Saint Clare

Many things were happening at the turn of the century. The twelfth to the thirteenth century, that is. There were religious wars to fight, and neighboring towns to conquer, to prove the manhood of the young Assisi merchant class, newly rich and powerful. Frnacis Bernardone was one of those young men, popular with his contemporaries, the son of a rich merchant. Francis went off to war, clad in fine armor and on a handsome charger. But something happened to him; God had other plans for him. His friends thought he had gone mad, and his father shared their opinion. Francis traded his fine armor and horse with someone whose armor and horse were not so fine. After he returned home, he refused to go off to battle any more. He stopped going to gatherings of the other young men of Assisi. Francis was converted, and in following the call of God, had become a popular preacher around Assisi.
Clare was a young lady of a noble family, and one day she heard Francis preach in Assisi; she felt called by God to a life different from that which her family had planned for her: to marry a desirable young man and further the glory and wealth of her family. Clare, accompanied by a favorite aunt, arranged to speak with Francis about her vocation. He urged her to consecrate her life to the heavenly bridegroom. During the night following Palm Sunday in the year 1212, Clare secretly left her father's house and went to the chapel of Our Lady of the Angels, where Francis and his brothers were waiting. There, before the altar of Our Lady, Francis cut off her long golden hair and clothed her in the Franciscan habit: a simple robe like those worn by the poor, and a veil, which showed that she was now consecrated to God.

In a few days she was joined by her younger sister, Agnes, and then by other noble ladies who also felt inspired to live a life of prayer and poverty. This was the beginning of the Order of Saint Clare. Even in her lifetime there were many monasteries all over Europe following in Clare's footsteps. They spent their lives in prayer and contemplation, living in chastity, in obedience, and in poverty. They lived a life hidden from the world, but never cut off from it. The needs of their city and its people were always lifted up to God in prayer. All those in need of strength, advice, or consolation knew that they could go to the Poor Clares who would remember them before the Lord.

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