St. Clare was born around 1193 in Assisi, Italy. St. Francis of Assisi lived in the same town. Clare used to listen to Francis preach. Her heart burned with a great desire to imitate him. Like him, she wanted to live a poor, humble life for Jesus. But her parents would never agree to such a plan. So on the night of Palm Sunday, 1212, when she was eighteen years old, she left her comfortable home and her family whom she loved. In a little chapel outside Assisi, she gave herself to God. St. Francis cut off her hair and offered her a rough brown habit to wear. She stayed with the Benedictine nuns until more nuns would join her. Her parents tried in every way to make her return home, but Clare would not. Soon her fifteen-year-old sister Agnes joined her.
Other young women wanted to be “poor ladies” of Jesus, too. Before long there was a small religious community. They lived in a house at the church of San Damiano, which St. Francis himself had repaired. St. Clare and her nuns wore no shoes. They never ate meat. They lived in a poor house in an atmosphere of silent prayer. Yet they were very happy because they were living a life of poverty as Jesus had done. Once an army of rough soldiers came to attack the city of Assisi. Although very sick, St. Clare asked to be carried to the window. She had the Blessed Sacrament placed right where the soldiers could see it. Then she knelt and begged God to save the nuns and the city. “O Lord, protect these sisters whom I cannot protect now,” she prayed. And a voice within her seemed to say: “I will keep them always in my care.” At the same time, a sudden fright struck the attackers. They fled as fast as they could.
St. Clare was abbess of her convent for forty years. Twenty-nine of those years she was sick. But she said that she was joyful anyway because she was serving the Lord. Some people worried that the nuns were suffering because they were so poor. St. Clare spent most of her life defending what she called the “privilege of poverty.” The pope tried to soften her Rule’s requirement of poverty, but Clare convinced him that she and her nuns were called to live with no possessions, trusting completely in God. St. Clare died on August 11, 1253. Just two years later she was proclaimed a saint by Pope Alexander IV.
Sometimes we forget to give time to the Lord. We might be so concerned about certain things that we allow them to drown out the voice of Jesus. That’s when we can ask St. Clare to show us how to keep Jesus as the center of our lives and hearts.