Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Memorial of St Clare of Assisi

"The noble maiden Clare was born at Assisi in Umbria.  In imitation of her holy fellow-citizen Francis, she distributed all her goods among the poor and needy.  She fled from the din of the world, and betook herself to a church in the fields, where blessed Francis cut her hair.  She stoutly resisted the efforts of her family to make her come back, and after a while Francis took her to the Church of St. Damian, where the Lord gathered around her several companions.  Thus she founded an holy Sisterhood, which, at the earnest entreaty of holy Francis, she governed.  For two-and-forty years she directed her monastery with wonderful care and wisdom in the fear of the Lord and the full keeping of the Rule.  Her own life was an instruction and teaching for the rest, whence others learnt to order their own.

That she might wax stronger in spirit by keeping the body down, she made her bed on the bare ground, sometimes with little twigs, and with hard wood for a pillow.  Her dress was a gown and cloak of mean and rough cloth, and she sometimes wore hair-cloth next to the skin.  She bridled herself with such abstinence, that for a long time she took no bodily nourishment whatever upon three days in the week.  Upon the remaining days she ate so little that the others wondered how she lived.  As long as her health allowed it, she kept two Lents every year, during which she fasted upon bread and water.  Moreover, she was instant in watching and prayer, wherein she chiefly spent both her days and nights.  She suffered from constant illnesses, and when she could not herself rise to bodily work, she sat up with the help of the sisters, and with her back propped, worked with her hands, that she might not be idle even in the midst of her weaknesses.  She was an eminent lover of poverty, from which no need ever made her swerve, and she persistently refused the possessions which were offered to the sisters by Gregory IX for their support.

The power of her holy life shone forth in many and divers miracles.  She restored the use of speech to one of the sisters in her convent; for another she opened a deaf ear; she healed one sick with fever, one swollen with dropsy, one troubled with an hollow oozing ulcer, and others afflicted with divers ailments.  She cured a brother of the Order of Friars Minors of raging madness.  Once when all the oil in the house was spent, she took the vessel and washed it, and it was found filled with oil by the goodness of God.  She multiplied half a loaf till it was enough to satisfy fifty sisters.  When the Saracens attacked Assisi, and were fain to break into Clare's monastery, she being sick, caused herself to be carried to the door, and likewise the vessel in which was held the Most Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist, and there she prayed, saying: O Lord, deliver not unto beasts the souls of them that praise thee, but preserve thine handmaids whom thou hast redeemed with the Precious Blood.  Whereupon a voice was heard which said: I will always preserve you.  Some of the Saracens took to flight, and others who had mounted the wall became blind and fell down headlong.  When Clare herself was at the point of death she beheld a white multitude of blessed Virgins, with one among them nobler and brighter than the rest.  Having received the Holy Eucharist, and a Plenary Indulgence from Innocent IV, she resigned her soul to God upon the 11th day of August.  After her death she became illustrious for very many miracles, and Alexander IV enrolled her name among those of the Holy Virgins."

-- From the 1911 Breviary of St Pius X

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