Clare of Assisi (1194-1253)


Her day on our calendar is August 11  

From Living Discipleship: Celebrating the Saints

"We become what we love and who we love shapes what we become. If we love things, we become a thing. If we love nothing, we become nothing. Imitation is not a literal mimickingof Christ, rather it means becoming the image of the beloved, an image disclosed throughtransformation. This means we are to become vessels of God´s compassionate love forothers." – Clare of Assisi

  • Clare Offreduccio lived circa 1194-1253 in Assisi, Italy. She was born to the wealthy, noble Offreduccio family and was well-known for her beauty.
  • At the age of eighteen, Clare heard Saint Francis of Assisi preach the Lenten sermons at her parish church. Inspired by his words, she decided to leave her life of wealth and privilege to join Francis and to follow the teachings of Jesus.
  • Clare knew her family would not approve, so she left her home in the middle of the night and went to the monks, laying her rich, beautiful garments on the altar and exchanging them for the simple, rough habit of a monk. Francis reportedly cut off her beautiful hair as a mark of her commitment.
  • She temporarily joined a Benedictine convent, from which her father tried a number of times to abduct her and bring her back home. Her father wanted her to be married, but Clare considered herself the Bride of Christ, and her commitment was to Jesus alone.
  • Clare soon moved to a small dwelling in San Damiano. There she was joined by other women, including her sister Agnes. Clare became the abbess, or superior, of the order, which was called the “Poor Ladies of Saint Damian.”
  • Clare was the first woman to write a rule of life for religious women. She based her rule on that of Saint Francis
  • Clare and her nuns embraced the rule of absolute, yet joyous, poverty. They went barefoot, slept on the floor, and accepted no income, living only on the gifts of others. They lived their lives caring for the poor and devoting themselves to prayer
  • Many, including a number of popes, resisted Clare’s rule of extreme poverty. They wanted her to change her order’s rule of life to be more in accordance with the Benedictine rule, which was not nearly so strict. Yet Clare stood firm, believing that the poverty she and her nuns observed was in imitation of the gospel and faithful to the teaching and call of Jesus
  • Although she was the abbess, Clare insisted on caring for the sick sisters with her own hands and often reserved the most menial work for herself
  • Clare was widely known for her dedication and wisdom. People, priests, and even popes were awed and inspired by her example. Saint Francis would come to her for comfort and encouragement. Many visited her, not only for her advice, but also to simply be in her presence
  • Clare was particularly dedicated to the Holy Eucharist and understood the sacrament of Christ’s body and blood to have deep meaning but great power. In 1234, the army of Frederick II was preparing to assault the town of Assisi. In the middle of the night, they climbed the walls of San Damiano (where Clare and her nuns lived) and terrifyied the people. Clare was ill at the time. She reportedly arose from her bed, and retrieved the sacrament (described variously as being in a ciborium or in a monstrance) from the chapel. She went to the window and held the body of Christ uplifted before the invading army. It is said that, as she lifted it up, the soldiers fell to the ground, and the army began to flee in fear. 1 It is out of reference to this incident that Saint Clare is typically portrayed in art holding a monstrance or a ciborium.
  • On her deathbed, Clare was heard to say: “Go forth in peace, for you have followed the good road. Go forth without fear, for he that created you has sanctified you, has always protected you, and loves you as a mother. Blessed be you, my God, for having created me.”

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