Virgin and Doctor of the Church
“Love that cannot
suffer is not worthy of that name.”
See also: General Audience by H.H. Benedict XVI
Clare means “transparent life.”
was born in Assisi, Italy in 1193. Her father, Favarone
Offeduccio, was a nobleman of the most rich and powerful ones of
the time. Her mother, Ortolana, a descendent of a noble and
feudal family, was a very Christian woman, of ardent charity and
great zeal for the Lord.
Early in her childhood, Clare was gifted with innumerable
virtues and although her family environment asked of something
else from her, she was always assiduous in prayer and
mortification. She always showed a great disdain for the things
of the world, and a great love and desire to grow every day in
her spiritual life.
Her conversion towards a life of complete holiness came about
after listening to a homily by Saint Francis of Assisi. When she
was 18 years old, Saint Francis preached in Assisi the homilies
for Lent and it is there that she insisted that in order to have
full freedom to follow Christ one has to be freed from riches
and material goods.
Her calling and her encounter with Saint Francis; Cofoundress
of the Order
When her heart understood that bitterness, hatred, enmity, and
greed moved men to war, she understood that this worldly way of
life was like a sharpened sword that one day pierced the Heart
of Jesus. She did not want anything to do with any of it; she
did not want to have any other god other than the One who gave
us His life for all- He who offers Himself in poverty in the
Eucharist to nourish us daily, He who is Light in darkness and
who changes all and can accomplish all, He who is pure Love.
What was renewed in her was an ardent love and a desire to offer
herself to God in a total and radical way. At the time one had
already heard about the Friars Minor, as the followers of Saint
Francis were called. Clare felt great compassion and love for
them even though she was prohibited from seeing and speaking
with them. She would be attentive to their needs and would
provide for them. What struck her attention was how the friars
spent their time and energy taking care of the lepers. All that
they were and did would impress her and she felt united in heart
to them and to their vision.
In 1210 when Francis preached in the Cathedral, she felt a great
confirmation of everything she had been experiencing in her
interior upon hearing the words “this is the opportune time… it
is the right moment…. the time has come to direct myself towards
Him who has been speaking to my heart since a long time ago… it
is the time to opt for something, to choose.”
Throughout the entire day and evening, she meditated on those
words that had penetrated to the deepest part of her heart. That
same night she made the decision of telling this to Francis and
not to allow any obstacle to stop her from responding to the
call of the Lord, placing in Him all her strength and
Clare knew that the act of making this decision to follow Christ
and, above all, to offer her life to the vision revealed to
Francis, would be a cause of great opposition from her family,
since the mere presence of the Friars Minor in Assisi had
already been questioning the traditional way of life and customs
untouched by the social circles and their privileges. To the
poor it meant receiving the hope of finding their dignity,
meanwhile the rich understood that the Gospel well-lived
exposed, by contrast, their selfishness to the light of day. For
Clare, it was a great challenge. Being the first woman to follow
him, her ties with Francis might have been misunderstood.
Saint Clare escaped from her house on March 18, 1212, which was
Palm Sunday, marking the beginning of the great adventure of her
vocation. She overcame obstacles and fear in order to give a
concrete response to the calling the Lord had placed in her
heart. She arrived at the humble chapel of the Porciuncule where
Francis and the rest of the Friars Minor waited for her and
where she consecrated herself to the Lord through the hands of
Days later, she was temporarily transferred, due to security
reasons, to the Benedictine Nuns since her father who, after
having found out that she escaped, left furiously to search for
her with the determination to take her back to the palace. The
firm conviction of Clare, regardless of her young age, finally
forced nobleman Offeduccio to leave her. Some more days later,
Saint Francis, worried about her safety, decided to transfer her
to another Benedictine monastery located in Saint Angelo. It is
there where her sister Agnes, who was one of the major
contributors to the expansion of the Order and the “favorite
daughter” of Saint Clare, followed her. Her cousin Pacífica also
followed her there.
Saint Francis rebuilt the chapel of Saint Damiani, place where
the Lord had spoken to his heart by saying “Rebuild my Church.”
