St. Clare was born on July 16, 1194 in Assisi, Italy. She was the daughter of a count and countess, her mother being Blessed Orsolana. In her childhood Clare was greatly influenced by the piety of her mother and was known to save food from her plate to give to the poor.
As she grew older Clare was recognized as a beautiful girl and many men sought her hand in marriage. However, Clare had long sought to follow God wherever he called her and she discovered this calling upon hearing the preaching of St. Francis.
On the night of Palm Sunday, 1212, Clare fled her family's home to meet St. Francis in the Portiuncula Chapel, one of three churches that St. Francis had literally rebuilt. There, she cast aside her fine garments for a simple dress of sackcloth and a veil, along with parting from her beautiful golden hair. With these simple acts she offered her life to God as the first woman to enter the Franciscan order.
Clare, her cousin Pacifica who had fled with her, and her sister Agnes who joined them the next day, lived for a time with a community of Benedictine nuns at San Paolo delle Abadesse until Francis finished the convent of San Damiano which was being rebuilt for their use. While with the Benedictines, Clare's uncle, her guardian since the death of her father, came with a group of soldiers to bring the girls home. They all refused and when the soldiers attempted to carry Agnes away she cried to Clare to help her. Clare immediately fell to her knees in prayer and Agnes suddenly became too heavy for the soldiers to lift. When they found they were unable to carry any of the girls they gave up for the time being, though Clare's uncle continued in his attempts to bring the girls home, but was never succesful.
The girls eventually moved into San Damiano where they were joined by other ladies, including Clare's mother, many of whom were from Assisi's noble families. Francis, himself, presided over the "Poor Ladies," for a time, before Clare was assigned the role of abbess.
The cloistered sisters devoted their lives to work and prayer. Every Franciscan, both the friars and the sisters, had a task assigned especially to them. Clare's task was embroidery, making the altar cloths used at Mass along with garments for Francis, the friars, and sisters and, eventually, the special bandages for Francis' stigmata wounds.
As abbess Clare defied all attempts to impose a "watered-down" rule on her sisters. She had designed her own rule for the ladies, central to which, was a radical poverty. It was not until two days before her death that Pope Innocent IV confirmed this rule and granted Clare's ultimate desire, that she, and each of the sisters, own nothing.
Throughout their lives Francis and Clare remained close friends. Francis was Clare's "spiritual father," and the two relied on each other for advice, encouragement, and prayers. Clare's intercession was greatly valued by Francis and numerous others. When Francis was discerning whether to live out the remainder of his life as a hermit or continue with his preaching it was Clare to whom he turned for advice and prayers. In his final illness, he came to San Damiano where Clare nursed him until his death and after his funeral at the Portiuncula the friars brought his body to San Damiano for a short time so that Clare and her sisters could pay their last respects.
Many miracles are attributed to St. Clare, two of which are particularly impressive. At one time, while Clare was ill, the Saracens attacked Assisi and were upon the walls of San Damiano. The sisters rushed to Clare's bedside in terror. The abbess calmly rose, took the monstrance, containing the Blessed Sacrament, from the chapel, emerged from the convent, and held out the monstrance over the enemy. The Saracens, for no apparent reason, fell into a panic and rushed in terror from Assisi.
During her final illness, Clare was bedridden and, therefore, unable to attend the first Mass in the newly built Basilica of St. Francis. While praying in her cell an image of the Mass appeared on the wall of her cell so that she was able to witness the entire celebration.
Clare died of natural causes on August 11, 1253. Just two years later, on September 26, 1255, Clare was canonized by Pope Alexander IV. The "Poor Ladies" then changed their name to the Poor Clares, by which title they are still known today. St. Clare is the patroness: against eye disease; of Assisi, Italy; of embroiderers; of eyes; for good weather; of gilders; of gold workers; of goldsmiths; of laundry workers; of needle workers; of Santa Clara Indian Pueblo; of telegraphs; of telephones; of television; of television writers; of this blog; and of me!