The Little Flower Of Saint Francis

Saint Clare of Assisi

Feast Day: 11th August

Clare was born into the nobility of Assisi on July 16, 1194. As a little girl she was known by members of her household to be a sensitive child, gentle, prayerful and kind. She would sometimes hide food from her plate so later she could give it to the poor.

The nobility and merchants in 12th century Assisi probably agreed that Francis di Bernardone had disgraced his family yet many of their sons were joining him having left their homes, given their possessions away and donned the coarse sack-cloth tunic that he wore.

All who lived in Assisi knew the strange carryings on of Francis of Assisi. Born in 1194 Clare had known him over the years. One evening at a Lenten service she was inspired by his powerful witnessing of the Gospel life, lifted up by the joy he transmitted in his poverty and drawn to the Living Jesus so visible through him and his words. There was such a light in his eyes, a fire in his voice. She knew that she, too, was being called to live the life of the Gospel and asked him to help her achieve that goal.

So on the evening of Palm Sunday, March 20, 1212 she secretly left her paternal home with her cousin Pacifica, never to return. In the dead of night lit only by torches, Clare met Francis and his friars at the ‘Portiuncula’. There, in the little chapel of ‘St. Mary of the Angels’, she laid aside her rich clothes and Francis, after cutting off her long blonde hair, clothed her in a rough tunic and a thick veil. From that moment she vowed to live her life entirely in the service of Jesus, her heavenly spouse.

She was placed temporarily with Benedictine nuns and then at San Damiano, which Francis had rebuilt with his own hands, where the first community of the Order of Poor Ladies or Poor Clares was founded.

In the beginning, most of the young girls who joined her in this life of radical poverty were from the noble families of Assisi and the surrounding area. She advocated the ‘privilege of poverty’, wishing to own nothing in this world and depending entirely on the providence of God and the generosity of the people for their livelihood, rejecting the pleas of Pope Gregory IX to accept a less strict vow of poverty.

She became a living example of the poverty, humility and the mortification expounded by St. Francis, and had a special devotion to the Blessed Sacrament, increasing her love for Christ crucified by learning the Office of the Passion composed by him.

Clare had the joy of being joined, not only by her two sisters, but also her mother and aunt. She lived to see the foundation of monasteries spread wide throughout Europe.

She had the ability of seeing things others were unable to see which comes from the meaning of her name – a clear radiant light. Once Clare was too ill to attend Mass but was still able to see what was happening at Mass on her bedroom wall. For this reason she was named patron of television. She is also the patron of sore eyes and eye diseases and her ability to cure these ills.

One day, when soldiers attempted to attack the Convent at San Damiano, Clare went to the Blessed Sacrament to pray that God protect her sisters. At that moment the attackers suddenly became afraid and fled. For this reason she is often depicted holding a monstrance.

Not the least important part of Clare’s work was the help and encouragement she gave to her spiritual father, Francis, urging him to continue his mission in preaching when he thought his vocation lay in becoming a hermit.

Towards the end of her life Clare was a very sickly woman but she did not let her pain trouble her. She died of natural causes on 11 August 1253 and canonized two years later. Her legacy lives on in the women who follow in her footsteps.