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Celebrating the light of St. Clare of Assisi

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Church history is filled with the lives of extraordinary people who reflect the life of God to the world. Some of the church’s saints have been trailblazers living the Gospel in a radical way and by their way of life, offered a new lens with which to see the world.

On Aug. 11, the Church observes the feast of St. Clare of Assisi whose way of life brought light to a dark time. Born into nobility and a life of privilege, St. Clare was deeply influenced by St. Francis of Assisi whom it is believed she heard preaching in the streets of Assisi. She was so inspired and moved by his words that she decided not to marry. Since Clare was a woman of means, she gave St. Francis some money to rebuild the war-ravaged churches and to feed the poor, and she decided to talk to him privately.

Against her wishes, Clare’s parents decided and arranged for her to marry a wealthy young man from the town. Believing that she had no alternative, she fled her home and met St. Francis in a small church below Assisi called the Portiuncula. In this small chapel, Clare was received into religious life on Palm Sunday in the year 1212. Embracing the message of St. Francis, Clare was the first woman to adopt the Franciscan way of life. She patterned her entire life on the life of Christ.

Within a few years, other noblewomen from Assisi, including her sister, joined Clare in this new and radical way of life. Eventually they moved to San Damiano, the location of the first church that Francis had rebuilt. It was here that they became well-known to the people who called them the “poor ladies.”

Devoted to prayer and the Holy Eucharist, St. Clare lived her life simply, entrusting her needs to God. A significant event in her life occurred when the monastery at St. Damiano was attacked by the Saracens. With steadfast courage, St. Clare carried a monstrance containing the Blessed Sacrament to the gates of the monastery where she prayed for protection for herself and her sisters from the attackers.

When the Saracens observed her courage and that of her sisters, they fled the city.

Clare’s life was not easy as she faced numerous struggles throughout her life. She wrestled with sickness but did not complain about it. Although she spent her life in the confines of a monastery, she was known to bring healing to others. Over time, she became the first woman religious to write a rule of life for her community, encapsulating the essence of Franciscan living for women. After years of debate, Pope Innocent IV approved her rule two days before she died in 1253.

St. Clare’s vision of living the Gospel without compromise impelled her to pray hard and work hard. She outlived St. Francis by 27 years and throughout her life was transformed by the Franciscan ideals of poverty, prayer, penance, conversion, humility and community. In her surrender to the presence of Christ, she allowed him to shine through her in everything she did.

Let’s allow Christ to illuminate the darkness and transform us.

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