Saint Clare of Assisi’s Writings and the Use of Medieval Women’s Power

Saint Clare of Assisi is known as not only a beautiful Italian noblewoman but also as the Foundress of the nuns’ order which is called Poor Clares. She was the follower of Francis of Assisi, a so-called Christian of all ages and an outstanding figure who had a faith in the universal brotherhood of all the people in the world and who had an equal relation to both the men and the women. Clare was greatly impressed by his preaches and she decided to devote her life to Jesus. Saint Clare’s heart and soul belonged to God that is why her writings are so powerful. (Mueller 25)
My goal in this paper is to analyze Saint Clare of Assisi’s life and some writings and to prove the fact that such woman as Saint Clare had a great power in the world. Being very poor she had a rich soul and kind heart and God was close to her all the time.

Clare was born in Assisi, a small Italian town in 1194. Her parents were rather wealthy people. Her father Favorino Scifi was a Count of Sasso-Rosso and her mother Ortolana, a very devout woman who went on a pilgrimage to Rome, the Holy Land and other places. They owned a palace and a castle in Assisi. When Clare’s father died at at the early age her mother and her three daughters decided to enter a monastery. The monastery was connected with the Sisters of the Poor. (Petroff 51)

It is known that from the early years little Clare was devoted to prayers. She spent many hours saying prayers. Mortification was a part of her life. When she was eighteen her life was changed completely. Clare heard the preaches of Francis of Assisi in the church of San Giorgio and was greatly impressed.(Goorbergh, Zweerman 66)

Clare made a decision to devote herself to religious life that is why she secretly begged Francis to help her. Clare wanted to live “after the manner of the Holy Gospel”. Francis understood that Clare was one of those souls which were predetermined by God to do some great and vital things in this world. He knew that there would be some other women who would follow Clare. Francis promised the young girl that he would help her to become a nun and to serve God. (Lynn)

In 1212, Clare left her home and followed Francis of Assisi.
Clare left the worldly life on March, 20. She chose that day because Jesus came to Jerusalem on that day, Palm Sunday.
Francis had cut off her hair and gave her a rough tunic and a thick veil. Clare was ready to vow herself to the service of Jesus. (Petroff 54)
Her parents were angry with her decision because they wanted her to marry a rich man. Her father tied to dissuade Clare from her heroic proposals to live a religious life in prayers. He even wanted to take her home by force but Clare was firm in her decision.

At first she lived in the monastery of San Paolo with the Benedictine nuns but later she was transferred to the monastery of Saint Angelo in Panzo. Clare’s younger sister Agnes joined her. Some time later Clare, Agnes and the other girls who decided to follow Clare’s example were transferred to a rude dwelling which was adjoined to the chapel of San Damiano. So, the first community of the Order of Poor Ladies (later Poor Clares) was founded. (Mayeski)

There were three stages in the history of development of the Order of Poor Clares.

Ӣ At the beginning, the Order of Poor Clares did not have any written rules which they should follow. They had only a short formula vitae which was given to them by Francis.

Ӣ In 1219, Cardinal Ugolino who some years later became a protector of the Order and Gregiry IX, represented some written rules for the Order of Poor Clares. These rules were based on St. Benedict Rule.

Ӣ The new rule was strict enough but it allowed to have property. Clare was against it because according to Saint Francis rules, they should live in absolute poverty, without any worldly goods. Gregory wanted Clare to take some provision for the community but she refused. She did not want to vow the rules of strict poverty. She said that she craved for absolution of her sins and did not want to be absolved from this obligation to be the follower of Jesus Christ.

Ӣ In 1253, Clare died. She rules as abbess for nearly forty years. (Mooney 32)

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