St. Clare of Assisi
St. Clare was born on July 16, 1194 in Assisi Italy. Clare’s father was a count, her mother the countess Blessed Orsolana. After hearing Saint Francis of Assisi preach in the streets, Clare confided to him her desire to live for God, and the two became close friends. On Palm Sunday in 1212, her bishop presented Clare with a palm, which she apparently took as a sign. With her cousin Pacifica, Clare ran away from her mother‘s palace during the night to enter religious life. She eventually took the veil from Saint Francis at the Church of Our Lady of the Angels in Assisi, Italy.
Clare founded the Order of Poor Ladies (Poor Clare’s) at San Damiano, and led it for 40 years. Everywhere the Franciscans established themselves throughout Europe, there also went the Poor Clare’s, depending solely on alms, forced to have complete faith on God to provide through people; this lack of land-based revenues was a new idea at the time. Clare’s mother and sisters later joined the order, and there are still thousands of members living lives of silence and prayer.
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 would get up late at night to tuck in her sisters who’d 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. Once when her convent was about to be attacked, she displayed the Sacrament in a Monstrance at the convent gates, and prayed before it; the attackers left, the house was saved, and the image of her holding a Monstrance became one of her emblems. Her patronage of eyes and against their problems may have developed from her name which has overtones from clearness, brightness, brilliance – like healthy eyes.
Toward the end of her life, when she was too ill to attend Mass, an image of the service would display on the wall of her cell; thus the patronage of television. She was ever the close friend and spiritual student of Francis, who apparently led her soul into the light at her death on August 11, 1253.
On September 26, 1255 Clare was canonized a Saint by Pope Alexander IV in Assisi, Italy.
Notes from St. Clare of Assisi
The Letters to Ermentrude of Bruges
– Be faithful, dearly beloved, till death to Him to Whom you have promised yourself, for you shall be crowned by Him with the garland of life. Our labor here is brief, the reward eternal. Offer faithfully what you have vowed to God and God shall reward you. Look to heaven that invites us, O dearly beloved, and take up the cross and follow Christ Who goes before us, for through Him we shall enter into His glory after many different trials. (LEr 4-5, 8-10)
– Love God and Jesus, Who was crucified for us sinners, from the depths of your heart, and never let the thought of Him leave your mind. Meditate constantly on the mysteries of the cross and the agonies of His mother standing at the foot of the cross. Pray and always be vigilant. The work you have begun well, complete immediately and the ministry you have assumed, fulfill in holy poverty and sincere humility. (LEr 11-14)
– Our labor here is brief, the reward eternal; may the excitements of the world, fleeing like a shadow, not disturb you. May the false delights of the deceptive world not deceive you. Gladly endure whatever goes against you and do not let your good fortunes lift you up. Offer faithfully what you have vowed to God and God shall reward you. Look to heaven to invite us, O Dearly beloved, and take up the cross and follow Christ, Who goes before us, for through Him we shall enter into His glory after many different trials.
Clare, The Testament
– At the surface of the mirror, consider the holy humility, the blessed poverty, the untold labors and burdens that He endured for the redemption of the whole human race. Then, in the depth of this same mirror, contemplate the ineffable charity that led Him to suffer on the wood of the Cross and to die there the most shameful kind of death.
– For the Lord Himself has placed us not only as a form for others in being an example and mirror, but even for our sisters and brothers whom the Lord has called to our way of life as well, that they in turn might be a mirror and example to those living in the world. Since the Lord has called us to such great things reflected in us, we are greatly bound to bless and praise God and be all the more strengthened to do good in the Lord. (TestCl 19-22)
– After the most high heavenly Father saw fit in His mercy and grace to enlighten my heart, that I should do penance according to the example and teaching of our most blessed father Francis, a short while after his conversion, I, together with a few sisters whom the Lord had given me after my conversion, willingly promised him, Francis, Obedience, as the Lord gave us the light of His grace through his wonderful life and teaching.
Clare, The First Letter to Agnes of Prague
– You know that the kingdom of heaven is promised and given by the Lord only to the poor (cf. Mt. 5:3) for she who loves temporal things loses the fruit of love. Such a person cannot serve God and money, for either the one is loved and the other hated, or the one is served and the other despised (cf. Mt 6:24). Therefore, cast aside your garments, that is, earthly riches, that you might not be overcome by the one fighting against you and you might enter the kingdom of heaven through the straight path and the narrow gate (cf. Mt 7:13-14).
Clare, The Second Letter to Agnes of Prague
– Because one thing is necessary (Lk 10:42), I bear witness to that one thing and encourage you, for love of Him to Whom you have offered yourself as a holy and pleasing sacrifice (rm 12;1), that you always be mindful of your resolution like another Rachel always seeing your beginning cf. Gen 29:16). What you hold, may you always hold, what you do, may you always do and never abandon. (2Lag 10-11)
Clare, The Third Letter to Agnes of Prague
– Place your mind before the mirror of eternity! Place your soul in the brilliance of glory! Place your heart in the figure of the divine substance! And transform your whole being into the image of the Godhead Itself through contemplation. So that you too may feel what His friends feel as they taste the hidden sweetness that God Himself has reserved from the beginning for those who love Him. (3Ag 12-14)
Clare, The Fourth Letter to Agnes of Prague
– Happy, indeed, is she to whom it is given to share in this sacred banquet so that she might cling with all her heart to Him whose beauty all the blessed host of heaven unceasingly admire, whose affection excites, whose contemplation refreshes, whose kindness fulfills, whose delight replenishes, whose remembrance delightfully shines, by whose fragrance the dead are revived, whose glorious vision will bless all the citizens of the heavenly Jerusalem: which, since it is the splendor of eternal glory, is the brilliance of eternal light and the mirror without blemish. (4Lag 9 – 14)
Clare, To Possess a Blessed Eternal Life
– What a great and praiseworthy exchange: to leave the things of time for those of eternity, to choose the things of heaven for the goods of earth, to receive the hundred-fold in place of one, and to possess a blessed eternal life!
Clare, The Form of Life of Clare of Assisi
After the Most High Heavenly Father saw fit by His grace to enlighten my heart to do penance according to the example and teaching of our most blessed Father, Saint Francis, I, together with my sisters, willingly promised him obedience shortly after his own conversion. When the Blessed Father saw we had no fear of poverty, hard work, trial, shame, or contempt of the world, but, instead, regarded such things as great delights, moved by compassion he wrote a form of life for us as follows: “Because by divine inspiration you have made yourselves daughters and servants of the Most High King, the heavenly Father, and have espoused yourselves to the Holy Spirit, choosing to live according to the perfection of the holy Gospel, I resolve and promise for myself and for my brothers to always have that same loving care and solicitude for you as I have for them.” (RCI 6: 1-4)
The Legend of Saint Clare
Once when the fury of the enemy pressed upon Assisi, the hearts of the ladies of San Damiano melted with fear. Clare ordered that she be brought to the door and placed there before the enemy, while the silver pyx in which the Body of the Holy of Holies was most devotedly reserved, preceded her. When she had thoroughly prostrated herself to the Lord in prayer she said, “look my Lord, do you wish to deliver into the hands of pagans your defenseless servants whom You have nourished with Your own love?” The enemies were driven away departing in haste over those walls which they had scaled. (LdgC1 21-22)