HOW pleasant it is to me a woman in love! She radiates happiness and when she speaks there is no doubt but that she loves her dear one with all her heart. Had we had the chance to meet St. Clare, we would have met a woman in love and her very countenance would have shown it. When she spoke there would have been no doubt that she loved Jesus with all her heart and soul, mind and strength. She was a lover of Christ.
Clare  was born a rich girl. Her father was Favorone Scifi, Count of Sasso Rosso and her mother, Ortolana Fiumi, of a noble family of Assisi. Her home was a palace and as a daughter of the rich, she enjoyed benefits denied those of humble birth. At an early age she was taught to sew and sing, embroider and we also are sure that she was taught to read and write. But with her position also came limitations that didn’t bother her in the least. She found it easy to belong to the nobility. As a young child there was an uprising in Assisi against the nobles (Francis fought on the side of the Commune of Assisi and was captured) and Clara’s family sought safety in Perugia where she stayed till she was nine.
Clare was no spiritual prodigy but from all we can learn, she was a pious girl, brought ,up by a pious mother. Often history makes saints to be physical beauties; with Clare we have a description of her at the age of sixteen. Her face was oval, her forehead spacious, her color dazzling and her eyebrows and hair very fair (blonde). A celestial smile …played in her eyes and round her mouth, her nose was well fashioned and slightly aquiline; of good statue she was inclined to stoutness, but nowhere in excess.” She was a good catch for any man and her family connection made her desirable to the families with eligible sons.
She was born July 16, 1194,ind b the time she was sixteen she heard of Francis and his troubadours of poverty who were bringing the message of Christ to so many, His message touched her heart and she wanted to hear more and get to know Francis —but how could she do this? His message of poverty was not overly popular among the wealthy and she could not go about freely. But a relative of hers, an older woman named Bona Guelfuccio, arranged a secret meeting with Francis and her future was settled.
She had heard him preach at San Giogio’s and liked what she heard and now she would follow him completely; a plan was set. On Palm Sunday, March 20, 1212, she went to the Cathedral to receive palm from the bishop. When it came time for the distribution of the palm, Clare stayed in her place and, oddly enough, the bishop came out of the sanctuary to give her a frond. That night, according to the plan set by Francis, she left with a companion and went to the Portiuncula chapel and there her hair was cut oft, she was clothed in a coarse habit and veil and made vows to follow Christ completely. Then Francis took her to the neighboring convent of Benedictine nuns at Bastia to await the storm from her family. And a storm did come! At first they pleaded with her, then they spoke harshly and finally they resorted to physical force. We are told she held onto the altar and could not be moved; when her veil slipped off and they saw her shorn golden locks, they gave up. She would be free to follow Christ in the poverty preached by Francis. Francis then took her to the Benedictine convent, Sant Anlelo at Panso and sixteen days later, her sister Agnes came, only fifteen years old, but determined to follow her sister. Again, the family objected violently and came to take her out with physical force if necessary; but after much ado, Agnes was finally allowed to stay. She joined up with Clare  and she, too, is a saint, St. Agnes of Assisi.
The first instructions came from the Benedictines but soon at the behest of Francis they went to the chapel of San Damiano in Assisi. This was a chapel that Francis had helped rebuild with his own hands and the bishop gave it to dare, her sister and three others wh9 came to join them. It was there the “Poor Ladies” got their start, Poor Ladies as the Order known as the Poor Clares today was then called.
Francis was delighted with his now spiritual sisters and spent time with them helping to bring them to a deeper love of Christ by following a life of absolute poverty. He wrote no rule’ for them, only indicated a simple way of life that they should follow-There was to be prayer and fasting; silence and work and complete poverty that would even prevent them from owning anything in the name of the convent. They were to trust in God for all they needed.
Francis made her Abbess (note the Benedictine influence) and she remained superior for the rest of her life; she remained at San Damiano, never leaving for forty-two years. Apparently her lather died at this time and her mother, Ortolana sought entrance. She was a pious woman who had made the God, Man and Angel pilgrimages’; to the Holy Land, to Rome and to Mt. Gargano where the Archangel Michael had appeared. She too grew in holiness and is known as Blessed Qrtoiana of Assisi.
The  dedication of these women at San Damiano didn’t go unnoticed and soon others were seeking to be admitted. Besides, stories of Clare’s sanctity soon were spread abroad. There was the story of the oil flask. They needed olive oil for the kitchen and told Clare; she washed out the flask and put it on a window sill. When they came for it, they found it full!
Francis at this time went to the Holy Land and the Pope gave them a rule that made dare unhappy. She wanted the ‘privilege’ of absolute poverty. No ownership by individuals in the convent, no ownership or source of income for the convent itself. This was to be a nagging desire for dare and no one seemed to understand her desire to depend on ‘her Jesus’ completely. in fact, it was only two days before her death that she was given this ‘privilege’ and this point caused much trouble in establishing the “Poor Ladies.”
