Posted in FRANCISCAN OFM, MYSTICS, PATRONAGE - EYES, PATRONAGE - TELEVISION, SAINT of the DAY

Saint of the Day – 12 August – St Clare of Assisi (1194-1253) Virgin

Saint of the Day – 12 August – St Clare of Assisi (1194-1253) Virgin. Patronages – embroiderers, needle workers, eyes, against eye disease, for good weather, gilders, gold workers, goldsmiths, laundry workers, television (proclaimed on 14 February 1958 by Pope Pius XII because when St Clare was too ill to attend the Holy Mass, she had been able to see and hear it, on the wall of her room.), television writers, Poor Clares, Assisi, Italy, Santa Clara Indian Pueblo.

The Roman Martyrology reads today: “At Assisi, in Umbria. Italy, St Clare, Virgin, the first of the poor woman of the Order of Minors. Being celebrated for holiness of life and miracles. she was placed among holy virgins, by Alexander IV.

St Clare, Virgin, Founder,
Mystic, Miracle-worker
By Fr Francis Xavier Weninger SJ (1805-1888) (Excerpt)

St.Clare, Founder of the Order which bears her name, was born of rich and pious parents, at Assisi, in the district of Umbria, in Italy. She received the name of Clare, which means “clear or bright,” for the following reason. While her mother Hortulana, was kneeling before a Crucifix, praying that God might aid her in her hour of delivery, she heard the words: “Do not fear. You will give birth to a light which shall illumine the whole world.”

From her earliest childhood, prayer was Clare’s only delight. She gave to the poor all the presents which she received from her parents. She despised all costly garments, all worldly pleasures. Beneath the fine clothes she was obliged to wear, she wore a rough hair-girdle. She partook of so little food that it seemed as if she wished to observe a continual fast.

During this same period lived St Francis, surnamed “the Seraphic,” on account of his great virtues. Clare frequently went to him and confided to him, her desire to renounce the world and to consecrate her virginity to God and to lead a perfect life in the most abject poverty. St Francis who saw that besides other gifts and graces, she was filled with the most ardent love of God, possessing great innocence of heart and despising the world, strengthened her in her holy desire, while at the same time, he tested her constancy. Being sufficiently convinced that her desires were inspired by Heaven, he advised Clare to leave her home, which she did on Palm Sunday, going to the Church of the Portiuncula, where she had her hair cut off, as a sign that she would enter a religious life. She divested herself of all feminine ornament, and attired in a penitential garb, tied around her with a cord, she was placed. by St Francis in a vacant Benedictine Convent. She was at that time just eighteen years of age.

When her parents heard of what she had done, they hastened to the Convent, to take Clare home, declaring that this choice of a state of life was only a childish whim, or that she had been persuaded to it by others. Clare, however, after opposing their arguments, fled into the Church, and clinging to the Altar with one hand, with the other she showed her head shorn of its hair, exclaiming: “Know all, that I desire no other bridegroom but Jesus Christ. Understanding well what I was doing, I chose Him and I will never leave Him.” Astonished at this answer, all returned home, admiring her virtue and piety. Clare thanked God for this victory and was, on account of it, all the more strengthened in her resolution.

Clare had a sister younger than herself, named Agnes. A few days later she, too, fled from her parents’ roof and going to Clare, wished to be invested in the same habit and to serve God in the same manner. St Clare received her joyfully but as all her relatives were provoked beyond measure that she, too, had entered a Convent, twelve of them went and forcibly tore her from her sister’s arms. Clare took refuge in prayer and, as if inspired by the Almighty, ran after her sister, loudly calling her by name. God assisted her by a miracle. Agnes suddenly became immovable, as if rooted to the ground and no-one possessed strength enough to drag her from where she stood. Recognising in this, the powerful hand of God, they opposed her no longer but allowed her to return to the Convent.

Meanwhile, St Francis had rebuilt the old Church of St Damiano and had bought the neighbouring house. Into this house he placed his first two religious daughters, Clare and Agnes, who were speedily joined by others, desirous of conforming themselves to the rule of life which St Francis had given to Clare. This was the beginning of the Order of Poor Clares, which has since given to the world, so many shining examples of virtue and holiness, to the salvation of many thousands of souls.

