On August 11, the Church will celebrate the Memorial of St. Clare of Assisi who is often considered the first Franciscan nun. St. Clare is remembered as one of the first and most faithful followers of St. Francis of Assisi and often considered the co-founder of the Franciscan movement. Servant of God, Fr. Paul Wattson, SA, founder of the Friars of the Atonement, who co-founded the Society of the Atonement with Mother Lurana White, SA often remarked on the similarities between Mother Lurana and himself as they followed in the footsteps of St. Francis and St. Clare. Fr. Paul looked to both St. Francis and St. Clare as teachers of Franciscan values and inspired servant leaders.
From a noble and influential family, Clare Offreduccio was prepared by her mother for a life of generosity and service. As a teenager, Clare often heard Francis preach in her hometown of Assisi. Moved by her love for God and attracted to Francis’ love for the Gospel message, Clare rejected her family’s plans for her and joined Francis in his life of prayer and service. On the night of Palm Sunday 1212, 18-year old Clare slipped out of her parents’ home and hurried to the chapel where she professed vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, cut off her hair and donned a nun’s habit.
Soon other women had joined her, including her widowed mother and sister, and by 1226 they were cloistered near the Church of San Damiano that St. Francis had rebuilt. She founded her own monastic religious order for women, The Order of Poor Ladies, and was the first woman to write a rule of life for religious women. During her lifetime, she stressed devotion, kindness, tenderness and practicality. They wore no shoes, ate no meat, slept on the floor and remained silent most of the time. The “Poor Clares” became known for their austere and devout lifestyle and for the power of their prayer, which is credited with saving Assisi from invaders twice. The Poor Clares still exist today.
St. Clare is usually depicted holding a Monstrance because of an event that happened when soldiers came to raid her convent. Although she was very ill, she had herself and the Blessed Sacrament carried to the convent wall where she prayed for God’s aid. Her prayers were answered, and the enemies fled.
After Francis’ death, Clare continued his work and broadened her own influence. Clare died in 1253 and was canonized two years later by Pope Alexander IV. She was credited with other miracles in life and after death. In 1958 Pope Pius XII declared St. Clare to be patron of television, citing an incident during her last illness when although too sick to attend, she reported miraculously hearing and seeing on the wall of her room the Christmas midnight mass in the basilica of San Francesco taking place on the far side of Assisi.
Petition Prayer to St. Clare
O Glorious St. Clare! God has given you the power of working miracles continually, and the favor of answering the prayers of those who invoke your assistance in misfortune, anxiety, and distress. We beseech you, obtain from Jesus through Mary His Blessed Mother, what we beg of you so fervently and hopefully, (mention your petition) if it be for the greater honor and glory of God and for the good of our souls. Amen.