Poor by choice: in the footsteps of St. Francis
Palm Sunday, 1211. The silence of the night in the countryside of Assisi is broken by the 18 year-old Clare’s swift gait. She has decided to rebel against her wealthy – and much beloved – family, in pursuit of the desire for true freedom that God has put in her: She wants to be poor. Her escape from all security is the end of a journey begun seven years ago, when she witnessed a shocking incident: a wealthy young man stripped naked, returned his rich and elegant clothing to his father, and embraced Lady Poverty. He was Francis of Assisi. He is waiting for her that night at the Porziuncola: She cuts her hair, dons a tunic of coarse wool, and finds shelter in the Benedictine monastery of Saint Paul at Bastia Umbra. In vain, will her father attempt to convince her to return home..
The divine light that shines through Clare draws many other women to her, including her mother and sisters: soon they will be fifty. Francis calls them “Poor Ladies” or “Poor Sisters” and makes the little monastery of San Damiano available to them, which he had just restored and where he, as a young man, received the invitation, “Go and repair my house.” There is perfect communion between St. Francis and St. Clare there is full communion, and she defines herself “his seedling”. With her sisters, Clare accompanies the mission of the friars in the world with unceasing prayer.
First woman to write a Rule
Strong and determined, Clare is the first woman to write a Rule and obtain approval for it – from Gregory IX – which was permanently enshrined by Innocent IV in his Bull of 1253, giving stable right to the “privilege of poverty” and to her longing desire to “observe the Gospel”.
Tireless adoration of the Eucharist
Illness marked Clare’s last 30 years on Earth, but the joyful intimacy she had with the Lord in prayer never subsided. “Nothing is so great,” she wrote, “as the heart of man: there, in the depths, dwells God.” A tireless worshiper of Our Eucharistic Lord, Clare’s devotion was so great that once she even staved off an invasion of Saracens, armed only with a pyx.
Proclaimed a Saint two years after her death
On a Christmas night, sick in bed and immersed in prayer, contemplating the sacred action unfolding in the Porziuncola – the heart of the friars’ community – Clare was given a vision of the rites as they unfolded. She saw the celebration in a vision that appeared on the wall of her cell. It was owing to this miraculous occurrence, that Pius XII made her patroness of television. Clare died on August 11, 1253, on the bare floor of San Damiano. On her lips, the last thanksgiving: ““Go securely and in peace, my blessed soul. The One who created you and made you holy has always loved you tenderly as a mother her dear child. And you, Lord, are blessed because You have created me.” Unprecedented numbers of people took part in her funeral, and Alexander IV proclaimed her a Saint only two years later.