St. Clare

Friday, August 7th, 2020

What would it be like growing up in a town that had its own living saint walking the streets? Fr. Ashley Harrington, O.Carm. provides us with a look at the life of Saint Clare. . .

Chiara Offreduccio was blessed with that experience. Her town was Assisi and its saint was Francis. Chiara, or Clare, was twelve years younger than Francis. As a teenager Clare witnessed the story of a young man who returned all his wealth to his father and began begging in the streets. She heard him proclaim the Gospel. She witnessed him sleeping in the fields, rebuilding old churches in the countryside, walking with lepers. She saw something in Francis that she wanted to imitate.

Clare came from a deeply religious home. Francis was the son of “new wealth.” Clare’s family was old wealth aristocrats. Clare, her mother, her sister, and the servants formed a holy lay community that prayed together and worked among the poor of the town. Observing and listening to Francis, Clare knew there was something more she wanted to do.

Being a woman in the 13th century, she knew it would be impossible to live as Francis. Women couldn’t roam the highways, sleeping in fields and begging. It would be too dangerous. Yet, there was something about Francis that spoke to her.

During Lent of 1212 Clare attended the talks that Francis gave. At eighteen years old Clare knew the moment had arrived to make a commitment. On Palm Sunday 1212 Clare left her house and went out to the old church. There she told Francis of her desires and aspirations. Without any Church authority Francis cut off Clare’s hair. This was a powerful symbol that Clare would step out of her social world and into a special spiritual space.

Clare’s uncle sought her out and was horrified when he saw her. He knew that his niece would be living a very different life. He left her to Francis. Francis took her to one of the old churches he had rebuilt, San Damiano Church, where she lived for the next forty years. Her sister would soon join her and so would her mother. Many other women would follow. They became known as the Poor Clares.

And what was their charism? They were determined to live a life of radical poverty. They would own absolutely nothing. They would live life “on the edge.” Not able to beg, they would make things inside the church and others would come and sell the items in town. Then they would buy food for the sisters.

Family and Church officials worried greatly about the women. People tried to give them food and security, but the women refused all gifts. Finally, the pope surrendered and gave Clare and the sisters the “privilege of poverty.” They could live without owning anything. Clare died in 1253, the day after the privilege was granted.

As of 2011 there were over 20,000 Poor Clare nuns in over 75 countries throughout the world.


  1. If you interested in the story of Francis and Clare I recommend a wonderful 50-minute film titled Reluctant Saint – Francis of Assisi. It is available on free of charge.
  2. Also, free of charge, is a daily Catholic news report called Aleteia. Simply type in your browser Aleteia is an international Catholic publication published in eight languages and viewed by millions each day.

The above information and recommendations have been provided by Fr. Ashley Harrington, O.Carm.

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