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Saint Clare

Virgin.  

The virgin Clare hath the following life-story, according to the traditions handed down amongst the Franciscans. She was the eldest daughter of the Count of Sasso-Rossi, and was born in 1194, at the family palace in Assisi, where she lived until she was eighteen. At which time she determined to follow her fellow-townsman, Francis of Assisi, in the way of poverty. And thereby she shewed herself to be the true daughter of her father, who was known for his courage and firmness; for, perceiving that she could not win parental consent to become a nun, at a time when a rich marriage was being arranged for her, she secretly gave to the poor all that she possessed, and at night dug her way through a walled-up doorway, which same was never opened save to carry forth to burial some member of the family that had died. When her father discovered how she had thus signified the forsaking of wealth, and its privileges, in order to die to the world, he was determined to bend her to his own will. Meanwhile she had gone to the Church of the Little Portion, which was used by the Franciscan friars at Assisi; and there, in the middle of the same night, Francis clothed her in the habit of his Order, and cut her hair, after which he placed her with some Benedictine nuns nearby, for training in her high vocation.

Thither her father came, as soon as he learned where she was, thinking to carry her home by force. But Clare took refuge in the chapel and, clinging to the altar, dared him to separate her therefrom. When he saw her firmness he appealed to her filial piety, whereat she uncovered her shorn head, to shew that she had become irrevocably the bride of Christ. Which courage he did but admire in his daughter, and even permitted another daughter, Agnes, to join her; and after his death their mother Ortolana, also joined her. As soon as possible Francis established Clare, and those who sought a similar vocation, at Saint Damian's, which was one of the churches he had restored with his own hands. There Clare ruled as abbess until her death, nearly forty years later. And forth from Saint Damian's went many nuns whom Clare had trained, to establish the life of the Poor Clares, as they are now called, throughout the world. Their Order is devoted to prayer and reparation, offered to God on behalf of the world, and in particular to devotion to the holy Eucharist, which is the chief sign on earth of God's love for us. The wisdom and firmness which Clare ever shewed, during difficulties which are well nigh beyond belief, in establishing her Order, prove her to have been one of God's most valiant women.

Many wonders were told of her, but the most noteworthy was on the occasion of an invasion of that region by a band of Saracen soldiers who were intent on despoiling the convent, and ravishing the nuns. Clare had no protection against them except her faith. Hence she took the Most Holy from the altar, saying: Have no fear, my daughters; trust in Jesus. And leading her sisters, she marched out through the enclosure door, with the Sacrament as her weapon, as if to attack the Saracens therewith. Who were so amazed by the evident and strange courage of these dedicated women, that they turned and fled. For the last twenty-seven years of her life, she suffered from a sore illness, yet never slacked in her devotion or cheerfulness. Great men came from far to learn of God from her; and as she was dying, it was she who offered encouragement to those round about her. Whence she departed in joy to be ever with her true Spouse, namely, in 1253, on the morrow of Saint Lawrence's Day, being the sixtieth year of her age, and the forty-second of her religious profession. But after her canonization, in 1255, her feast was fixed for August 12th, which was the day of her burial. And her grey-clad virgin-body may still be seen at her shrine in Assisi, where many pilgrims come to venerate her who conquered by the blessed Sacrament.

Collect

GRACIOUSLY hear us, O God of our salvation: that, like as we do rejoice in the festival of blessed Clare thy holy Virgin; so we may learn to follow her in all godly and devout affections. Through the same our Lord Jesus Christ, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the same Spirit ever, one God, world without end. Amen.

The Anglican Breviary, Frank Gavin Liturgical Foundation, Inc., New York, 1955, pages 1380-1382

Additional Information:

For additional readings, or to learn more about the Anglican Breviary, visit The Anglican Breviary Website.

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