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St. Clare: a Light through the Centuries

Ave Maria Meditations

Clare was born in Assisi, Italy in about 1194 into a family of knights and nobles. At the age of eighteen, Clare became the first female follower of Saint Francis when she left her home on Palm Sunday night in 1212 in order to be consecrated as the handmaid of Christ. Saint Francis soon took her to San Damiano where she anchored her whole self for over forty years. Because she remained rooted in one place, she liked to call herself the Little Plant of St. Francis. She was shortly joined by her sister who also had to escape from the family home and then in later years yet another sister and her own mother also joined her in religious life.

Saint Clare was the first woman in history to write a Rule. She took her form of life from Saint Francis who wanted to live the Gospel radically. She also chose to live with the privilege of poverty. This desire to live a rule of total poverty was opposed; it was said that it could not be done, especially by women. All the remaining years of her life she fought to have this privilege in her Rule of Life for her sisters. Only days before her death did the Holy Father finally grant this great wish. She placed her security in the providence of the Father of Mercies and trusted He would take care of her and her sisters through the goodness of the faithful. This has been proved true for over 800 years.

Clare also had a deep devotion to Jesus in the Holy Eucharist. When the Saracens attacked her monastery, she had herself led to the door with the Blessed Sacrament. She begged Jesus to protect her Sisters whom she was unable to protect. She heard the voice of our Lord promise: “I WILL ALWAYS PROTECT YOU.” The Saracens fled in terror, and peace returned. St. Clare is most often pictured holding a monstrance with the Blessed Sacrament.

Clare had a supremely Marian Vocation. In her second letter to Saint Agnes of Prague, she wrote: “Therefore, as the glorious Virgin of virgins carried Christ materially in her Body, you too, by following in her footprints, especially those of poverty and humility, can, without any doubt, always carry Him spiritually in your chaste and virginal body.” As Francis was called to imitate Jesus in a radical and total way, Clare was called to imitate Mary.

St. Clare had the heart of a missionary. Her mission like her heart had a universal scope. Totally surrendered to God, her ‘mission field’ became as wide and far and broad as that of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Through the mysterious and radical limiting of her body to the cloister, her heart expanded so that her mission field became co-extensive with that of God Himself. Her apostolic ‘work’ was union with God and through Him her life was given a universal mission. This union was the source of her fruitfulness and apostolate.

Toward the end of her life, when she was too ill to attend Mass, an image of the service would display on the wall of her cell; thus her patronage of television.

NOVENA TO SAINT CLARE

Dear St. Clare, as a young girl you imitated your mother’s love for the poor of your native Assisi. Inspired by the preaching of St. Francis, who sang enthusiastically of His Lord Jesus and Lady Poverty, you gave your life to Jesus at nineteen years of age, allowing St. Francis to cut off your beautiful hair and invest you with the Franciscan habit. All through your life you offered your great suffering for your Sisters, the Poor Clares, and the conversion of souls. You greatly aided St. Francis with his new order, carrying on his spirit in the Franciscans after his death. Most of all you had a deep love of Jesus in the Most Blessed Sacrament, which fueled your vocation to love and care for the poor. Please pray for me (mention your request) that I will seek to keep Jesus as my first love, as you did. Help me to grow in love of the Blessed Sacrament, to care for the poor, and to offer my whole life to God. Heavenly Father, thank You for the gift of St. Clare. Through her intercession, please hear and answer my prayer, in the name of Jesus Your Son. Amen.

note: St. Clare’s Feast Day is August 11th