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Biography of Saint Clare of Assisi

Our Patron Saint

 

An Amazing Story Unfolds

Almost 800 years ago, on Palm Sunday evening in the year 1212, a young girl from an aristocratic Umbrian family dramatically fled her family home under cover of darkness to join Francis of Assisi and his brothers. In the valley below the town of Assisi in the tiny church Francis had repaired after his conversion, she met them. She was ritually welcomed into this family of brothers, and promised herself, that very night, to God. Her hair was cut and she was clothed in the simple tunic that identified her as part of the group, the minores - the ‘little ones’. Clare di Offreduccio, later known simply as Clare of Assisi, risked everything that night to respond to the compelling call to seek God, to leave everything behind – status, security, family name, home, wealth - for the one thing necessary.

Wealthy and beautiful, this lady Clare could have had her choice of suitors. However, over a comfortable and prosperous lifestyle, Clare chose the rigors of an enclosed convent living. Her decision seemed irrational to her family, but Clare understood that God had a different vision for her life, one with real costs but filled with innumerable graces as well. As Jesus promised, she ‘lost’ her life but ‘found’ it in him. (Matthew 10:39)

Clare sought a manner of living that was relational, a search for God and the Spirit that was honest, simple, poor, rigorous, gentle, sometimes extreme, joyful, a way of peace based in mutuality and respect that emanated from the primary spiritual experience of Jesus as Incarnate. This was life in the Trinity. For Francis and for Clare, the Christ-life was an embodied life and the only way into the Christ-life, the gospel life, was through poverty.

Clare was fully aware of what she had lost and what she was gaining. In a letter to Agnes of Prague, princess of Bohemia, who had abandoned earthly honours to join Clare’s new order, she told: ‘What a great, praiseworthy exchange: to leave the things of time for those of eternity, to choose the things of heaven rather than the goods of earth, to receive the hundredfold in place of one, and to possess a blessed and eternal life’.

The myriad of attractions of the world tempt us to stray from the life that Jesus offers us. Even if they don’t persuade us to give up, they can stir up dissatisfaction in us. Too often we see more clearly the tangible things we are relinquishing than the less tangible joy of life in Christ. Without an intimate relationship with Jesus, without his nourishment and consolation, we simply cannot put our lives aside. But immersed in his love, we really can find ourselves in the life that God offers. That is what Saint Clare of Assisi discovered!


© 2008 The Order of Saint Clare
29 Carrington Road, Waverley NSW Australia 2024 

Hymn to Saint Clare of Assisi
 

O Light from Light, all splendor's Source,

Whose clear beams shine with heaven's joy,

We give You thanks for Mother Clare

And ev'ry form of praise employ.

 

Enticed by Francis' preaching sweet,

Christ Crucified became her Spouse;

She gathered sisters to her side

Where Poverty would grace the house.

 

She left behind all earthly gain

That riches true might be her all;

In poverty, obedience,

And chastity she heard Christ's call.

 

As mother to her flock, she lived

And modeled Christ to ev'ryone;

In loving service spent herself

In toil from dawn to setting sun.

 

As she has shown us, Lord,

Your way, So give us grace like her to be,

That we may turn from self to You

And in your Way be truly free.

 

Most high, omnipotent, good God,

O Father, Son and Spirit blest,

With Mother Clare and all your saints Bring us,

Your Church, to endless rest.

 

88 88 (LM) no suggested tune

James Michael Thompson (c) 2009 World Library Publication

From a letter from Saint Clare of Assisi, virgin, to Saint Agnes of Prague
(Edit. I. Omaechevarria, Escritos de Santa Clara, Madrid 1970, pp. 339-341)
Text from the Breviary for Feast of St. Clare, August 11.

Behold the poverty, humility and love of Christ

Happy indeed is she who is granted a place at the divine banquet, for she may cling with her inmost heart to him whose beauty eternally awes the blessed hosts of heaven; to him whose love inspires love, whose contemplation refreshes, whose generosity satisfies, whose gentleness delights, whose memory shines sweetly as the dawn; to him whose fragrance revives the dead, and whose glorious vision will bless all the citizens of that heavenly Jerusalem. For his is the splendor of eternal glory, the brightness of eternal light, and the mirror without cloud.

Queen and bride of Jesus Christ, look into that mirror daily and study well your reflection, that you may adorn yourself, mind and body, with an enveloping garment of every virtue, and thus find yourself attired in flowers and gowns befitting the daughter and most chaste bride of the king on high. In this mirror blessed poverty, holy humility and ineffable love are also reflected. With the grace of God the whole mirror will be your source of contemplation.

Behold, I say, the birth of this mirror. Behold his poverty even as he was laid in the manger and wrapped in swaddling clothes. What wondrous humility, what marvelous poverty! The King of angels, the Lord of heaven and earth resting in a manger! Look more deeply into the mirror and meditate on his humility, or simply on his poverty. Behold the many labors and sufferings he endured to redeem the human race. Then, in the depths of this very mirror, ponder his unspeakable love which caused him to suffer on the wood of the cross and to endure the most shameful kind of death. The mirror himself, from his position on the cross, warned passersby to weigh carefully this act, as he said: All of you who pass by this way, behold and see if there is any sorrow like mine. Let us answer his cries and lamentations with one voice and one spirit: I will be mindful and remember, and my soul will be consumed within me. In this way, queen of the king of heaven, your love will burn with an ever brighter flame.