These words from the Lord had reached the deepest part of his
being, leaving him speechless and with the greatest abandonment
to the Lord. Thanks to that response of love, of his great “Yes”
to the Lord, he gave life to a great work that we see and know
to this day as the Franciscan Community, of which Saint Clare
would be a crucial part, being co-foundress with Saint Francis
of the Order of the Claritians.
When the first Claritians transferred to Saint Damiani, Saint
Francis placed Saint Clare at the head of the community as a
guide of the poor maidens. At the beginning, she had difficulty
accepting since due to her great humility she wanted to be the
last and the one who served, a slave of the slaves of the Lord.
She accepted nonetheless and with true fear she undertook the
task at hand, understanding that it was the means of renouncing
her freedom and becoming a true slave. That is how she became
the loving mother of her spiritual daughters, a faithful
custodian and prodigious healer of the sick.
since she was named Mother of the Order, she wanted to be a
living example of the vision she transmitted, always asking her
daughters that everything the Lord had revealed for the Order be
lived in its fullness. Always attentive to the needs of each one
of her daughters and revealing her tenderness and attention of a
mother, there are memories that still prevail even after so much
time has passed and they are the greatest treasure of those who
are her daughters to this day, the Poor Clares.
Saint Clare was always used to taking the most difficult jobs,
and to provide even in the slightest need of each of them. She
was mindful of the smallest details and a witness of that heart
of a mother and that true response to the call and
responsibility that the Lord had placed in her hands.
By the witness of the same sisters who lived with her, one knows
that when it was very cold she would often get up to put covers
on her daughters and to those who were most delicate she would
give up her own blanket. Despite all of this, Saint Clare would
cry feeling that she would not mortify her body enough.
When her daughters needed bread she would fast with a smile and
if the sackcloth of any one of the sisters looked old, she would
exchange hers for it. Her entire life was a complete donation of
love for service and mortification. Her great love for the Lord
is an example that should penetrate our hearts as well as her
great firmness and decision to truly fulfill the will of God for
She was very enthusiastic about exercising every class of
sacrifice and penance. Her joy of suffering for Christ was
something very evident and it is precisely that which led her to
become Saint Clare. It was the greatest example that she gave
It is pertinent to turn our attention to an important detail in
the call of Saint Francis and Saint Clare. When the Lord sees
that the world is going off on the wrong direction, in a path
opposite to the Gospel, He raises men and women to counterattack
and crush evil with a greater good. We can
see in the Franciscan Order, in its charism, that when the world
was being influenced by opulence, richness, social injustices,
etc. what takes place in two young people from the best families
is a valiant love to embrace the spirit of poverty, so as to
show in a radical way the true path to follow that, at the same
time, exposes the work of Satan, crushing its head. They became
a sign of contradiction for the world, and at the same time, a
fountain where the Lord pours His grace so that others receive
The Lord in His great wisdom and being the Good Shepherd who
always takes care of His people and their salvation, He never
abandons us and sends prophets who with their words and lives
remind us of the truth and show us the path to return to Him.
The saints point out to us our own twisted paths and show us how
to set them straight.
Beginning of the Renunciations
Kneeling before Saint Francis, Clare made the promise of
renouncing the riches and comforts of the world and to dedicate
herself to a life of prayer, poverty, and penance. Saint
Francis, as a first step, took scissors and cut her long and
beautiful hair, and placed on her head a simple mantle, and sent
her to where some religious sisters lived nearby so that she may
begin to prepare to become a holy religious. For Saint Clare,
humility is poverty of spirit and this poverty becomes
obedience, service, and desire to give oneself without limits to
Humility shone greatly in Saint Clare, and one of the greatest
tests for her humility was her way of life in the convent,
always serving with her teachings, cares, protection, and
correction. The responsibility the Lord had placed in her hands
she did not use to impose on anyone or to simply boss around in
the name of the Lord. What she ordered her daughters to do she
herself first did to perfection. She demanded more of herself
than what she demanded of her daughters.
