St. Clare of Assisi: we know very little of her childhood other than she was born to a very wealthy family, however, at the age of eighteen she had the opportunity to hear St. Francis of Assisi preach and left it all.
Sneaking off from her family who would have prevented her, she went to Francis and told him of her desire to follow in the way of his teachings. She exchanged her fine clothes for a dress of rough fabric. She cut her long beautiful hair and replaced it with a veil. At one point, her family tried to pull her back, but in the end, she prevailed and would later be followed into the convent by her sister, Agnes, and her mother when she was widowed.
How did she live? She was barefoot year round, she did not speak unless absolutely necessary, she spent hours a day in prayer, had no source of income, so begged for alms, ate no meat, fasted on bread and water, and slept on the hard floor (she would eventually be ordered by the Bishop and Francis to sleep on a mattress for health reasons.) You would think such a life would be so unappealing that no one would follow in her footsteps, but that is not the case. When she died, “there were forty-seven convents in Spain alone, with many others in Italy, Bohemia, and France. And not long after Clare’s death, four convents of Poor Clares—as they became known—were founded in England.”
She was considered so pure and righteous in faith that bishops, cardinals and Popes came to her for advice, and it was a Pope, Innocent IV, who heard her last confession. Following that confession, he said, “I would to God I had so little need of absolution myself.”
On the day of her death, August 11, 1253, she was heard to say, “Go forth in peace, for you have followed the good road. Go without fear, for he who created you has sanctified you, has always protected you, and loves you as a mother. Blessed are you, O God, for having created me.”
Could such a movement continue? Today, there are 20,000 Poor Clares spread across the world, living cloistered lives, with the purpose of praying. Praying for the needs of the church and the world.
In writing to Agnes, the daughter of the King of Bohemia, but who also became one of the Poor Clares, Clare wrote,
When You have loved [Him], You shall be chaste;
when You have touched [Him], You shall become pure;
when You have accepted [Him], You shall be a virgin.
Whose power is stronger,
Whose generosity is more abundant,
Whose appearance more beautiful,
Whose love more tender,
Whose courtesy more gracious.
In Whose embrace You are already caught up;
Who has adorned Your breast with precious stones
And has placed priceless pearls in Your ears
and has surrounded You with sparkling gems
as though blossoms of springtime
and placed on Your head a golden crown
as a sign [to all] of Your holiness.
There is no doubt that St. Clare of Assisi has received the golden crown from the One she loved above all others—Jesus.