On August 11 we celebrate the feast day of St. Clare (*1194 +1253), foundress of the “Poor Ladies of Assisi”, now known as the Poor Clares. Like Francis, Clare was born into a prosperous family in Assisi. The third of five children, Clare was a strong young woman, generous and compassionate toward the poor. Though her family arranged for her to marry at age 15, Clare refused. At age 18 Clare was inspired by the charismatic preaching of Francis and his message of peace and penance. She made arrangements to meet with him and receive his advice.
Clare secretly left her home one night, meeting Francis and his followers at the Portiuncula, a small chapel where Francis and his brothers lived. There Clare put aside her fine cloak and donned the peasant garb of the friars. Initiating Clare into the Gospel life, Francis cut off her long blonde hair. Then the friars moved Clare to a nearby Benedictine convent. Her father and uncles stormed the convent several times, unsuccessfully trying to force Clare to return home. Instead, other women joined Clare.
In time, at age 22, Clare became abbess of “The Order of San Damiano.” Clare and her sisters were contemplative, spending time in prayer and manual labour. The Rule of their Order, written by Clare, was one of austerity and total dedication to the Gospel, emulating the rule of the Friars Minor. (From American Catholic.)
What motivated Clare to make such a radical renouncement of the ‘world’ and radical commitment to Christ? This excerpt from her writings in today’s Office of Readings gives an indication. It is worth a prayerful pondering.
“Happy the soul to whom it is given to attain this life with Christ, to cleave with all one’s heart to him whose beauty all the heavenly hosts behold forever, whose love inflames our love, the contemplation of whom is our refreshment, whose graciousness is our delight, whose gentleness fills us to overflowing, whose remembrance makes us glow with happiness, whose fragrance revives the dead, the glorious vision of whom will be the happiness of all the citizens of the heavenly Jerusalem. For he is the brightness of eternal glory, the splendour of eternal light, the mirror without spot.”