Saint Clare of Assisi
By Rev. Rebecca
"O blessed poverty, who bestows eternal riches on those who love and embrace her!"
Saint Clare is one of the Church's holiest and most beloved saints. She was the first female follower of Saint Francis of Assisi and may have been the one who best understood and followed Francis' vocation, spirit, and way of life. Francis and Clare had an enduring relationship of mutual support and care.
From a young age Clare was pious and spritually astute and was known to give away her father's possessions to the poor despite being chastised for it. At the age of 12 she heard Saint Francis preach and aspired to be like him one day, dedicating her life to God in purity and love.
As a young woman Clare met Saint Francis and told him of her desires. He believed her to have a true vocation to religious life. She told her family of her desire but they refused her permission to become a Franciscan religious and sought to dissuade her.
On Palm Sunday Clare was given a palm by the Bishop and she belived that to be her sign from God. Late one night Clare snuck out of her house and where she met Francis and his Friars. She went with them to the Porziuncola and there she cut off all of her hair, took the veil, and made her vows of poverty and chastity to Saint Francis as his follower. He placed her in a local Benedictine monastery initially where she could safely live out her vocation.
Soon her younger sister Agnes desired to join Clare in Franciscan poverty. Her family was so upset that they beat Agnes in an attempt to dissuade her, but Agnes ran away and managed to join Clare despite these trials. Ironically, Clare's own mother joined the Order when she was widowed many years later.
Clare and Agnes longed for a community of their own and soon Francis made preparations for them to move into the Monastery of San Damiano where Clare was made Abbess. They organized their lives around prayer, work, and holy poverty, living only on alms. St. Clare drew up a Rule to live by as more and more women began joining the community. The Order was named the "Poor Ladies" or "Poor Clares" and soon numerous convents were founded all over the country in the Claretian tradition.
Many miracles took place among St. Clare and her sisters. It is reported that when they began to run out of oil and bread, miraculous multiplications would take place so that the sisters never went hungry. Legend has it that when Pope Gregory IX dined with the sisters he asked Clare to bless the bread. After her prayer, crosses miraculously appeared on the tops of all the loaves. When the Tartars and Saracens attempted to invade the Monastery, Clare held up the Blessed Sacrament in a monstrance and repelled them, keeping her and her sisters safe. It is also said that when Clare made the sign of the cross over ailing persons they would be healed.
Saint Clare lived a rigorously devoted life of prayer, penance, and service. She continually cared for her sisters, particularly the weak, and all those in need. She would meditate on the Passion of Jesus and pray for many hours every day on her knees. During her many hours of prayer Clare sometimes had incredible visions of the Lord and his angels.
Like Francis, Clare lived in harmony with God's creatures and had a special affinity for animals. They were drawn to her and seemed to understand her. According to her sisters, she was once in need of a napkin, and a cat, seemingly understanding her need, went and brought it to her.
After 29 years of religious life, Clare died in 1253 and was buried in the Church of Saint George. Countless miracles have occurred at her grave site and through her intercession. The Church of Saint George later became the home for the Poor Clares and a basillica and hospice were built on that site. Saint Clare's Feast Day is celebrated on August 11. She is the patron of technology.
Written on Pentecost Sunday, 2002