“remember me, your poor mother…”


Today many Franciscan communities celebrate as a Solemnity the feast of our Holy Mother St. Clare of Assisi, Virgin.

(holy card courtesy of the Poor Clares of Our Lady of Solitude Monastery)

Born of a noble family, she chose to follow the example of her townsman St. Francis, wishing to follow the Lord with her whole heart in an austere life of poverty, but rich in the practice of charity and loving care.

She professed vows in the hands of Saint Francis on March 18, 1212, thus founding the “second order”, whose nuns would be first known as Poor Ladies. (In her honor, in 1263 Pope Urban IV officially changed the name of the Poor Ladies to the Order of Saint Clare.)

St. Damiano – where Christ had deigned to speak to St. Francis – was eventually the chosen residence of their first community. St. Clare was joined by her sister Agnes and even by her own mother!

Much could be said about their spiritual relationship to the other Franciscan orders, and to how she encouraged and supported St. Francis (particularly after he received the Stigmata, whose secret he kept from all but a few…)….of her miracles…of how she protected Assisi…but perhaps she would like us to remember in particular her Franciscan devotion to holy poverty, whom Franciscan scholars point out as the foremost characteristic of her spirituality.

When Cardinal Ugolino (Pope Gregory IX) imposed the Benedictine rule on them, for years she strived to have a rule in the spirit of Saint Francis for her sisters, and her rule was approved by Pope Innocent IV two days before her death, the privilege of “highest poverty” being the final gift in this earthly life by her Divine Spouse…she died at the age of 60 on August 11, 1253.

“The Apostolic See usually acquiesces in the pious and honest wishes of those who ask that a kindly favor be given them. Therefore, beloved Daughters in the Lord, inclined to your prayers, we confirm with the same apostolic authority the Rule and way of life of your Order…”

“Solet Annuere (1245)”, Pope Innocent IV

At her funeral, Pope Innocent IV insisted the brothers perform the Office for the Virgin Saints rather than the Office for the Dead…indeed, she was formally canonized just two years later by Pope Alexander IV, who would call her “Clara claris praeclara meritis“, “a clear mirror of example”, and would say of her: “O clarity of blessed Clare to be admired!

O blessed poverty who bestows eternal riches on those who love and embrace her!” – she would write. And to her Divine Spouse she would say: “Contempt of the world has pleased You more than honors, poverty more than earthly riches“.

She wrote several letters to St. Agnes of Prague, who was the daughter of Queen Constance and King Ottokar I of Bohemia. St. Agnes of Bohemia (as she is also known) refused marriage proposals from the kings of Germany and England, and from the Holy Roman Emperor himself – all for the sake of following in the footsteps of Christ! Her family financed the construction of a monastery in Prague, where she entered with seven other ladies in 1236. Pressured to be elected Abbess, she insisted she be called “senior sister” and often cooked for the sisters. She died on March 2nd 1282, was beatified in 1874, and was canonized in 1989. To one such letter belongs the title of this article, specifically found in today’s Office of Readings:

“Happy indeed is she who is given the grace of sharing this holy way of life, of clinging to it with every fiber of her being…behold the poverty of him who was laid in the manger…What wondrous humility! What astonishing poverty! Note the countless toils and sufferings he endured to redeem the human race…As you meditate in this way remember me, your poor mother, and know that I have inscribed your happy memory deeply on the tablets of my heart”

from a Letter of St. Clare to St. Agnes of Prague

I wish to close this post with some of today’s antiphons. They are, in themselves, a powerful summary of our Holy Mother’s life.

Clare was concerned with the things of the Lord to be holy in body and spirit……she wore and humbled her body with fasts…she accounted all else rubbish therefore she found better and more permanent possessions. She spurned the world’s perishable glory to gain Christ.

The hand of the Lord strengthened her, she will therefore be blessed forever. She cast all her care upon God. She hoped in him and he came to her assistance.

Come, let us adore Christ the king whom Clare loved with all her heart.

Proper offices of franciscan saints and blessed in the liturgy of the hours

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