She would do the most costly jobs, and she would give love and
protection to each one of her daughters. She would seek to wash
the feet of those who would arrive tired from begging for the
daily food. She would wash the sick and there was not any one
job she would reject, she did everything with supreme love and
“In one occasion, after having washed the feet of one of the
sisters, she wanted to kiss them. The sister, resisting that act
from her foundress, moved her foot back and accidently hit
Clare’s face. Despite the bruise and bleeding nose, Clare
tenderly took the foot again and kissed it. With her great
poverty she manifested her longing of not possessing anything
else but the Lord. She demanded this of all the sisters. For
her, holy poverty was the queen of the house. She rejected all
possessions and rent, and her greatest longing was to attain
from the Popes the privilege of poverty, which was finally
granted by Pope Innocent III.
For Saint Clare poverty was the path where one could attain more
perfectly that union with Christ. This love for poverty was born
from the vision of Christ who was poor, Christ the Redeemer and
King of the world, born on a manger. He who is King,
nonetheless, did not have anything nor did He demand anything
earthly for Himself; His sole possession was to live the will of
the Father. His was a poverty attained on the manger and taken
to its summit on the Cross. Christ who was poor had the sole
desire to obey and love.
That is why the life of Saint Clare was a constant battle to
remove herself from everything that kept her apart from Love and
everything that would limit her heart from the desire for the
salvation of souls and having the Lord as her sole, greatest
Poverty carried her to a true abandonment in the Providence of
God. Just as Saint Francis, she saw in poverty that desire of
total imitation of Christ, not as a great oppressive demand, but
rather in the manner and style of life that the Lord asked of
them and the best way to project to the world the true image of
Christ and his Gospel.
Following the teachings and examples of Saint Francis, her
teacher, Saint Clare desired that her convents not have any
riches or rental payments of any type. Even though she would be
offered gifts of goods to assure the future of her religious,
she did not want to accept them. To the Holy Father who offered
her some rental payments for her convents she wrote, “Holy
Father: I beg of thee to absolve me and free me from all my
sins, but do not absolve me nor free me from the obligation that
I have of being poor as Jesus Christ was.” To those who would
tell her to think about the future, she would respond with the
words of Jesus, “My Heavenly Father who nourishes the birds of
the fields will know how to nourish us also.”
Mortification of her Body
If there is something outstanding in the life of Saint Clare is
her great mortification. Underneath her tunic she would use as
an intimate jewel, a rough piece of either pig or horse leather.
Her bed was made of vine shoots covered with hay, something she
was forced to change in obedience to Saint Francis, due to her
She always lived an austere life and ate so little that she even
surprised her own sisters. No one could explain how she
sustained herself. During the time of Lent, some days she would
go without a bite to eat and on the others she would eat bread
and water. She was very demanding of herself and she would do
everything filled with love, joy, a total offering to the love
that would consume her interiorly, and her great longing to
live, serve, and desire only her beloved Jesus.
Due to her great severity in fasting, her sisters worried about
her health and so informed Saint Francis who asked the bishop to
intervene and ordered her to eat at least daily a piece of bread
no smaller than an ounce and a half.
For Saint Clare prayer was happiness, life, the fountain and
spring of all the graces for her and for the entire world.
Prayer is the purpose of religious life and its profession. She
would become accustomed to spend many hours of the night in
prayer to open her heart to the Lord and gather in silence the
words of love from the Lord. Many times, during her prayer time,
one could find her covered with tears upon experiencing the
great joy of adoration and presence of the Lord in the
Eucharist, or perhaps she was touched by the great pain of sins,
forgetfulness, or her own ingratitudes and those of mankind.
She would kneel before the Lord and upon meditating the Passion,
tears would stream down from the most intimate part of her
heart. Many times the silence and loneliness of her prayer would
be invaded by great disturbances from the enemy. Her sisters
witnessed that when Clare would exit the oratory, her face would
irradiate happiness and her words were so ardent that they would
move and awaken in them that ardent zeal and burning love for
the Lord. She would make strong sacrifices during her 42 years
of consecrated life. When she was asked if she did not exceed
herself she would reply, “these excesses are necessary for
redemption; without the gushing forth of the Blood of Jesus on
the Cross there would be no Salvation.” She added, “There are
some who do not pray nor make sacrifices; there are many who
live solely for the idolatry of their senses. There should be
compensation. There should be someone who prays and makes
sacrifices for those who do not do so. If this spiritual balance
is not established, earth would be destroyed by the evil one.”
