Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Saint of the Week: St. Clare of Assisi
Our Saint of the Week this week, in celebration of the diocesan Year of the Eucharist, is a saint who called upon the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament to save her and her religious community from danger and invasion: Saint Clare of Assisi.
Saint Clare was born in 1194 and died in 1253, and even during her lifetime, her holiness of life was abundantly perceived by those around her, so much so that just two short years after her death, she was canonized.
When she was born, she was named Chiara Offreduccio, and she was the beautiful eldest daughter of Favorino Sciffi (Count of Sasso-Rosso) and his wife Ortolana. Even as a young girl, Saint Clare dedicated herself to prayer. At age eighteen, she listened to Saint Francis of Assisi preach during a Lenten service in the church of San Giorgio, after which she approached him and asked him to help her live more according to the Gospel. On Palm Sunday in 1212, she left her family’s home and went to him at the chapel of the Porziuncula, and there, her hair was cut off and she was given a plain robe and a veil in exchange for her rich gown.
Saint Clare joined the convent of the Benedictine nuns of San Paulo, near Bastia, under the direction of Saint Francis. When her father found her, he attempted to force her back into his home, but she refused and professed that she would have no other husband than Jesus Christ. In order to give her the greater solitude that she desired, Saint Francis sent Saint Clare to Sant’ Angelo in Panzo, another Benedictine monastery.
Saint Clare’s sister, Catarina, who took the religious name Agnes, joined her at this monastery. The two remained there until a separate dwelling was built for them next to the church of San Damiano, and over time, other women joined them, wanting also to be brides of Christ and to live the life of the Gospel with no money. They became known as the “Poor Ladies of San Damiano.” They all lived a simple life of austerity, seclusion from the world, and poverty, according to a Rule that Saint Francis composed for them as a Second Order. Saint Clare and her sisters wore no shoes, they ate no meat, they lived in a poor house, and they kept silent most of the time. Their lives consisted of manual labor and prayer. Yet, they were very happy because the Lord was close to them all the time.
San Damiano became the center of Saint Clare’s new order, which was then known as the “Order of Poor Ladies of San Damiano.” For a brief time, the order was directed by Saint Francis himself, and by 1216, Saint Clare became the abbess of San Damiano. Ten years after her death, the order of her sisters became known as the Order of Saint Clare.
While serving as the leader of her order, Saint Clare defended them from the attempts of prelates to impose a rule on them that more closely followed the Rule of Saint Benedict than Saint Francis, and after the death of Saint Francis, Saint Clare continued to promote her order, resisting every attempt from popes and bishops who kept trying to impose a rule on her order that would water down their radical commitment to corporate poverty.
An incident in the year 1224 solidified Saint Clare’s reputation as a Eucharistic saint. An army of soldiers from Emperor Frederick II (Frederick Barbarossa) came to attack Assisi. Although very sick, Saint Clare went out to meet them with the Blessed Sacrament on her hands. She had the Blessed Sacrament placed at the wall where the enemies could see it, and then on her knees, she begged God to save the Sisters: “O Lord, protect these Sisters whom I cannot protect now,” she prayed; and a voice seemed to answer, “I will keep them always in My care.” In that moment, a sudden fright struck the attackers and they fled as fast as they could without harming any of the people of Assisi.
Later on, Saint Clare became sick and suffered great pains for many years, but she expressed that no pain could trouble her. So great was her joy in serving the Lord that she once exclaimed, “They say that we are too poor, but can a heart which possesses the infinite God be truly called poor?”
On August 9, 1253, Pope Innocent IV declared that Saint Clare’s rule would serve as the governing rule for her Order of Poor Ladies, and two days later, she died at age fifty-nine. At Pope Innocent’s request, the canonization process for her began immediately, and two years later, Pope Alexander IV canonized her as Saint Clare of Assisi. The Order of Poor Ladies was officially changed in name to the Order of Saint Clare in 1263 by Pope Urban IV.
An interesting detail is that Saint Clare is the patron saint of television, named thus by Pope Pius XII in 1958. This is because when she became very ill, she could not attend the Mass and was reportedly able to see and hear it on the wall in her room.
Saint Clare is often depicted in sacred art carrying a monstrance or pyx, to commemorate that time when she warded off the soldiers at the walls of her convent with the Blessed Sacrament.
Saint Clare of Assisi…pray for us.
~ Fr. Lewis
on Saturday, July 25 at 2:00PM