August 10, 2016

Memorial of Saint Clare, Virgin and Foundress

St. Clare of Assisi
August 11th, is the Memorial of Saint Clare of Assisi (1191-1253). The founder of the Order of Poor Ladies, St. Clare was one of the first followers of Saint Francis of Assisi. Born into a world of wealth and privilege enjoyed by the Italian nobility, she was the eldest daughter of Favorino Sciffi, Count of Sasso-Rosso and his wife Blessed Ortolana. From her mother she received her deep faith and sense of religious devotion. Her selfless virtue was evident to all.

Forsaking her opulent surroundings, Clare dedicated herself to God, living a life of piety and poverty. Her commitment to the poor was so complete, she would forgo meals to give the food to the needy. Even as a young child, Clare made sacrifices and practiced mortification.

When she was 18, Clare listened to Saint Francis of Assisi preach during a Lenten service in the church of San Giorgio. Afterward, she asked him to help her live more perfectly as a disciple of Christ, according to the Gospel. Francis agreed. They developed an extraordinary spiritual friendship. The Breviary records the fruits of their collaboration: "Following the example of St. Francis, she distributed all her possessions among the poor. She fled from the noise of the world and betook herself to a country chapel, where St. Francis himself sheared off her hair and clothed her with a penitential garb (on March 18, 1212, at the age of eighteen). Then she resided at the Church of St. Damian, where the Lord provided for her a goodly number of companions. So she established a community of nuns and acted as their superior at the wish of St Francis. For forty-two years she directed the nunnery with zeal and prudence, her own life serving as a constant sermon for her sisters to emulate. Of Pope Innocent IV she requested the privilege that she and her community live in absolute poverty. She was a most perfect follower of St. Francis of Assisi." Indeed, St. Clare of Assisi was the first woman to live the life of total poverty extolled by St. Francis.

The last 27 years of her life, Clare became sick and suffered greatly. She endured these sufferings with heroic patience and intense prayer. During this time, Popes, Cardinals and bishops would visit her and ask her for advice. St. Clare died on August 11, 1253. She was canonized two years later by Pope Alexander IV. Her incorrupt body rests in the Basilica of Saint Clare in Assisi. O God, who in your mercy led Saint Clare to a love of poverty, grant, through her intercession, that, following Christ in poverty of spirit, we may merit to contemplate you one day in the heavenly Kingdom.

Miraculous Events in the Life of St. Clare

St. Clare's life was the occasion of several miraculous events. In September 1240, Saracen mercenaries were besieging Assisi and preparing to attack the convent. St. Clare prayed to God for assistance. Accounts vary, but in most, the future saint [being ill] asked to be assisted as far as the entrance. In her hand she carried a vessel containing the blessed Eucharist as she prayed: "O Lord, do not deliver over to beasts the souls that praise You! (Ps. 73). Protect Your servants, for You have redeemed them by Your precious Blood." In the midst of this prayer a voice was heard, saying: "Always will I protect you! The Saracens took to flight." She then turned to her fellow nuns and said, "Have no fear, my daughters; trust in Jesus." At this, an inexplicable terror seized their attackers who fled in haste.

Shortly afterward, a similar even occurred when one of Frederick's generals laid siege to Assisi for many days with the intention of destroying it. St. Clare and her nuns prayed before the Blessed Sacrament unceasingly for 24 hours, at the end of which, the attackers inexplicably withdrew, sparing the city.

This miracle of St. Clare is perhaps the most well known. Although she was too ill to attend Christmas Eve Mass at the new Basilica of St. Francis, Clare could clearly see the Mass on the wall of her cell. [The Basilica was more than a mile away from the convent where she resided.] The vision was so vivid that the next day she could name the participants in the celebration. It is for this miracle that St. Clare of Assisi is named patroness of television.

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