Saint Clare contributed in a very generous way to that balance.
Miracles of Saint Clare
The Eucharist before the Saracen People
1241 the Saracens attacked the city of Assisi. When they
approached to attack the convent located in the skirt of the
hill, on the exterior of the walls of Assisi, the nuns went to
pray very fearfully and Saint Clare who was extraordinarily
devoted to the Blessed Sacrament, took in her hands the
monstrance with the consecrated host and confronted the
attackers. At that very moment they experienced such a terrible
wave of fear that they fled petrified.
On another occasion, the enemies attacked the city of Assisi and
wanted to destroy it. Saint Clare and her nuns prayed with faith
before the Blessed Sacrament and the attackers withdrew without
The Miracle of the Multiplication of Bread
When they had only one bread so that 50 sisters could eat, Saint
Clare blessed it and while together they prayed an Our Father,
she broke the bread and sent one half to the Friars Minor and
the other half she distributed amongst the sisters. This half
bread multiplied so much so that it was enough for all to eat.
Saint Clare said, “He who multiplies the bread in the Eucharist,
the great mystery of faith, can’t He also be able to supply
enough bread for His poor spouses?”
On one of the visits of the Pope to the Convent, around
noontime, Saint Clare had invited the Holy Father to eat, but
the Pope did not accept. As a result, she asked him to please
bless the breads so that they remain as a remembrance, but the
Pope responded, “I want you to be the one who blesses these
breads.” Saint Clare responded that it would be a great
disrespect from her part to do so in front of the Vicar of
Christ. The Pope, then, ordered her under the vow of obedience
to make the sign of the Cross. She blessed the breads by making
the sign of the Cross and instantly, the Cross was left marked
over all the breads.
Saint Claire was sick for 27 years in the convent of Saint
Damiani, withstanding all the sufferings of her sickness with
heroic patience. From her bed she would do embroidery, sewing,
and prayed unceasingly. The Holy Father visited her twice and
said, “I wish I had so little need to be forgiven as this little
nun has.” Cardinals and bishops would also go visit her and ask
her for advice.
Saint Francis had died already, but three of the saint’s
favorite disciples, Friar Junipero, Friar Angel, and Friar Leon,
read to Saint Clare the passion
Christ meanwhile she was in agony. The Saint repeated, “Ever
since I dedicated myself to think about and meditate on the
Passion and Death of our Lord Jesus Christ, all the pain and
sufferings no longer discouraged me, but rather they console
On August 10th of 1253, at the age of 60 and her 41st year of
being a religious, and two days after her rule was approved by
the Pope, she went to Heaven to receive her reward. In her hands
was the blessed rule for which she gave her life.
In the Basilica of Saint Clare
We find her incorrupt body and many of her relics. In the
convent of Saint Damiani, one can walk the same hallways she
walked through. One can also enter the room where she spent many
years of her life in bed and where one can see the window from
where she looked out to see her daughters. The oratory is also
conserved, the chapel, and the window from where she kicked out
the Saracens with the power of the Eucharist. Today, there are
approximately 18,000 Claritian sisters in 1,248 convents around
SAYINGS OF SAINT CLARE OF ASSISI
While she was pregnant, Saint Clare’s mother, blessed Ortolana,
begged before a cross to the Crucified One to have a safe
delivery and she heard a voice say, “Be not afraid woman, since
you will joyfully shine a light that will illumine with greater
clarity the entire world.”
When her daughter was born, she ordered that she be named Clare.
FROM HER LETTERS:
-Oh blessed poverty that gives eternal riches to those who love
and embrace it.
- Foxes -says Christ Himself- have dens and birds of the sky
have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head.
When he rested it -on the Cross- he handed over his spirit (Mt
8:20; cf. Jn 19:30).
