the offering of eggs, more than anything else, is an act of good will on the part of the people who ask for prayers. The Poor Clares are contemplatives who have no way of earning a living, and they rely on Providence and on other people for things that they need for livelihood. 

 

The eggs, he says, are a form of support for the contemplative nuns, and in exchange, the nuns pray for the specific intentions of the donors.

 

However, as people noticed that the Poor Clares’ prayers were effective, the people began to attribute special properties to the offering of eggs. “It has become something like a superstition already,” says Arevalo.

 

But it is worth noting, Seriban explains, that the donated eggs go a long way. Aside from being bartered for the nuns’ food, the eggs are donated to Ephpheta, a foundation for the deaf and blind, other monasteries and convents, and people asking for alms.

 

Every day, the donations to the monastery can go as high as 400 dozens, particularly during the period of board exams. On Sundays of board exams, the donations can even reach 600 to 800 dozens, Seriban says.

 

Miracles

 

Every day is a busy day at the Sta. Clara monastery, with at least 15 to 20 people making their petitions there at any given time, from six in the morning to five in the afternoon.

 

Isulat mo ang wish mo kay Papa Jesus (Write down your wishes to Papa Jesus),” a mother is heard telling her seven-year-old daughter.

 

The girl asks, “Ano’ng spelling ng wish?”

 

Then the mom asks their companion, a girl in her twenties, to help the little girl in writing her letter. The older girl obliges, and dictates to the child what to write:

 

“Dear St. Clare, tulungan n’yo po si Mama na makalabas ng bansa para makapagtrabaho … para may maganda akong kinabukasan (Dear St. Clare, please help my Mama get a job abroad … to give me a better future).”

 

Mother and child, later on, insert the petition in a slit on the wall, where on the opposite side is a basket. The basket contains scores of petitions from people young and old, asking for better health, peace in the family and in the world, good scores in an exam, a job promotion—even the conversion of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

 

They can then be assured that the nuns, who have made praying their life’s mission, to be their advocates before God.

 

As Matubis explains, the real miracle is not in the eggs, but in the love that the nuns put into their prayers. She cautions believers, “Do not put your faith in eggs.”

 

“Put your faith in God.”

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