St Clare was appointed Abbess by St Francis and filled the office for forty two years with wonderful wisdom and holiness. Her mother too, together with her youngest daughter, took the habit and submitted to the government of St Clare.

She was, to all in her charge, a bright example of poverty. In austerity towards herself, she was more to be admired than imitated. The floor or a bundle of straw was her bed, a piece of wood, her pillow. Twice during the year she kept a forty days’ fast on bread and water. Besides this, three days of the week, she tasted no food and so little on the others that it is marvellous that she could sustain life with it. The greater part of the night, she spent in prayer and her desire for mortification was so great that St. Francis compelled her to moderate her austerities.

She nursed the sick with the greatest pleasure, as in this work of charity, she found almost constant opportunity to mortify and overcome herself. Besides all her other virtues, she was especially remarkable for her devotion to the Blessed Sacrament. She sometimes remained whole hours immovable before the Tabernacle and was often seen in ecstacy, so great was her love for the Saviour it concealed. She sought her comfort in Him alone in all her trials, amidst all her persecutions and how great were the graces she thereby received, the following event will sufficiently illustrate.

The Saracens besieged Assisi and made preparations to scale the walls of the Convent. St Clare, who was sick at the time, had herself carried to the gates of the Convent, where, with the Ciborium, containing the Blessed Sacrament, in her hands, prostrating herself in company with all her religious, she cried aloud: “O Lord, do not give into the hands of the infidels, the souls of those who acknowledge and praise Thee. Protect and preserve Thy handmaidens whom Thou hast redeemed with Thy Precious Blood.” A voice was distinctly heard, saying: “I will protect you always.”

The result proved that this was the Voice of Heaven. The Saracens, seized with a sudden fear, betook themselves to flight, those who had already scaled the walls, became blind and flung themselves down. Thus were St Clare and her religious protected and the whole City preserved from utter devastation, by the piety and devotion of the Saint to the Blessed Sacrament.
We must omit many miracles which God wrought through His faithful servant.

[When St Clare] … had reached the age of sixty years, during twenty-eight of which, she had suffered from various painful maladies, although she had not been confined to her bed, or rather, her bundle of straw. Her patience while suffering was remarkable and she was never heard to complain.

The hour of her death drew near and she saw a great many white-robed virgins come to meet her, among whom was one who surpassed all the rest in beauty. She followed them and they led her to see the Almighty face-to face. Several who had read in the depths of her heart, said that she died more from the fervour of her love for God, than from the effects of her sickness. Her holy death took place in 1253. The great number of miracles wrought after her death, through her intercession and the heroic virtues which made her so remarkable, induced Pope Alexander IV., only two years later, to place her in the number of Saints.

Posted in FRANCISCAN OFM, INCORRUPTIBLES, MORNING Prayers, PATRONAGE - EYES, PATRONAGE - TELEVISION

Saint of the Day – 11 August – St Clare of Assisi (1194-1253)

Saint of the Day – 11 August – St Clare of Assisi (1194-1253) – Virgin, Religious, Founder, Mystic, Friend and Follower of St Francis, Miracle-Worker – (16 July 1194 at Assisi, Italy – 11 August 1253 of natural causes).   St Clare was Canonised on 26 September 1255 by Pope Alexander IV.   St Clare was born Chiara Offreduccio (sometimes spelled Clair, Claire, etc.) 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 set of monastic guidelines known to have been written by a woman.    Following her death, the Order she founded was renamed in her honour as the Order of Saint Clare, commonly referred to today as the Poor Clares.   Patronages – embroiderers, needle workers, eyes, against eye disease, for good weather, gilders, gold workers, goldsmiths, laundry workers, television (proclaimed on 14 February 1958 by Pope Pius XII because when St Clare was too ill to attend the Holy Mass, she had been able to see and hear it, on the wall of her room.), television writers, Poor Clares, Assisi, Italy, Santa Clara Indian Pueblo.  st-clare-of-assisi-header-info 2jpg

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St Clare was born in Assisi, the eldest daughter of Favorino Sciffi, Count of Sasso-Rosso and his wife Ortolana.   Traditional accounts say that Clare’s father was a wealthy representative of an ancient Roman family, who owned a large palace in Assisi and a castle on the slope of Mount Subasio. Ortolana belonged to the noble family of Fiumi and was a very devout woman who had undertaken pilgrimages to Rome, Santiago de Compostela and the Holy Land.   Later in life, Ortolana entered Clare’s monastery, as did Clare’s sisters, Beatrix and Catarina (who took the name Agnes).

