On Palm Sunday night in the year 1212, a young woman ran away from home. Clare Offreduccio wanted to follow Jesus Christ in his total poverty. Her desire to live a radically evangelical life was inflamed by the preaching of a charismatic young man of Assisi named Francis Bernardone. Over her family’s objections, she took a giant step of faith and joined Francis in establishing a new religious order for women, which came to be known as the Poor Clares. Despite her family’s almost violent attempts to get her to come back home, she stood firm. She didn’t know what the future held, where she would live or how she would support herself. But she trusted in God and pledged to follow Jesus Christ in a life of total poverty. Her sister Catherine soon joined her, and little by little more women came. They established poor convents and slowly began to spread outside of Assisi and even outside of Italy. Clare’s reputation for holiness grew. People came to the convent with requests for prayers, and Clare always interceded for them. The idea of a group of nuns living in complete poverty without a source of income was met with resistance by Church authorities. But Clare always insisted on this, and after great opposition obtained what the called the “privilege of poverty.” She received papal approval of her Rule when she was on her deathbed.
In establishing the Poor Clares, Clare collaborated with Francis in a mature way that shows she knew how to develop spiritual friendships. She lived the Franciscan charism and treasured poverty because it led her to a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ. Her strength of character shows in her determination to withstand pressure from Church authorities who wanted her to follow a less austere way of life. She also was known for her great love for all the sisters in her community. Her example of a hidden life marked by prayer and penance teaches us that the great works of God must spring from the root of poverty and prayer.
Saint Clare of Assisi, you followed Jesus Christ in complete poverty and love. Today we are surrounded by so many material possessions. Help us not to set our hearts on them, but on Jesus, and to use our goods in a way that will benefit others. Amen.
© 2015 Daughters of Saint Paul