St. Clare of Assisi was born in Assisi on July 16, 1194, as Chiara Offreduccio, the beautiful eldest daughter of Favorino Sciffi, Count of Sasso-Rosso and his wife Ortolana. Tradition says her father was a wealthy representative of an ancient Roman family and her mother was a very devout woman belonging to the noble family of Fiumi.
young girl, Clare dedicated herself to prayer. At 18-years-old, she
heard St. Francis of Assisi preach during a Lenten service in the church
of San Giorgio and asked him to help her live according to the Gospel.
On Palm Sunday in 1212, Clare left her father's home and went to the
chapel of the Porziuncula to meet with Francis. While there, Clare's
hair was cut off and she was given a plain robe and veil in exchange for
her rich gown.
Clare joined the convent of the Benedictine nuns
of San Paulo, near Bastia, under Francis' orders. When her father found
her and attempted to force her back into his home, she refused and
professed that she would have no other husband than Jesus Christ. In
order to give her the greater solitude she desired, Francis sent Clare
to Sant' Angelo in Panzo, another Benedictine nuns monastery.
other women joined them, wanting to also be brides of Jesus and live
with no money. They became known as the "Poor Ladies of San Damiano."
They all lived a simple life of austerity, seclusion from the world, and
poverty, according to a Rule which Francis gave them as a Second Order.
St. Clare and her sisters wore no shoes, ate no meat, lived in a poor
house, and kept silent most of the time. Their lives consisted of manual
labor and prayer. Yet, they were very happy, because Our Lord was close
to them all the time.
San Damiano became the center of Clare's
new order, which was then known as the "Order of Poor Ladies of San
Damiano." For a brief period of time, the order was directed by St.
Francis himself and by 1216, Clare became the abbess of San Damiano. Ten
years after Clare's death, the order became known as the Order of Saint
While serving as the leader of her order, Clare defended
them from the attempts of prelates to impose a rule on them that more
closely followed the Rule of Saint Benedict than Francis. Clare was so
devoted and dedicated to Francis that she was often referred to as
"alter Franciscus," or another Francis. She encouraged and aided the man
she saw as a spiritual father figure, and took care of him as he grew
Following Francis' death, Clare continued to promote her
order, fighting off every attempt from each pope trying to impose a rule
on her order that would water down their "radical commitment to
In 1224, an army of rough soldiers from
Frederick II came to attack Assisi. Although very sick, Clare went out
to meet them with the Blessed Sacrament on her hands. She had the
Blessed Sacrament placed at the wall where the enemies could see it.
Then on her knees, she begged God to save the Sisters.
"O Lord, protect these Sisters whom I cannot protect now," she prayed. A
voice seemed to answer: "I will keep them always in My care." In that
moment, a sudden fright struck the attackers and they fled as fast as
they could without harming anyone in Assisi.
St. Clare became
sick and suffered great pains for many years, but she expressed that no
pain could trouble her. So great was her joy in serving the Lord that
she once exclaimed: "They say that we are too poor, but can a heart
which possesses the infinite God be truly called poor?"
9, 1253, Pope Innocent IV declared Clare's rule would serve as the
governing rule for Clare's Order of Poor Ladies. Two days later, Clare
died at 59-years-old. Her remains were placed in the chapel of San
Giorgio while the church dedicated to her remains was being built. At
Pope Innocent's request, the canonization process for Clare began
immediately, and two years later in 1255, Pope Alexander IV canonized
Clare as Saint Clare of Assisi.