St. Clare of Assisi

"I, Clare, a handmaid of Christ and of the poor sisters of the Monastery of San Damiano, although unworthy, and the little plant of the holy father."

 - from the Testament of St. Clare

   This is the way that St. Clare thought of herself - as a handmaid of Christ, and also a handmaid, or servant, of the other sisters in her monastery.  She also called herself "the little plant" of St. Francis.

   Clare of Assisi was born at the end of the 12th century into a noble family in Assisi, Italy.  As a child she had been exiled with her family to the neighboring city of Perugia during a war between the nobility and the rising middle class.  This time of exile had a profound effect on the young Clare.  She came to realize that the privileged life as she had known it would not fulfill her heart's desire; that could only be realized in service of Jesus Christ.

   This is the way that St. Clare thought of herself - as a handmaid of Christ, and also a handmaid, or servant, of the other sisters in her monastery.  She also called herself "the little plant" of St. Francis.

   Clare of Assisi was born at the end of the 12th century into a noble family in Assisi, Italy.  As a child she had been exiled with her family to the neighboring city of Perugia during a war between the nobility and the rising middle class.  This time of exile had a profound effect on the young Clare.  She came to realize that the privileged life as she had known it would not fulfill her heart's desire; that could only be realized in service of Jesus Christ.

   After Clare and her family returned to Assisi, she began hearing about a young man from the merchant class, Francis, who had renounced his fortune and was begging and preaching in the city.  He and his few followers had rebuilt several abandoned churches in the area, and strove to follow in the footprints of the poor Christ.  The more she heard Francis speak about following Christ, the more Clare's heart burned within her.  Finally, during the night of Palm Sunday, 1212, Clare left her family home in the city and went on foot to meet Francis and the friars at the tiny church of Our Lady of the Angels which Francis had rebuilt.  Francis cut Clare's hair as a sign of her commitment and gave her the habit of a penitent.  Clare exchanged her life of privilege for a life of poverty and humility, following the poor Christ and his poor mother.

   Clare stayed for a short time with the Benedictine sisters at San Paolo, and then with another group of penitent women, but she realized that her special vocation in the church was to follow the poor Christ as Francis did.  Francis settled Clare and a few companions, including her sister Agnes, into the church of San Damiano, a short distance from the city walls of Assisi.  There they lived a lift of prayer and community.  They were content to live as the poor did, working with their hands to provide for their needs, or sending for alms.   

   Clare remained at the monastery of San Damiano for over 40 years, until her death in 1253.  During that time, she fought to remain faithful to the Franciscan ideal of poverty and humility.  In particular, she valued the Privilege of Poverty, which Pope Innocent III had given her; this was a guarantee that the Poor Sisters would not be forced to rely on fixed income from property. Instead, they would continue to follow the poor Christ, who had no place to lay his head.  More than one pope had tried to give the sisters property as security, but Clare always refused.  Finally, she wrote her own Form of Life, or rule, in which she put into words the life she and her sisters had been living.  Her Form of Life, including her cherished Privilege of Poverty, was approved by Pope Innocent IV as she lay on her deathbed.

   St. Clare was canonized only two years after her death. In giving testimony before the canonization, her sisters at San Damiano describe St. Clare as "very humble and devout, kind and very enamored of poverty, with compassion for the afflicted."  She is usually depicted holding a monstrance containing the Holy Eucharist, to remember the miracle that occurred through Clare's intercession in 1230.  An army of Saracen mercenaries was planning to invade Assisi, and the monastery of San Damiano was in their direct path.  As the first soldiers climbed over the monastery wall, Clare ordered the Blessed Sacrament to be taken to the refectory, where Clare threw herself prostrate on the ground and the sisters interceded for their safety.  They heard a voice saying, "I will always defend you!"  Clare then prayed for the city, saying, "Lord, please defend the city as well!"  The Saracens quickly left the monastery without doing any harm.

© 2018 Franciscan Poor Clares.      Created with Wix.com