SAINT CLARE OF ASSISI
She was the cofoundress of the Order of the Poor Clares, the first Abbess of San Damiano. She was born at Assisi on July 16,1194, and died there on August 11,1253.
Her mother, Blessed Ortolana belonged to the noble family of Fiumi, and was noted for her zeal and piety.
As a child, Clare was devoted to prayer, and as she matured her yearning for a more spiritual life increased.
She was 18 years old when St Francis came to preach, and his words inspired her to seek him out secretly and beg him to help her live the same type of life as he did. Saint Francis recognised in her one of those special souls destined to do great things in God's service.
On the night of Palm Sunday she secretly left her father's house and went to the Chapel of the Porziuncula, where she was met by Saint Francis and some of his disciples. Her father was furious when he discovered where she was, and tried to persuade her to return to home, even trying to drag her by force.
Soon after, she was joined by her younger sister.
In the beginning, Saint Clare and her companions had no written rule to follow beyond a very short formula given to them by Saint Francis. Saint Francis had forbidden his Friars to own any form of property, even in common, and enjoined this rule also on St Clare and her companions.
In 1219, during St Francis's absence, Cardinal Ugolino drew up a Rule for the Poor Clares at Monticelli, which effectively took away the Franciscan character of absolute poverty.
Saint Clare vehemenetly resisted this new Rule. Eventually she won the Pope's admiration, so much that he granted her, on September 17,1228, the celebrated Privilegium Paupertatis.
In 1215, much against her will, Saint Clare was made superior at San Damiano - a position she held until her death in 1253, nearly 40 years later.
She became a living copy of St Francis, she had a special devotion to the Holy Eucharist.
Monasteries of Poor Clares were founded far and wide throughout Europe.
Saint Clare gave much aid and encouragement to Saint Francis.
After Saint Francis's death, the procession which accompanied his remains from the Porziuncula to the town stopped on the way at San Damiano, so that Clare and her disciples might venerate the pierced hands and feet of Saint Francis.
When in 1234, the army of Frederick II prepared an assault upon Assisi, his soldiers scaled the walls of San Damiano by night, spreading terror among the community.
Clare rose from her sick bed, and taking the Ciborium from the Chapel next to her cell, she faced the invaders at an open window, to which they had already set up a ladder. As she raised the Ciborium, the soldiers fell backward, as if dazzled, and at this all of the other soldiers also took flight.
Some time later a larger force returned led by their General Vitale de Avensa, who had not been with them in the first attack. Clare gathered her companions about her and they knelt in urgent prayer asking God to save their town. Soon a fierce storm arose, blowing the soldiers tents in all directions and causing them to flee in panic.
When some years later it became apparent that Clare was approaching death, Pope Innocent IV came from Perugia to visit the dying Saint. She had already received the Last Sacraments from Cardinal Rainaldo. Clare's sister, Sister Agnes, returned form Florence to be with her and console her on her deathbed. Before dawn on August 11, 1253, St Clare passed away peacefully.
Two years later, on September 26, 1255 Clare was solemnly canonised by Pope Alexander IV.
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