SAINT CLARE of ASSISI (1194-1253)
Virgin, religious sister and foundress
Patron saint of embroiderers and laundry workers
Today, the universal Church honors Saint Clare of Assisi, who embraced a life of poverty, following her spiritual mentor Francis of Assisi, and who also became foundress of an Order of nuns.
Clare was born on July 16, 1194 in Assisi, the eldest daughter of noble parents who owned considerable property in Italy. In spite of the wealth which her family held, Clare, as a child, was very strongly drawn to the things of God, praying fervently, devoutly visiting the Blessed Sacrament, and manifesting a tender love towards the poor.
When she was eighteen years of age, she heard Saint Francis preaching in the town square in Assisi during Lent, and she knew at once that God wanted her to consecrate herself to Him and His Divine will for her. The next evening, Clare left her house at night, ran to meet Francis and his companions at the church where they were staying, and she shared her desire to follow him in his way of life.
He received her, gave her his tunic, cut off her golden hair, and sent her to a Benedictine convent in San Damiano, because she could not stay with himself and his religious brothers. Her younger sister, Agnes, soon joined her and the two had to resist many pressures from their family to return home.
When Clare was twenty-two, Francis placed her in a small house besides the convent and made her Mother Superior to a new Order, a post she would serve for the next 42 years of her life until her death. Thus began the Order of Poor Ladies, also known as Poor Clares at the convent in San Damiano, dedicated to living a simple life of great poverty, austerity and complete seclusion from the world according to a Rule which Francis gave them.
However, as the Franciscan Order grew, establishing themselves throughout Europe, there also went the Poor Clares, depending solely on alms, forced to have complete faith in God to provide for their needs. Clare’s mother and remaining sisters later joined the Order, and there are still thousands of members today living lives of silence and prayerful contemplation.
Clare loved music and well-composed sermons. She was humble, merciful, charming, optimistic, chivalrous, and every day she meditated on the Passion of Jesus. She was known to get up late at night to tuck in her sisters who had kicked off their blankets. When she learned of the Franciscan martyrs in Morocco in 1221, she tried to go there to give her own life for God, but was restrained from doing so.
Once, when her convent was about to be attacked by invading Saracens, it was observed that she displayed the Blessed Sacrament in a monstrance at the convent gates, and prayed before it; the attackers left, and the convent where the sisters were living was saved. The image of her holding a monstrance became one of her symbols in paintings throughout the centuries.
When, at length, she felt the day of her death approaching, Clare, calling her sorrowing religious community around her, reminded them of the many benefits they had received from God and exhorted them to persevere faithfully in the observance of a spirit of poverty in all they did.
Before dawn on August 11, 1253, the holy foundress of the Order of Poor Clares passed away peacefully. Pope Innocent IV, with his ecclesial court, came to San Damiano for her funeral. She was canonized a saint by Pope Alexander IV on September 26, 1255, only two years after her death, and her remains are interred in the Basilica di Santa Chiara (Basilica of Saint Clare) in Assisi.
We commemorate her feastday on August 11.
(From catholicnewsagency.com, saints.sqpn.com, americancatholic.org, catholicculture.org and newadvent.org)
(The following prayer is from the Roman Breviary from the Proper for Saint Clare of Assisi)
“God of mercy, You inspired Saint Clare with the love of poverty. By the help of her prayers, may we follow Christ in poverty of spirit and come to the joyful vision of Your Glory in the Kingdom of Heaven.
“We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.”