St. Clare (1193/94-1253)
Lover of poverty. Clare was born in Assisi to an aristocratic family. At the age of eighteen, on hearing St. Francis of Assisi preach during Lent of that year, a desire was born in Clare to abandon everything to follow Christ her Lord. Come Palm Sunday, Clare fled in the middle of night to fulfill this desire. She came to St. Francis, who exchanged her fine and noble clothes for the poor garb that he and the friars wore, and cut her hair. Her father and uncles attempted to take Clare back, but she was resolved in her way of life. Initially she lived at the Benedictine convent, but in a couple of years enough people had followed her that they were given a place next to the church of San Damiano, with Clare being named Abbess by St. Francis. She governed the Poor Clares, as they came to be called, for forty years until her death. They lived a life of radical mortification and poverty. At their founding, they went barefoot, slept on the ground, perpetually abstained from meat, and maintained perpetual silence (except when obliged to speak), though some of these practices came to be mitigated. However, Clare was insistent that they live a life of radical poverty, that they would own nothing either as individuals or as a community. Some considered this reckless, but Clare entrusted herself and her community to Divine Providence. After a life of humble service and prayer, and an illness of twenty-seven year or so, Clare peacefully commended her soul to God at the age of about sixty.
O God, who in your mercy led Saint Clare to a love of poverty, grant, through her intercession, that, following Christ in poverty of spirit, we may merit to contemplate you one day in the heavenly Kingdom.