St. Clare of Assisi
Who is St. Clare of Assisi?
Clare was the eldest daughter of Favorone and Ortolana Offreduccio. She was born around 1193-1194 and grew up in an aristocratic, well-respected family in Assisi, Italy. Her father was a knight, and her mother was of noble lineage. Her family home was adjacent to the Cathedral of San Rufino.
When Clare was only a teenager, she heard Francesco Bernardone (St. Francis) preach in the piazza of the cathedral. She was immediately moved by his vision of Gospel life. For his part, Francis had heard about Clare and wanted to meet her. Over a period of more than a year, she and a companion met with Francis to learn more about his manner of living the Gospel. She joined Francis on Palm Sunday night in March, 1212, and with him founded a community of women intent on following in the footprints of the poor, crucified Christ through a life shaped by poverty, contemplation and community. Their mission was to rebuild the church through the witness of their way of living the Gospel in community.
Clare is not as well known as some other medieval women, but she is the first woman to have a Rule for a religious community approved by the church. She directed the Poor Ladies (the name by which her community was known in medieval times) from its beginnings until her death in 1253.
Clare was a woman in love with Christ, and she wanted all people to know the joy of union with him. She did not emphasize poverty for the sake of poverty, but poverty as a way to union with the Lord. She wanted nothing to hold her back from embracing Christ, her Beloved One. Clare advised other women about following Christ, and one of those women was Agnes of Prague, to whom she wrote:
"May you go forward securely, joyfully, and swiftly, on the path of prudent happiness, not believing anything that would dissuade you from this resolution or that would place a stumbling block for you on the way, so that you may offer your vows to the Most High in the pursuit of that perfection to which the Spirit of the Lord has called you."
Second Letter to Agnes of Prague 13-14 (2LAg 13-14)
Clare allowed herself to be transformed by the love of Christ she experienced in her life. Soon others joined her, and together they shaped a life of prayer, poverty, penance and community that enabled them to embrace the poor Christ in love. It was a life in which they found freedom and peace in Christ.