On Palm Sunday 1211, 18 year-old Clare decided to rebel against her wealthy — and much beloved — family, in pursuit of the desire for true freedom that God put in her: She wanted to be poor.
Seven years prior, she had witnessed a wealthy young man strip naked, return his rich and elegant clothing to his father, and embrace Lady Poverty. He was Francis of Assisi. That night Francis was waiting for her at the Porziuncola a tiny church in the valley below Assisi.
Clare cut her hair, doned a tunic of coarse wool and found shelter in the Benedictine monastery of St. Paul at Bastia Umbra. Her father was unable to convince her to return home.
The divine inspiration that influenced Clare drew many other women to her, including her mother and sisters: soon numbering 50. Francis called them “Poor Ladies” or “Poor Sisters” and made 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, and she defines herself “his seedling.” With her sisters, Clare accompanies the mission of the friars in the world with unceasing prayer.
Clare was 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.”
Clare’s last 30 years on Earth were fraught with illness. In 1224, an army of rough soldiers from Frederick II came to attack Assisi. Although very sick, Clare went out to meet them with the Blessed Sacrament on her hands. She had the Blessed Sacrament placed at the wall where the enemies could see it. Then on her knees, she begged God to save the sisters.
Though struggling in health, Clare’s joyful intimacy with the Lord in prayer never subsided. “Nothing is so great,” she wrote, “as the heart of man: there, in the depths, dwells God.”
On a Christmas night, Clare was sick in bed and immersed in prayer. She thought of the Holy Mass taking place in the Porziuncola, the heart of the friars’ community. Clare was given a vision of the rites as they unfolded and saw the celebration appear on the wall of her cell.
It was owing to this miraculous occurrence, that Pius XII made her patroness of television. Clare died on Aug. 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.
Adapted by A.J. Valentini