Theology of the Heart- Life of the Saints

Virgin and Doctor of the Church

Feast Day:  August 11

“Love that cannot suffer is not worthy of that name.”

See also: General Audience by H.H. Benedict XVI

Clare means “transparent life.”

Early Life
She 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 determination.

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 Francis.

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.

Ever 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 her.

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 her daughters.

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 clearly 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 from it.

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 others.

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 humility.
“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 love.

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 illness.

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
In 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 knowing why.

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.

Long Agony
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 of 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 me.”
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 the world.

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.

-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 of divinity.
- 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 you.
- Meditate assiduously on the mysteries of his Passion and on the pains that His Blessed Mother suffered at the foot of the Cross.
- 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.

- 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 chastity.
- 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 world.
- 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 example.
- 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 future ones.
- 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 charity.
- 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.

- 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.

- 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 Lord.

- 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.

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