Consider also his indescribable delights, his unending riches and honors, and sigh for what is beyond your love and heart’s content as you cry out: Draw me on! We will run after you in the perfume of your ointment, heavenly spouse. Let me run and not faint until you lead me into your wine cellar; your left hand rests under my head, your right arm joyfully embraces me, and you kiss me with the sweet kiss of your lips. As you rest in this state of contemplation, remember your poor mother and know that I have indelibly written your happy memory into my heart, for you are dearer to me than all the others.

San Damiano Monastery where Saint Clare spent her adult life in Assisi, (Umbria, Perugia, Italy)
 

An Internet guide to Saint Clare of Assisi information, spirituality and art
There are many external links on the above Franciscan Archive website, but I have noticed that not all of the links have been updated. Sorry about that. They are beyond our control. However, you will undoubtedly find some good information and some beautiful art and be able to delve into the life of our patron saint.
These links below should give you no problems since they are from wikipedia and wikimedia commons.
The story of Saint Clare of Assisi on Wikipedia 
Photos of the Basilica of Saint Clare in Assisi (Santa Chiara)
Photos of San Damiano Monastery in Assisi where Saint Clare lived her saintly life (San Damiano)
Wikipedia page about Assisi
Franciscan Media internet calendar for August 11 Saint Clare of Assisi 
Franciscan Texts from Franciscans in the Holy Land
 

 

 

 

 

 

Saint Clare Prayer
Before the Mirror of Eternity

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
which God Himself has reserved
from the beginning
for those who love Him.

 


Saint Francis of Assisi, Prayer he said before the Crucifix of San Damiano

Most high, glorious God,
enlighten the darkness of my heart, and give me, Lord:
a correct faith,
a certain hope,
a perfect charity,
sense and knowledge,
so that I may carry out your holy and true desires. Amen.

 

Rule of the Poor Clares: 

“Let the sisters appropriate nothing…
WORK

PRAYER
PENANCE
CONTEMPLATION

 

Chronology

1181 (or 1182) Birth of John di Pietro di Bernadone, called Francis
1193 (or 1194) Birth of Clare di Favarone di Offreduccio
1205: Start of Francis' conversion
1210-1212  Clare meets Francis
1212  Palm Sunday  Clare receives the relgious habit from the hands of Francis at the Portiuncula (Assisi). Clare stays at the monastery of San Paolo delle Abbadesse in Bastia and at the Church of Sant'Angelo in Panzo. April 3-4: Clare's sister, Agnes joins her. End of April-start of May: Clare settles at San Damiano Monastery.
1212-1215  Francis gives "Form of Life" to Clare and her companions
1215  Clare adopts the Rule of Saint Benedict and she is given the title of abbess. Privilege of poverty granted by Pope Innocent III for San Damiano Monastery
1216  Pope Honorius III succeeds Pope Innocent III
1219  Rule of Cardinal Hugolino
1214  Francis receives the stigmata. Beginning of Clare's illness
1225  March-May: Francis who is almost blind stays at San Daminao Monastery, where he writes the Canticle of Creatures.
1226  Ortolana (Clare's mother) enters San Damiano Monastery. Francis makes final recommendations to Clare and her sisters.  October 3 Francis' death
1227 Gregory IX (former Cardinal Hugolino, pope
1228, July 16: Canonization of Francis by Pope Gregory IX. September 17: Gregory IX renews the privilege of poverty.
1228 or 1229  Clare's sister, Agnes, becomes abbess at the Monticello Monastery
1229  Clare's sister, Beatrice enters San Damino.
1234  Clare's first letter to Agnes of Prague (prior to Agnes' entering the Prague Monastery)
1234-1238 Clare's second letter to Agnes of Prague
1238  Clare's third letter to Agnes of Prague
1240 September: Invasion of San Damiano Monastery by the Saracens (Muslims)
1241: Celestine IV, pope. Innocent IV succeeds him.
1247, August 6: Rule of Innocent IV for the Order of San Damiano. Clare starts to write her own Rule.
1250 Around November 11: Clare's illness gets worse.
1253: Clare's fourth letter to Agnes of Prague. April 27: Pope Innocent IV visits Clare for the first time. Shortly before August 11, 1253: Pope Innocent IV visits Clare for the second time. August 9: Pope Innocent IV approves Clare's Rule (Forma Vitae, Rule of Life). August 11: Clare's death. October 18: Pope Innocent IV instructs Bartholomew of Spoleto to investigate Clare's life and miracles. November 24-29: Process of Clare's canonization.
1254: Alexander IV, pope.
1255, August 15: Clare's canonization by Pope Alexander IV, in Anagni.
1893  Discovery of the original bull containing Clare's Rule. ♦

⇒ Chronology Source: Claire Marie Ledoux. Clare of Assisi: her spirituality revealed in her letters. Published by St Anthony Messenger Press. ©2003 ISBN 0-86716-368-2 (pbk.)

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