Saint Clare of Assisi, Founder of the Franciscan Poor Clares (1194-1253). Feast Day: 11Aug.
The story of St. Clare of Assisi is inevitably linked with St. Francis, the one she called her Father, Planter, and Helper in the Service of Christ. It was Francis who gave her a vision and enabled her to define a way of life apart from the options offered by her society. However, her goal in life was not to be a reflection of Francis but to be, like him, a reflection of Christ. “Christ is the way,” she said, “and Francis showed it to me.”
Like Francis, Clare belonged to one of the wealthy families of Assisi. Like everyone else in the town, she was aware of the remarkable spectacle that Francis had made in abandoning his respectable family and assuming the poverty of a beggar. During Lent when she was 18 years old, she heard Francis preach and decided to imitate him and live a poor, humble life for Jesus. She ran away from home and dedicated herself to God on Palm Sunday in a little chapel outside Assisi. Francis cut off her hair and gave her the rough brown Franciscan habit. She went to the Benedictine convent near Bastia, Italy. Clare’s distraught parents tried to no avail to make her return home.
Francis had long intended that a community of women, corresponding to his fraternity, should be established. In Clare, he had found the partner he was seeking. She was easily persuaded to found a women’s community. In 1215, Clare became the superior of the Poor Clares and moved into a house adjoining the church of St. Damiano. The sisters wore no shoes, ate no meat, kept no money and kept silent most of the time. Clare quickly attracted other women. Over time, these included a number of her personal relatives, including her sister Catherine and even her widowed mother. With no money or land, they begged for their daily sustenance, meditated day and night, and offered prayers for the Church. Within her lifetime, additional communities were established elsewhere in Italy, France, and Germany.
Clare performed numerous miracles. After prayer, her face was often lit with an unusual, dazzling radiance. Once her prayer saved her convent from attack by Saracens. Despite being ill, Clare had herself carried to the wall and had the Blessed Sacrament placed where the enemies could see it. She got down on her knees and begged God to save the sisters. “O Lord, protect these Sisters whom I cannot protect now,” she prayed. A voice answered, “I will keep them always in my care.” Suddenly the attackers fled.
Clare was sick throughout much of her life. Toward the end, she had a vision of the Mass in her bed—and for this later became the patroness of television.
“What you hold, may you always hold, what you do, may you always do and never abandon. But with swift pace, light step, unswerving feet, so that even your steps stir up no dust, may you go forward securely, joyfully, and swiftly, on the path of prudent happiness.”
—St. Clare of Assisi
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Trigilio, Rev. John, Ph.D, Th.D, and Rev. Kenneth Brighenti, Ph.D. “Saints for Dummies.” Hoboken, NJ: Wiley Publishing, 2010.