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Clare of Assisi – remembered August 11th

Clare of Assisi

Saint Clare miraculously intervenes to save a child from a wolf, in this panel by Giovanni di Paolo, 1455.

Clare was born in 1193 in Assisi, Italy, into a wealthy family.

She was educated in the domestic arts of spinning and needlework, as well as reading and writing. Though raised among the nobility, she cared little for the social life which surrounded her because she had decided to dedicate her life to God. Her decision was greatly influenced by the piety of her mother. Given to prayer and care for the poor, Clare often saved food from the table to distribute to the poor outside the doors of her home.

It is generally believed that Clare heard St. Francis preaching in the streets of Assisi about his new religious community of men called friars who relied solely on alms or begging for their needs. Clare was inspired by his words.

Clare’s parents had decided she would marry a wealthy young man. In desperation, Clare fled her home and sought refuge with Francis, who received her into religious life.

Clare lived briefly in a nearby Benedictine monastery of nuns before moving to another religious community, joined by her sister Agnes.

Clare and Agnes next moved to the Church of San Damiano, which Francis himself had rebuilt. Soon other women joined them there. San Damiano became known for its radically austere lifestyle, and its residents were the “Poor Ladies”.

San Damiano became the focal point for Clare’s new religious Order, the “Order of San Damiano”.

Unlike the Franciscan friars who moved freely around the country to preach, an itinerant life was hardly conceivable at that time for women. Clare’s sisters lived in enclosure, a life devoted to manual labor and prayer.

For a time, Francis himself directed the Order.

In  1216, Clare accepted the role of abbess at San Damiano and she sought  to imitate Francis’ virtues and way of life. She played a significant role in encouraging and aiding Francis, whom she saw as a spiritual father. She cared for him during his illnesses at the end of his life, and was with him when he died in 1226.

After Francis’s death, Clare continued to promote the growth of her Order. She wrote letters to abbesses in other parts of Europe. She thwarted attempts by each successive pope to impose any rule on her Order which would water down their radical commitment to corporate poverty. She did this despite the poor health which plagued her until her death.

On August 9, 1253, Pope Innocent IV  confirmed that Clare’s rule would be the governing rule for her Order of Poor Ladies. Two days later, on August 11, Clare died. She was 59. Her remains were temporarily interred in a chapel until a church to hold her remains could be built.

Numerous miracles attributed to St. Clare are re-told. For example, upon finding an empty jar miraculously filled with oil when they were in need, Clare believed God had filled it as “a gift of divine generosity”. The book, “Legend of Clare”, tells how Clare healed a young boy with an emotional disorder.

Clare accepted all things and people as a gift from God. She lived among her community as an equal — doing daily works with everyone else. She was attentive to each sister’s well-being. One day Clare suspected a sister was suffering from depression. Clare gave her extra tenderness and care, and the nun was restored to health and peace of heart.

On August 15, 1255, Pope Alexander IV canonized Clare.  The Church of St Clare was completed in 1260 and  Clare’s remains were transferred to the new church  and buried beneath the high altar. In further recognition of St. Clare, Pope Urban IV officially changed the name of the Order of Poor Ladies to the Order of St. Clare in 1263.

In art, Clare is often depicted carrying a monstrance or pyx, in commemoration of the time when she warded off the soldiers of Fredrick II at the gates of her monastery by displaying the Blessed Sacrament and kneeling in prayer.

Today Poor Clares number over 20,000 sisters throughout the world  in over 70 countries.

Most monasteries have from four to thirteen members. Some have larger communities but  the idea of family is essential to the communities and St. Clare emphasised that small communities were much better to keep this family spirit than larger ones. You may be surprised to know that there is a web-site all about Poor Clare communities and some of the sisters blog.

Here is what one site says:   This is a site about the mysterious world of being a Poor Clare. Contemplative  nuns who live a life of prayer, community and joy.

Poor Clares Monasteries are individual and unique as is each sister in them. Enjoy!

Pope Pius XII designated Clare  as the patron saint of television in 1958, on the basis that when she was too ill to attend Mass, she had reportedly been able to see and hear it on the wall of her room.

“May the Lord be with you always and may you be with Him always, and in every place. Amen.”

Blessing of Saint Clare

* St Clare has been regarded also as the patron saint of sore eyes ( for people watchng too much TV?) and telephones…

August 11, 2010 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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