- No fear should detain you, dearest daughter, because God is
faithful in his words and holy in all his actions.
- Have caution, my beloved sister, in not allowing yourself to
be struck down by adversity nor becoming vain by prosperity.
- It is suitable of faith to make us humble in the joyful events
and impassive in the misfortunes.
- Do not trust nor comply with anyone who wants to keep you
apart from your goal or the one who puts obstacles so that you
do not fulfill your vows to the Most High with the perfection to
which the Spirit of the Lord has called you.
- Lift your eyes up to Heaven often; you are invited to take up
your cross and follow Jesus Christ. “Through many tribulations
one enters the Kingdom of Heaven.”
- Love with all the powers of your soul this God who is
infinitely adorable and his divine Son who wanted to be
crucified in reparation for our sins. May his beneficial thought
never be absent from your spirit.
- I consider you cooperative of the same God and supportive of
the shaky members of his ineffable Body.
- Rejoice always in the Lord and do not allow yourself to become
involved by any darkness or bitterness.
- Transform yourself entirely through contemplation into an icon
- Leave behind absolutely everything that in this deceptive and
unstable world has trapped its blind lovers.
- Love totally he who totally offered himself out of love for
- Meditate assiduously on the mysteries of his Passion and on
the pains that His Blessed Mother suffered at the foot of the
- Adhere yourself to the sweet Mother who gave birth to such a
sweet Son. Heaven could not contain him, and she, however,
carried andformed him in the small cloister of her sacred womb.
- It is very clear that by the grace of God, the most noble of
his creatures, the faithful soul, is greater than Heaven.
- Heaven could not span its Creator, but the faithful soul, and
only it, becomes its dwelling place and seat, and it becomes so
in virtue of charity of which the unpious lack.
- If you suffer with Him, you will reign with Him.
- If you cry with Him, you will have joy with Him.
- If you die with Him on the cross of tribulation, you will
possess the eternal dwelling place in the splendor of the
saints. And your name, written in the book of life, will be
glorious among men.
- Oh marvelous humility, Oh wonderful poverty, the King of the
angels, the Lord of Heaven and earth, is laid on a manger.
- Up high on the Mirror contemplate the ineffable charity with
which he chose to suffer on the wood of the cross and die the
most infamous death.
- The same Mirror placed on the tree of the cross directs
himself to the passer-bys so that they stop to meditate, “Oh,
all of you who pass by, look and see if there is a pain like
mine.” Let us respond to a voice that cries out and groans, “I
will never forget you, and my soul will agonize within me.” And
that is how you will become more and more aflame with the fire
of charity, Oh queen, spouse of the celestial King.
- Persevere until the end of your vocation, serving the Lord in
holy poverty and humility.
- Let us pray for one another, under the sweet yoke of charity
we will observe more easily the law of Jesus Christ.
FROM THE RULE:
- The way of life of the Order of poor sisters, instituted by
blessed Francis, is this: keep the holy Gospel of our Lord Jesus
Christ, living in obedience, with nothing of your own, and in
- Strive -the abbess- to prevail over the others with virtues
and good habits before your duties so that the sisters,
motivated by your example, obey her more out of love than fear.
- Do not have particular preferences, lest that by loving more
some than others you would end up scandalizing all.
- Place with confidence your need to another, because if the
mother nourishes and loves her child how much more loving should
each one want to nourish her spiritual sister?
- Both the abbess and her sisters should avoid getting angry and
perturbed by sin that someone commits because rage and
disturbance hinder charity in oneself and others.
- Recalling the word of the Lord, “If you do not forgive from
the heart, your Father in heaven will not forgive you.” May each
one of you forgive with generosity every injury.
- I admonish and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ that the
sisters may guard themselves from any pride, vainglory, envy,
avarice, worries and appeals of this world, defamation and
murmuration, conflicts and division. On the contrary, always
show zeal for maintaining amongst each other the unity of mutual
love which is the bond of perfection.
