The story of St. Francis and St Clare is a love story, not of a romance between the two of them, but of an enduring love they shared for Christ. Clare was a rich young woman when she heard Francis preach. Her heart was moved and she decided to leave her privileged world for a life of holy poverty. It’s probably impossible for us to imagine how harsh was poverty in 13th century Italy, but this simple life was one Clare embraced with joy as long as she lived.
Clare’s family wanted her to marry another rich young person and so bring more wealth and power to the family. But one night she snuck out of the house and met her spiritual guide and friend, Francis. She traded her fine cloth for rough sackcloth. She offered her jewels for Francis to give to those in need.
When the family discovered that Clare was missing, they suspected she had run off to join Francis. They drug her back home and shut her up behind locked doors. But Clare would not relent. She cut her hair and persisted in wearing the same kind of rough garment as Francis. Finally, they let her go, and she become one of Francis’ first companions. Thousands would follow her example, including her sister, Agnes, who was also canonized.
One night she snuck out of the house and met her spiritual guide and friend, Francis.
Clare and her female companions lived in a house near the church of San Damiano in Assisi. She served as their abbess and was known for performing the lowliest tasks on behalf of her sisters. When any of them returned from a journey, Clare knelt and washed their feet. Because they did not wear shoes, washing feet was an arduous and messy task. She served at table, though there was seldom much to eat. It seems fitting that she died on the feast of the servant/deacon Lawrence in 1253.
People tried to give them gifts of land and livestock, but they would own nothing. They called themselves the Poor Ladies. Clare said, “They say that we are too poor, but can a heart which possesses the infinite God be truly called poor?”
Clare lived thirty years after Francis’ death. Her order lives on. No longer the Poor Ladies, they are now the Poor Clares.