In her desire to follow Christ completely she went to extremes. Of course no shoes, she slept on the floor and her fasting was extraordinary. Next to her skin she had a coat se shirt of boar’s hair. Some days she ate nothing; when she did eat, it was only a small amount and likely as not, bread and water. This not only weakened her, it brought her illness and so she was commanded to sleep in a bed and eat at least something everyday. But, if Abbess dare was harsh on herself, she cared far her nuns with maternal kindness; at night she would make sure they were covered properly and if they fell ill, she served them nourishing food to help them regain their health. She was kind gentle and sympathetic in her rule of the sisters, urging them gently to the complete love of Christ.
By 1215, they were recognized as a religious Community and Francis’ friend, Cardinal Ugolino (later Gregory IX) took them under his wing. Francis returned from the Holy Land and spent time with them, forming them in his unique spirituality  that has brought so many to sanctity. He had already received the stigmata and Clare made him a pair of sandals to accommodate the stigmata on his feet; these sandals have been preserved and can be seen today. But the was not to have his presence long; he died in 1226. But if he was not there in person, his spirit so imbued her that she could carry on in his footsteps
The fame of Francis and Glare spread tar and wide. Francis’ sons were sought all over Italy and soon in foreign countries. The rise of the Franciscan Third Order paved the way for convents of cloistered nuns and they sought to follow the pattern established by Clare in Assisi. We read of her sister Agnes going to Florence to help a convict there live in the Franciscan way of holiness. There are also five letters of dare extant to women living as Poor Ladies instructing them to live the Franciscan way. Four of these are to Blessed Agnes of Prague, a princess who gave herself to the Eternal King. Even her own family swelled her ranks; her youngest sister Beatrice joined and also three nieces.
She enjoyed sermons because they were praises of ‘her Jesus’ and helped her to love Rim more. She prayed and did manual work —made corporals altar linens and a beautiful embroidered alb (still to be seen) to be given to the Churches for use at Mass. Silence was a cherished virtue as she knew much talking could lead to trouble and take her from her lover, Jesus. She suffered much but joyfully so, saying: “love that cannot suffer is not worthy of the name.” And that love of Jesus was returned, even in miraculous ways. They tell the story that one day there was only one loaf of bread for the whole community. She had the loaf divided in two, halt given to the Brothers and strangely enough, all her nuns were able to eat their fill of the half of loaf that multiplied. Nuns who were sick were cured by Clare making the sign of the Cross on them and praying. One nun was cured of deafness, another of dropsy; a Brother was cured of insanity, a beggar of leprosy.
Her devotion to the Eucharist was monumental. Her supreme joy was to assist at Holy Mass and even when wracked with pain and violently ill, she assisted at Mass from a trap door in the oratory. She is usually depicted, as holding a monstrance with the Sacred Host in it. The reason for that is this. There was a seige on Assisi by Saracen soldiers and it seemed that their convent outside the walls would be despoiled. Glare took a silver box encased with ivory containing the Blessed Sacrament to the door of the monastery and there prayed for protection for her convent and also for Assisi that cared for her nuns. Somehow, the Saracens fled though not pursued by soldiers!
As she grew older, convents of the Poor Ladies were in seven countries and known for their holiness. In 1250 the Pope gave another rule and for the first time they were called sisters’ but still dare did not have the ‘privilege of poverty’ she desired. She wrote the Pope and pleaded with him to at least allow her convent that; this he finally allowed.
On May 25, 1253, the Pope who resided at Perugia at that time, rather close to Assisi, came to dedicate the upper basilica of St. Francis that so many tourists today see at Assisi and that same day he canonized St. Stanislaus of Poland and went to see Glare. She was very ill and asked the Pope for absolution. He said: “would to God that I had as little need of absolving as you.”
She was now very ill  and she celebrated her 59th birthday sick in bed; her sister Agnes having returned from Florence to be with her. She had the consolation of visions, seeing Christ, the Blessed Mother and angels from heaven. But she was ready; in her last confession she could say she never transgressed her baptismal vows, On Saturday,
August 9, the Pope sent the Bull that gladdened her heart, her ideal of poverty was put in the rule. Now she could join her lover, Jesus, for all eternity which she did Monday, August 11, 1253.
The next day the Pope came for the funeral and would have canonized her as part of the funeral ceremony; but he was dissuaded. But the miracles and the clamor of the people prompted him to setup an  investigation that, incidentally, tells us much of her life. And in two years, she was declared a canonized saint with the feast day of August 12th.

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