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St. Clare of Assisi

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Story of St. Clare of Assisi and Prayer

St. Clare of Assisi

Clare was a beautiful Italian noblewoman who became the Foundress of an order of nuns now called "Poor Clares." When she heard St. Francis of Assisi preach, her heart burned with a great desire to imitate Francis and to live a poor humble life for Jesus. So one evening, she ran away from home, and in a little chapel outside Assisi, gave herself to God. St. Francis cut off her hair and gave her a rough brown habit to wear, tied with a plain cord around her waist. Her parents tried in every way to make her return home, but Clare would not.

Soon her sister, St. Agnes joined her, as well as other young women who wanted to be brides of Jesus, and live without any money. St. Clare and her sisters wore no shoes, ate no meat, lived in a poor house, and kept silent most of the time. Yet they were very happy, because Our Lord was close to them all the time. Once, He saved them from a great danger in answer to St. Clare's prayer. An army of rough soldiers came to attack Assisi and they planned to raid the convent first. Although very sick, St. Clare had herself carried to the wall and right there, where the enemies could see it, she had the Blessed Sacrament placed. Then on her knees, she begged God to save the Sisters.

"O Lord, protect these Sisters whom I cannot protect now," she prayed. A voice seemed to answer: "I will keep them always in My care." At the same time a sudden fright struck the attackers and they fled as fast as they could. St. Clare was sick and suffered great pains for many years, but she said that no pain could trouble her. So great was her joy in serving the Lord that she once exclaimed: "They say that we are too poor, but can a heart which possesses the infinite God be truly called poor?" We should remember this miracle of the Blessed Sacrament when in Church. Then we will pray with great Faith to Jesus in the Holy Eucharist: "Save me, O Lord, from every evil - of soul and body." Her feast day is August 11.

 

Cofoundress of the Order of Poor Ladies, or Clares, and first Abbess of San Damiano; born at Assisi, 16 July, 1194; died there 11 August, 1253.

She was the eldest daughter of Favorino Scifi, Count of Sasso-Rosso, the wealthy

In the great Franciscan movement of the thirteenth century an important part was played by this order of religious women, which had its beginning in the convent of San Damiano, Assisi. When St. Clare (q.v.) in 1212, following the advice of St. Francis (q.v.), withdrew to San Damiano, she was soon surrounded by a number of ladies attracted by the holiness of her life. Among the first to join her were several immediate relatives, including her sister Agnes, her mother, aunt, and niece. Thus was formed the nucleus of the new order. Here St. Clare became the counsellor of St. Francis and after his death remained the supreme exponent of the Franciscan ideal of poverty. "This ideal was the exaltation of the beggar's estate into a condition of spiritual liberty, wherein man would live in conscious dependence upon the providence of God and the good will of his fellowmen" (Cuthbert, "The Life and Legend of the Lady St. Clare", p. 4). At the outset St. Clare received from St. Francis a "formula vitę" for the growing community. This was not a formal rule, but simply a direction to practise the counsels of the Gospel (Seraphicę legislationis textus originales, p. 62). "Vivere secundum perfectionem sancti Evangelii" was the keynote of St. Francis's message. On behalf of the sisters, St. Clare petitioned Innocent III for the "privilege" of absolute poverty, not merely for the individual members but for the community as a whole.

St. Clare, who in 1215 had, much against her will been made superior at San Damiano by St. Francis, continued to rule there as abbess until her death, in 1253, nearly forty years later. There is no good reason to believe that she ever once went beyond the boundaries of San Damiano during all that time. It need not, therefore, be wondered at if so comparatively few details of St. Clare's life in the cloister "hidden with Christ in God", have come down to us. We know that she became a living copy of the poverty, the humility, and the mortification of St. Francis; that she had a special devotion to the Holy Eucharist, and that in order to increase her love for Christ crucified she learned by heart the Office of the Passion composed by St. Francis, and that during the time that remained to her after her devotional exercises she engaged in manual labour. Needless to add, that under St. Clare's guidance the community of San Damiano became the sanctuary of every virtue, a very nursery of saints. Clare had the consolation not only of seeing her younger sister Beatrix, her mother Ortolana, and her faithful aunt Bianca follow Agnes into the order, but also of witnessing the foundation of monasteries of Clares far and wide throughout Europe. It would be difficult, moreover, to estimate how much the silent influence of the gentle abbess did towards guiding the women of medieval Italy to higher aims. In particular, Clare threw around poverty that irresistible charm which only women can communicate to religious or civic heroism, and she became a most efficacious coadjutrix of St. Francis in promoting that spirit of unworldliness which in the counsels of God, "was to bring about a restoration of discipline in the Church and of morals and civilization in the peoples of Western Europe". Not the least important part of Clare's work was the aid and encouragement she gave St. Francis. It was to her he turned when in doubt, and it was she who urged him to continue his mission to the people at a time when he thought his vocation lay rather in a life of contemplation. When in an attack of blindness and illness, St. Francis came for the last time to visit San Damiano, Clare erected a little wattle hut for him in an olive grove close to the monastery, and it was here that he composed his glorious "Canticle of the Sun". After St. Francis's death the procession which accompanied his remains from the Porziuncula to the town stopped on the way at San Damiano in order that Clare and her daughters might venerate the pierced hands and feet of him who had formed them to the love of Christ crucified--a pathetic scene which Giotto has commemorated in one of his loveliest frescoes. So far, however, as Clare was concerned, St. Francis was always living, and nothing is, perhaps, more striking in her after-life than her unswerving loyalty to the ideals of the Poverello, and the jealous care with which she clung to his rule and teaching.

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