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Monday, August 12, 2013
St. Clare of Assisi
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Double (1955 Calendar): August 12

She founded the Order of Poor Ladies, a monastic religious order for women in the Franciscan tradition, and wrote their Rule of Life—the first monastic rule known to have been written by a woman. Following her death, the order she founded was renamed in her honor as the Order of Saint Clare, commonly referred to today as the Poor Clares.

The life of a Poor Clare is occupied with work and prayer, penance and contemplation. Sisters fast at all times, except the Feast of the Nativity, with no meat at any time. The great silence is from Compline until after the conventual Mass. During the day there is one hour of recreation, except on Friday. Meals are eaten in silence. The Divine Office is recited, not sung, and they use the Franciscan breviary. The habit is a loose fitting garment of gray frieze; the cord is of linen rope about one-half inch in thickness having four knots representing the four vows; their sandals are cloth.

There are two branches of Poor Clares, the Colettines, so called because their Rule was modified by Saint Colette, and the Urbanists, whose Rule was modified by Pope Urban IV. Colettines follow a rigorous rule; they are enclosed, fast, abstain from meat, are discalced, and possess no property, not even in common. Urbanists sometimes work outside their convents, and are less austere than the Colettines. 

Clare’s father was a count, her mother the countess Blessed Orsolana. Her father died when the girl was very young. 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 Clares) at San Damiano, and led it for 40 years. Everywhere the Franciscans established themselves throughout Europe, there also went the Poor Clares, 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 Morrocco 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 monstrace 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 her 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 9, 1253, the papal bull Solet annuere of Pope Innocent IV confirmed that Clare's rule would serve as the governing rule for Clare's Order of Poor Ladies. Two days later, on August 11, Clare died at the age of 59. Her remains were interred at the chapel of San Giorgio while a church to hold her remains was being constructed.

On August 15, 1255, Pope Alexander IV canonized Clare as Saint Clare of Assisi. Construction of the Basilica of Saint Clare was completed in 1260, and on October 3 of that year Clare's remains were transferred to the newly completed basilica where they were buried beneath the high altar. In further recognition of the saint, Pope Urban IV officially changed the name of the Order of Poor Ladies to the Order of Saint Clare in 1263.

Some 600 years later in 1872, Saint Clare's remains were transferred to a newly constructed shrine in the crypt of the Basilica of Saint Clare where they can still be seen today.  Her body is still incorruptible.

"Praise and glory be to you, O loving Jesus Christ, for the most sacred wound in your side . . . and for your infinite mercy which you made known to us in the opening of your breast to the soldier Longinus, and so to us all. I pray you, O most gentle Jesus, having redeemed me by baptism from original sin, so now, by your Precious Blood, which is offered and received throughout the world, deliver me from all evils, past, present and to come" (St. Clare's own words).

Sources: SQPN & Catholic Encyclopedia

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