Saint Clare of Assisi
“Our labor here is brief, but the reward is eternal. Do not be disturbed by the clamor of the world, which passes like a shadow. Do not let false delights of a deceptive world deceive you.”
Saint Clare of Assisi was one of the very first followers of Saint Francis of Assisi and the founder of the Order of Poor Ladies (now known as the Order of Saint Clare or Poor Clares).
Saint Clare was the eldest daughter of the Count of Sasso-Rosso, Favorino Sciffi. Favorino represented an influential and long historied Roman family that owned both a palace in Assisi and a castle on the slope of Mount Subasio. Her mother, Ortolana, belonged to a noble family of Flumi and herself came from a family of wealth. Soon after being born on July 16th, 1194, Saint Clare was baptized and as a child devoted much of her time to prayer in the devout Christian household. As a teenager, Saint Clare attended a Lenten service in the church of San Giorgio (in Assisi) where she heard a service that would forever change her life.
The preacher that delivered the homily was no one other than Saint Francis of Assisi and immediately following the liturgy she asked him to help her live a life in accordance with the Gospels. On March 20th, 1212, the evening of Palm Sunday, Saint Clare and her aunt Bianca left their home and travelled to the chapel of Porziuncula to meet with Saint Francis. She had her haircut and received a plain robe and veil.
Saint Francis placed her in the convent of the Benedictine nuns of San Paulo, near Basita. When her father received the news he set out immediately for the convent and tried to forcefully remove her. She clung to the altar and through bare teeth told him that she should have no other husband but Christ and shook aside her veil so that he could see the cropped hair she now bore. Saint Francis sent her to another monastery run by the Benedictine nuns at Sant' Angelo a few days later where she was soon joined by her sister Catarina (who took upon the new name Agnes) as a fellow nun. A dwelling was built next to the convent for them at the church of San Damiano.
As other women began to join them, the group became known as the Poor Ladies of San Damiano. The women lived according to a Rule given to them by Saint Francis and their life was one of seclusion, austerity and total poverty. In 1228, Pope Gregory IX offered her a dispensation from the vow of strict poverty but received this reply from her:
"I need to be absolved from my sins, but not from the obligation of following Christ."
Henceforth the Pope granted them the title Privilegium Pauperitatis - no one could oblige them to accept any possessions. The women always walked barefoot, slept on the ground, ate no meat, observed nearly complete silence and spent time away from prayer completing manual labor around the enclosure they lived in. In 1216 she accepted the role of abbess and defender the order from multiple attempts of prelates to change their Rule closer to that of the Rule of Saint Benedict rather than the more stricter Rule from Saint Francis. Her theology of joyous poverty in imitation of Christ was often evident in her letters to Saint Agnes of Prague.
On August 9th, 1253, the papal bull Solet annuere was issued by Pope Innocent IV confirming that the rule she wrote and updated would continue to serve as the governing rule for the Order. On August 11th, 1253, only two days later, Saint Clare died after battling poor health for sometime. Her final words were:
"Blessed be You, O God, for having created me."
Her remains were interred at the chapel of San Giorgio. At the request of Pope Innocent IV, the cause for canonization was opened almost immediately following her death and on September 26th, 1255, Pope Alexander IV canonized her formally. On October 3rd, 1260, her remains were transferred and buried underneath the high altar of the recently completed basilica of Saint Clare and in 1263 Pope Urban IV officially changed the name of the order to the Order of Saint Clare. Today her relics are in the shrine in the crypt of the Basilica of Saint Clare after being moved in 1872. Her feast day was assigned for August 12th originally as a Double. When the feast day of Tiburtius and Susanna was removed from the 1969 revision, her feast day was moved up to the date of her death, August 11th.
Saint Clare was designated by Pope Pius XII as the patron saint of television in 1958 due to a recorded miracle of hers in which she was able to see and hear the mass being celebrated in the chapel despite being bed ridden from illness in her chambers. In the Philippines, eggs are brought and offered to the Poor Clares for their intercessions in poor weather (specifically during weddings). The term clara in Casitillan began to be known as times of good weather due to this tradition. The town Santa Clara was named in her honor after being founded by Spanish missionaries in northern California in 1777 and the first convent in Cuba (Convento de Santa Clara de Asis) was dedicated to her.