Thursday, January 11, 2007

St. Clare of Assisi (Santa Chiara) (1194-1253)

Chiara Offreduccio was born at Assisi, 16 July, 1194 and died there on 11 August, 1253.

She was eighteen years of age when St. Francis came to preach the Lenten course in the church of San Giorgio (now the site of the Basilica of Santa Chiara) at Assisi. Inspired, she sought him out secretly and begged him to help her that she too might live "after the manner of the holy Gospel."

On the night of Palm Sunday (20 March, 1212), Clare, secretly left her father's house, by St. Francis's advice and, accompanied by her aunt Bianca and another companion, proceeded to the humble chapel of the Porziuncula. There St. Francis and his disciples met her with lights in their hands. Clare then laid aside her rich dress, and St. Francis, having cut off her hair, clothed her in a rough tunic and a thick veil, and in this way the young heroine vowed herself to the service of Jesus Christ.

Clare and her sister remained with the nuns at various local communities until they and the other fugitives from the world who had followed them were established by St. Francis in a rude dwelling adjoining the poor chapel of San Damiano which he had to a great extent rebuilt with his own hands.

Thus was founded the first community of the Order of Poor Ladies, or of Poor Clares, as this second order of St. Francis came to be called.

St. Clare, who in 1215 had, much against her will been made superior at San Damiano by St. Francis, continued to rule there as abbess until her death, in 1253, nearly forty years later. There is no good reason to believe that she ever once went beyond the boundaries of San Damiano during all that time.

On 15 August 1255, the successor of Innocent IV, Pope Alexander IV, who had been Cardinal Protector of the Poor Ladies, solemnly canonised Clare in the cathedral of Anagni.

In 1260 the Poor Ladies moved to their new monastery in Assisi, where the church of San Giorgio once stood. They took with them the crucifix of San Damiano and the mortal remains of Clare. After her death her Sisters became known as the Order of St. Clare.

The tomb of St. Clare was found on 30 August 1850, and on 23 September her relics were exhumed. In 1872 they were placed in an urn in the crypt of the basilica, for the veneration of pilgrims.

Someone has said that without Saint Clare, the Franciscan movement, as we know it today, surely would not have survived. Clare was utterly loyal to St Francis. During his lifetime, she gave him total support. After his death, Clare gave the Franciscan movement much energy, fought to preserve the privilege of absolute poverty, and helped keep the movement on the straight path that Saint Francis of Assisi had originally intended.

Biographies of St Clare:

Catholic Online


Saint Clare of Assisi Parish - Coquitlam

The Poor Ladies of Assisi

The Franciscans