Clare of Assisi

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This article is about the Italian saint. For the film, see Saint Clara (film). For the unincorporated community, see St. Clara, West Virginia.
Saint Clare of Assisi
Simone Martini 047.jpg
Detail depicting Saint Clare from a fresco (1312–20) by Simone Martini in the Lower basilica of San Francesco, Assisi
Virgin
Born (1194-07-16)July 16, 1194
Assisi
Died August 11, 1253(1253-08-11) (aged 59)
Assisi
Honored in
Roman Catholic Church, Anglican Communion, Lutheran Church
Canonized September 26, 1255, Rome by Pope Alexander IV
Major shrine Basilica of Saint Clare, Assisi
Feast August 11, August 12 (1255–1969)
Attributes Monstrance, pyx, lamp, habit of the Poor Clares
Patronage Eye disease, goldsmiths, laundry, embroiderers, gilders, good weather, needleworkers, Santa Clara Pueblo, telephones, telegraphs, television

Saint Clare of Assisi (sometimes spelled Clair, Claire, etc.) (July 16, 1194 – August 11, 1253), born Chiara Offreduccio, is an Italian saint and one of the first followers of Saint Francis of Assisi. She founded the Order of Poor Ladies, a monastic religious order for women in the Franciscan tradition, and wrote their Rule of Life—the first monastic rule known to have been written by a woman. Following her death, the order she founded was renamed in her honor as the Order of Saint Clare, commonly referred to today as the Poor Clares.

Biography[edit]

Saint Clare miraculously intervenes to save a child from a wolf, in this panel by Giovanni di Paolo, 1455.
Fresco of Saint Clare and sisters of her order, church of San Damiano, Assisi

St. Clare was born in Assisi, the eldest daughter of Favorino Sciffi, Count of Sasso-Rosso and his wife Ortolana. Ortolana was a very devout woman who had undertaken pilgrimages to Rome, Santiago de Compostela and the Holy Land. Later on in her life, Ortolana entered Clare's monastery, together with Agnes and Beatrix, Clare's sisters.[1]

As a child, Clare was devoted to prayer. When she turned 12 years old 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 Francis's preachings which would subsequently change her life. Francis told her that she was chosen by God. Soon after, on Palm Sunday, when people went to collect palm branches, she stayed home. That night she ran away to follow Francis. Francis cut her hair and dressed her in a black tunic and a thick black veil. Clare was placed in the convent of the Benedictine nuns near Bastia from where her father made several unsuccessful attempts to abduct her, still wanting her to get married. Clare, joined by her sister Agnes, soon moved in a place close to the church of San Damiano, which Francis had rebuilt. Other women joined them and San Damiano became known for its radical austere lifestyle. The women were at first known as the "Poor Ladies".

San Damiano became the center of Clare's new religious order, which was known in her lifetime as the "Order of San Damiano". San Damiano was long thought to be the first house of this order, however, recent scholarship strongly suggests that San Damiano actually joined an existing network of women's religious houses organized by Hugolino (who later became Pope Gregory IX). Hugolino wanted San Damiano as part of the order he founded because of the prestige of Clare's monastery.[2] San Damiano emerged as the most important house in the order, and Clare became its undisputed leader. By 1263, just ten years after Clare's death, the order had become known as the Order of Saint Clare.

Unlike the Franciscan friars, whose members moved around the country to preach, Saint Clare's sisters lived in enclosure, since an itinerant life was hardly conceivable at the time for women. Their life consisted of manual labour[3] and prayer.

For a short period the order was directed by Francis himself.[4] Then in 1216, Clare accepted the role of abbess of San Damiano. As abbess, Clare had more authority to lead the order than when she was the prioress, who had to follow the orders of a priest heading the community.[5] Clare defended her order from the attempts of prelates to impose a rule on them that more closely resembled the Rule of Saint Benedict than Francis' stricter vows. Clare sought to imitate Francis' virtues and way of life so much so that she was sometimes titled alter Franciscus, another Francis.[6] She also played a significant role in encouraging and aiding Francis, whom she saw as a spiritual father figure, and she took care of him during his

After Francis's death, Clare continued to promote the growth of her order, writing letters to abbesses in other parts of Europe and thwarting every attempt by each successive pope to impose a rule on her order which watered down the radical commitment to corporate poverty she had originally embraced. She did this despite enduring a long period of poor health until her death. Clare's Franciscan theology of joyous poverty in imitation of Christ is evident in the rule she wrote for her community and in her four letters to Agnes of Prague.

