St Clare of Assisi.
1194-1253 ~ Founder of the Poor Clares. ~ Clare was born in Assisi in Italy into a noble, well-do family. At twelve years old, her father arranged a marriage for her, but she refused. It was when Clare heard St Francis of Assisi giving a sermon that she was determined to give her life to God. Her parents refused her permission to be a nun so she ran away from home. She went to Portiucula monastery, one of St Francis’, but as there were no facilities for women, Francis placed her in nearby Benedictine convent. She changed from her fine clothes into a rough sackcloth habit and had her long beautiful hair cut short. Her family tried to persuade her to come home, but to no avail so they tried forcibly to remove her, again with no success. Francis moved her to Sant’ Angelo di Panzo and she was joined there by her sister, Agnes who was then fifteen. Their father was furious and he sent twelve armed men to the convent to demand their return. They tried to carry Agnes out, but with Clare’s prayers, Agnes became so heavy that they could not lift her so they abandoned their efforts.
At twenty-one, Clare moved to a house adjoining St Damiano’s church and was given the position of superior of a new order by Francis, remaining there for the next forty years. She made peace with her family and shortly after, Beatrice, her other sister and her widowed mother, as well as several members of local noble families joined the order. She called the new community the “Poor Ladies”, which in time became the “Poor Clares”. Her rigid rules included walking barefoot, fasting, sleeping on the hard floor, eating no meat and speaking only when necessary. She practiced many austerities and penances. In her vows, she included strict poverty, but this was to cause some trouble for her in the future. She requested the pope to approve her vow of “absolute poverty”, but when he asked the nuns to accept ownership of the convent and land, he suggested Clare should be absolved from that vow and accept ownership of the house. She flatly refused, but other houses accepted his offer. Clare managed to get the pope to approve her request after long and tiresome discussions. She was told she had been successful just two days before she died. Towards the end of her life, she became too ill to attend Mass, but by a miracle, she was able to see the service on an image on her bedroom wall. This made her the patron saint of television. After her death, the “Poor Clares” order continued to flourish and extend to other parts of Italy, France and Germany. They are still thriving today.