Today we celebrate the feast of St. Clare, deepest friend of Saint Francis and co-founder of the Franciscan movement.
Soon her sister St. Agnes joined her, as well as other young women who wanted to imitate Christ in living a life of radical poverty in solidarity with the poor. St. Clare and her sisters wore no shoes, ate no meat, lived in a simple house, and kept silent most of the time.St. Clare was born in Assisi, the eldest daughter of a noble family. As a child, Clare was devoted to prayer. When she turned 12 her parents wanted her to marry a young and wealthy man, but she preferred to wait until she was 18. However, at the age of 18 she heard St. Francis’s preachings which would subsequently change her life. Francis told her that she was chosen by God. Hearing this, her heart burned with a great desire to imitate Francis and to live a poor humble life for Jesus. So one evening, she ran away from home, and in a little chapel outside Assisi, gave herself to God. St. 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 simply refused.
St. Clare was sick herself 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 be truly called poor?” In 1263, ten years after her death, Pope Urban IV officially changed the name of the Second Order to the Order of St. Clare, or “Poor Clares.”Clare sought to imitate Francis’ virtues and way of life so much so that she was sometimes titled alter Franciscus, “another Francis.” She also played a significant role in encouraging and aiding Francis, and she took care of him during his illnesses at the end of his life, until his death in 1226.
May we take this opportunity today to reflect on how we, like St. Clare, can respond to the Gospel call to live a life of radical simplicity in solidarity with and for the poor. St. Clare, pray for us!