At the age of eighteen Clare decided to join Francis of Assisi (see October 4th) and his brothers. She lived an enclosed life of poverty and prayer, leading a community of women. She was a beautiful Italian noblewoman, born Chiara Offreduccio on July 16th 1194. When she heard Francis preach, her heart burned with a great desire to imitate him and live a poor, humble life for Jesus. So one evening she ran away from home, and in a little chapel outside Assisi, she gave herself to God. Francis cut off her hair and gave her a rough brown habit to wear, tied with a plain cord around her waist. Her parents tried in every way to make her return home, but Clare would not. She was one of the first followers of St. Francis.
Soon her sister, Agnes, joined her, as well as other young women who wanted to belong to her community and live without any money. They wore no shoes, ate no meat, lived in a poor house, and kept silent most of the time. Yet they were very happy, because the Lord was close to them all the time. Clare called the community the Order of Poor Ladies, a monastic religious order for women in the Franciscan tradition, and wrote their Rule of Life – the first known to have been written by a woman. As Clare grew in experience and in understanding of her commitment, she had to say ‘Yes’ again and again to a way of life that was not exactly the life she expected at the beginning. She had to choose that vocation for her life over and over again.
The Lord saved the community from a great danger in answer to Clare’s prayer. An army of rough soldiers came to attack Assisi and they planned to raid the convent first. Although very sick, Clare had herself carried to the wall, where the enemies could see, and she had the Blessed Sacrament placed there. Then on her knees she begged God, ‘O Lord, protect these Sisters whom I cannot protect now.’ A voice seemed to answer, ‘I will keep them always in My care.’ At the same time a sudden fright struck the attackers and they fled as fast as they could.
Clare was sick and suffered great pains for many years, but she said that no pain could trouble her. So great was her joy in serving the Lord that she once exclaimed, ‘They say that we are too poor, but can a heart which possesses the infinite God truly be called poor?’ She died on August 11th 1253. Following her death, the order she founded was renamed in her honour as the Order of Saint Clare, commonly referred to today as the Poor Clares.
Keep us, O Lord, always aware of Your call to simplicity, humility and devotion. Help us to see how You wish us to follow these things in our lives today. Protect us, and grant us the joy that comes from having You in our hearts. Amen.