Post death[edit]

On August 9, 1253, the papal bull Solet annuere of Pope Innocent IV confirmed that Clare's rule would serve as the governing rule for Clare's Order of Poor Ladies. Two days later, on August 11, Clare died at the age of 59. Her remains were interred at the chapel of San Giorgio while a church to hold her remains was being constructed. At her funeral Clare, Pope Innocent IV insisted the friars perform the Office for the Virgin Saints as opposed to the Office for the Dead (Bartoli, 1993). This move by Pope Innocent ensured that the canonization process for Clare would begin shortly after her funeral. Pope Innocent was cautioned by multiple advisors against having the Office for the Virgin Saints performed at Clare's funeral (Bartoli, 1993). The most vocal of these advisors was Cardinal Raynaldus who would later become Pope Alexander IV who in two years time would canonize Clare (Pattenden, 2008). At Pope Innocent's request the canonization process for Clare began immediately. While the whole process took two years, the examination of Clare's miracles took just six days. On August 15, 1255, Pope Alexander IV canonized Clare as Saint Clare of Assisi. Construction of the Basilica of Saint Clare was completed in 1260, and on October 3 of that year Clare's remains were transferred to the newly completed basilica where they were buried beneath the high altar. In further recognition of the saint, Pope Urban IV officially changed the name of the Order of Poor Ladies to the Order of Saint Clare in 1263.

Some 600 years later in 1872, Saint Clare's remains were transferred to a newly constructed shrine in the crypt of the Basilica of Saint Clare where they can still be seen today.

Legacy[edit]

The wax figure of Saint Clare of Assisi at Basilica of Saint Clare, in Italy.

Pope Pius XII designated her as the patron saint of television in 1958, on the basis that when she was too ill to attend Mass, she had reportedly been able to see and hear it on the wall of her room.[7] The American Catholic television channel Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN) was founded by a Poor Clare nun, Mother Angelica.

In art, Clare is often shown carrying a monstrance or pyx, in commemoration of the time when she warded away the soldiers of Frederick II at the gates of her convent by displaying the Blessed Sacrament and kneeling in prayer.

Lake Saint Clair and the Saint Clair River in the Great Lakes region of North America were named in 1679 on her feast day, August 11. Mission Santa Clara, founded by Spanish missionaries in northern California in 1777, has given its name to the university, city, county, and valley in which it sits. Southern California's Santa Clara River is hundreds of miles to the south, and gave its name to the nearby city of Santa Clarita. Santa Clara Pueblo, New Mexico celebrates its Santa Clara Feast Day annually on August 12, as the feast was celebrated before the 1969 calendar change.

Clare was canonized three years after her death and her feast day was immediately inserted in the General Roman Calendar for celebration on August 12, the day following her death, as August 11 was already assigned to Saints Tiburtius and Susanna, two 3rd-century Roman martyrs. The celebration was ranked as a Double (as in the Tridentine Calendar) or, in the terminology adopted in 1960, a Third-Class Feast (as in the General Roman Calendar of 1960). The 1969 calendar revision removed the feast of Tiburtius and Susanna from the calendar, finally allowing the memorial of Saint Clare to be celebrated on August 11, the day of her death. Her body is no longer claimed to be incorrupt, and her skeleton is displayed in Assisi.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Bartoli, p. 34–5; in the sources, there is no exact year when Ortolana entered the monastery, according to Bartoli. The best source for the historical details of Clare's life is the "Acts for the Process of her Canonization", in The Lady: Clare of Assisi: Early Documents, ed. and trans. Regis J. Armstrong (New York: New City Press, 2006).
  2. ^ Maria Pia Alberzoni, Clare of Assisi and the Poor Sisters in the Thirteenth Century (St. Bonaventure, NY: Franciscan Institute, 2004).
  3. ^ Bartoli p. 92ff
  4. ^ Bartoli 95
  5. ^ Bartoli p. 96
  6. ^ Bartoli p. 171ff
  7. ^ Pope Pius XII (August 21, 1958). "LETTRE APOSTOLIQUE PROCLAMANT Ste CLAIRE PATRONNE CÉLESTE DE LA TÉLÉVISION" (in French). 

PATTENDEN, M. (2008). The canonisation of clare of assisi and early franciscan history. The Journal of Ecclesiastical History, 59(2), 208-226. Bartoli, M. (1993). Clare of Assisi. Quincy, Ill.: Franciscan Press.

External links[edit]