- Apply yourself to what you should long for above all else:
Always pray to the Lord with a pure heart, have humility and
patience in persecution and sickness, and love those who
persecute, scold, and accuse us because the Lord says, “Blessed
are those who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness,
because theirs is the kingdom of Heaven.” He who perseveres
until the end will be saved.
- The Lord himself put us as models to be examples and mirrors
not only before others, but also before our sisters- those
called by the Lord to our vocation- with the purpose that they
in turn may be mirrors and examples for those who live in the
- We are obliged to bless, praise, and reassure ourselves in the
Lord to do good works.
- If we live our Way of Life, we will leave others a noble
- I, Clare- a servant, although unworthy of Jesus Christ and the
rest of the poor sisters, at the same time a true plant of Saint
Francis- and the rest of my sisters, we have reflected on our
profession and the mandate of such a great Father; we have
become aware also of the fragility of the rest and we have
feared it in us at the moment when our holy father Francis would
die. He is our pillar, our sole consolation after God, and he
would give strength to our lives. All of this has led us to
commit ourselves once and again to our dear lady, holy poverty,
with the aim that after my death, there is no way you will
separate yourselves from it, both the current sisters and the
- I admonish and exhort in the Lord all of my present and future
sisters, that they may always strive to imitate the path of holy
simplicity, humility, and poverty, as well as the decor of their
holy religious lives, according to how we were taught by our
blessed father Francis.
- By loving each other mutually with the charity of Christ, show
exteriorly through your works the love that interiorly
encourages you in order that the sisters, stimulated by this
example, may always grow in the love of God and in reciprocal
- I want that -the sisters- obey their Mother, according to what
they promised the Lord, spontaneously and voluntarily, in order
that Mother, seeing the charity, humility, and unity they
mutually profess, may withstand more easily all the load she
tolerates in her mission, and so that the bothersome and bitter
may be turned into sweetness by the holy lives of the sisters.
- Narrow is the path, tight is the door through which life
enters and exits. This is why there are few who traverse such a
path and enter through such a door. If there are some who during
a certain time walk through such a path, there are very few who
persevere in it. Blessed are those who have been given the path
and perseverance to the end.
FROM THE BLESSING:
- Always be lovers of your souls and those of all of your
sisters so that you may always observe diligently what you
promised the Lord.
FROM THE WITNESSES OF THE PROCESS OF CANONIZATION AND OTHER
- Withstand with courtesy.
- My sisters and daughters, you should always remember the holy
water that gushed forth from the right side of our Lord Jesus
Christ hanging on the Cross. Sing, “I saw the water that came
out from the right side of the temple….”
- Lord, please also defend this city. – What was responded, “The
city will suffer many dangers, but it will be protected.”
- My sisters and daughters, be not afraid, since if God is with
us, the enemies will not be able to offend us. Trust in our Lord
Jesus Christ and He will set us free. I want to be your
guarantor that they will not do you any harm; if they come, put
me in front of them.
- I assure you that you will not suffer any evil, not now nor in
the future, if you keep the commandments of God.
- Patience exercised as a gift of divinity will lead those who
exercise them to the delights of paradise and will provide them
with the treasure of eternal recompense.
- Ever since I met the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ by means
of his servant Francis, no sorrow bothered me, no penance seemed
grave, no sickness difficult.
- When the holy mother sent sisters outside the monastery for a
service, she would exhort them to praise God when they would see
beautiful, lush trees full of flowers. In the same way, upon
seeing men and the rest of the creatures, they may always praise
God for everything and in everything.
- Sister Bienvenida Assisi said that the holy mother, Clare,
taught her: first, to love God above all things; second, to
confess her sins wholeheartedly and frequently; and third, she
trained her to always have in her memory the Passion of the
THE CHURCH GLORIFIED CLARE:
- Oh, Clare, so variedly gifted with titles of clarity (from the
Bull of Canonization).
- Clare planted and cultivated in the field of faith the vine of
poverty; she provided in the heredity of the Church an orchard
of humility that mixed with all sorts of hardships, produces an
exuberance of virtues.
This page is the work of the Servants of the Pierced Hearts of Jesus and