On the 11th of August, the Church celebrated the feast day of St. Clare of Assisi. Let me tell you why she’s super awesome, and let me show you using the language of Scripture to further show how St. Clare lived so close to God’s Word.
St. Clare of Assisi was born into the upper class of an Italian family. Her mother frequently made pilgrimages and her father was a renowned noble of the town. Clare was actively sought after by the young men of Assisi as a potential wife, yet God had other plans. The word around town was that a young rabble-rouser from the merchant class who was well known throughout the town was acting very strangely. Francis of Assisi had transformed himself from a devotee of debauchery into a penitent pauper. Filled with the Spirit and remade as a new creature (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:17), he now lived as God’s fool and Herald; proclaiming the presence of the “Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6) by means of His most high poverty. Soon this singular troubadour was given brothers. They sang the canticle of the Gospel through their sanctity of life.
The abounding riches of their poverty was a love song that pierced Clare to the heart (cf. Acts 2:37-39) setting aflame within her a love stronger than death and a devotion mightier than the grave (cf. Song of Songs 8:6). The Spirit called out to her, “Come; you who are thirsting, come and drink (cf. Revelation 22). I have prepared a place for you from the beginning of the world (cf. Matthew 25 and John 14).” Having found the pearl of great price (cf. Matthew 13:45-46) she cast aside the garments of her nobility for the more noble garment of salvation (cf. Isaiah 61:10). She forsook her worldly inheritance for the far greater inheritance of Christ (cf. Ephesians 1:11-23). She acted as the wise and prudent virgin, and conserved the oil of her purity so that she would possess the Kingdom of God (cf. Matthew 25:1-13).
The sword of love turned daughter against father (cf. Matthew 10:35). She left her father’s wealth for the greater abundance of the Father’s providence. She left the life of worldly affairs, and after a time joined a cloistered convent in order to truly be a Bride of Christ. By the example set by her being clothed with the bridal gown of grace through poverty, she attracted many handmaids to follow her to their own wedding feast (cf. Psalm 45). This lead to the founding of what we now call the “Poor Clares.” Even her pilgrimage-loving mother joined her daughter on the great pilgrimage from this valley of tears to the heavenly Jerusalem. Clare fought her entire converted life for the “privilege of poverty,” which was finally granted to her order three days before her death.
St. Francis of Assisi finished his pilgrimage first, while St. Clare outlived him by nearly three decades. Over the centuries, her spirituality helped to form the Franciscan Order, for the wisdom of her life and writings taught, guided, and nourished the Franciscan community throughout the ages. As a result, she is celebrated by the children of St. Francis as our Holy Mother Clare.
The lives of the Saints can serve as a way of understanding the various truths of our faith. St. Clare is similar to the Church, for, prior to being called to follow Christ she was sought by many suitors—these signify the many idols and false gods worshipped throughout the world prior to evangelization. Her father and noble heritage represent the pagan cultures that the Church has been called out of, and her faithful mother signifies the faithful Israelites of the Old Testament who longed for the Messiah to come. St. Francis, and those who followed him, who evangelized her, figure Christ and His Apostles who preach the Gospel to the nations and form the Church. Her embrace of poverty and entrance into the Cloister signify the many nations who shed their pagan culture and entered into the glories of the Sacraments. Her maternal role over the Franciscans signifies the Church’s motherhood over the Christian throughout time. Most importantly, she signifies that the Church has been called by the Father to be the Bride of Christ by the power of the Spirit.
The lives of the Saints also issue challenges to our everyday living. Saints live in accord with the Lord, who is the same “yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). Therefore, their lives serve as models and reformers of our own time, even if they lived in the 1200’s as St. Clare. Her action of leaving her father in order to cleave to Christ her Spouse (cf. Genesis 2:24) challenges us to consider: What am I clinging to that is keeping me from authentically following Christ? Her attentiveness to the still small voice (cf. 1 Kings 19:12) calling out to her through the transformation of St. Francis of Assisi, moves us to question if we are aware of the way the Lord speaks to us through the circumstances of daily life. Her steadfastness in prayer and her perseverance in the fight for the “privilege of poverty” confronts us with the challenge to be faithful in prayer, to grow in virtue, make disciples, and to persevere amidst any adversity in doing the will of God. Most of all her life challenges us to echo the motto of all the Saints: May it be done to me according to Your word. Will you accept the challenge? Let me know in the comments below!
To read more on St. Clare of Assisi, have a look at these books: