Monday, August 10, 2009

Feast of St. Clare of Assisi - August 11

The story of Francis and Clare of Assisi is one that no one could make up. The young daughter of one of the noblest families of the city of Assisi, Italy; meets with Francis Bernandone, son of one of the richest merchants in the city, turned itinerant preacher. In that meeting, Clare finds herself inspired to leave all her rich clothing, her jewels, and her comfortable home, to live the gospel as a nun. In March, 1212, Francis would take Clare to a Benedictine sister’s monastery as a temporary abode. There she would be joined by her sister Agnes. They would eventually take up residence at San Damiano, where other women would join them.

Under the guidance and support of St. Francis and his brother friars, Clare developed a contemplative community that was unique in the Church of that time. She and her sisters, known then as the "Poor Ladies of San Damiano," lived a life of prayer and contemplation, supporting themselves by their own labor and accepting alms. They lived a life of poverty, not accepting endowments of money or property, like other monasteries. Clare would struggle with the leadership of the Church over the “privilege” of poverty for the rest of her life. She would survive Francis by 27 years,

There are very few writings of hers in existence, but they reveal a woman of deep prayer, a true Franciscan mystic. Her words continue to inspire many Poor Clare nuns around the world; her words and her example can inspire us. I close with words Clare wrote to Agnes of Prague, a fellow Poor Lady:

“O most noble Queen,
gaze upon Him,
consider Him
contemplate Him,
as you desire to imitate Him.
If you suffer with Him, you will reign with Him.
If you weep with Him, you shall rejoice with Him;
If you die with Him on the cross of tribulation,
you shall possess heavenly mansions in the splendor of the saints
and, in the Book of Life, your name shall be called
glorious among men.”
(Image by Robert Lentz)

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