As a child, Clare was devoted to prayer.   Although there is no mention of this in any historical record, it is assumed that Clare was to be married in line with the family tradition.   However, at the age of 18 she heard Francis preach during a Lenten service in the church of San Giorgio at Assisi and asked him to help her to live after the manner of the Gospel.   On the evening of Palm Sunday, 20 March 1212, she left her father’s house and accompanied by her aunt Bianca and another companion proceeded to the chapel of the Porziuncula to meet Francis.  There, her hair was cut and she exchanged her rich gown for a plain robe and veil.

Francis placed Clare in the convent of the Benedictine nuns of San Paulo, near Bastia. Her father attempted to force her to return home.   She clung to the altar of the church and threw aside her veil to show her cropped hair.   She resisted any attempt, professing that she would have no other husband but Jesus Christ.   In order to provide the greater solitude Clare desired, a few days later Francis sent her to Sant’ Angelo in Panzo, another monastery of the Benedictine nuns on one of the flanks of Subasio.   Clare was soon joined by her sister Catarina, who took the name Agnes.   They remained with the Benedictines until a small dwelling was built for them next to the church of San Damiano, which Francis had repaired some years earlier.

Other women joined them and they were known as the “Poor Ladies of San Damiano”. They lived a simple life of poverty, austerity and seclusion from the world, according to a Rule which Francis gave them as a Second Order (Poor Clares).

San Damiano became the centre of Clare’s new religious order, which was known in her lifetime as the “Order of Poor Ladies 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 organised 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.   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.   In 1228, when Gregory IX offered Clare a dispensation from the vow of strict poverty, she replied:  “ I need to be absolved from my sins but not from the obligation of following Christ.”   Accordingly, the Pope granted them the Privilegium Pauperitatis — that nobody could oblige them to accept any possession.

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 and prayer. The nuns went barefoot, slept on the ground, ate no meat and observed almost complete silence.

For a short period, the order was directed by Francis himself.    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 and required to follow the orders of a priest heading the community.   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.   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 final illness.

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 weakened 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.

In 1224, the army of Frederick II came to plunder Assisi.   Clare went out to meet them with the Blessed Sacrament in her hands.   Suddenly a mysterious terror seized the enemies, who fled without harming anybody in the city.

Before breathing her last in 1253, Clare said:  “ Blessed be You, O God, for having created me.”

On 9 August 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 11 August 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, 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 Canonisation process for Clare would begin shortly after her funeral.   Pope Innocent was cautioned by multiple advisers against having the Office for the Virgin Saints performed at Clare’s funeral (Bartoli, 1993).   The most vocal of these advisers was Cardinal Raynaldus who would later become Pope Alexander IV, who in two years time would canonise Clare (Pattenden, 2008).   At Pope Innocent’s request the canonisation process for Clare began immediately.   While the whole process took two years, the examination of Clare’s miracles took just six days.   On 26 September 1255, Pope Alexander IV Canonised 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 relics were transferred to a newly constructed shrine in the crypt of the Basilica of Saint Clare, where her relics can still be venerated today.    Her body is incorrupt.

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St Clare’s Garment in the Centre with St Francis’ on each side

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st clare relics

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

Pope Pius XII designated Clare as the Patron Saint of television in 1958 because when St Clare was too ill to attend the Holy Mass, she had been able to see and hear it, on the wall of her room.

There are traditions of bringing offerings of eggs to the Poor Clares for their intercessions for good weather, particularly for weddings.  This tradition remains popular in the Philippines, particularly at the Real Monasterio de Santa Clara in Quezon City.   According to the Filipino essayist Alejandro Roces, the practice arose because of Clare’s name. In Castilian clara refers to an interval of fair weather and in Spanish, it also refers to the white or albumen of the egg.