Franciscan Spirit Blog

Honoring St. Clare of Assisi

St. Clare of Assisi is depicted in a modern painting by Stephen B Whatley, an expressionist artist based in London. During a Lenten service, St. Clare heard St. Francis preach. She was so moved by his words, she asked him to show her how to live the Gospel more fully. She was only 18, but she left the security of her home, cut off her hair and joined the convent. (CNS/Stephen B Whatley)

It was August 11, 1993. I had just taken lunch at St. Francis Friary, our Franciscan headquarters across the street from Franciscan Media. I worked as an editor and writer there for many years. After lunch, I stopped to say a prayer in the friary chapel. At the foot of the altar, I noticed a picture of Sts. Francis and Clare of Assisi standing together. The picture had been placed there because of St. Clare’s feast.

With the support of St. Francis, St. Clare found the order of Franciscan women who became known as the Poor Clares, or simply Clares. August 11, 1993, was also the date on which the worldwide Franciscan family had chosen to celebrate the 800th anniversary of Clare’s birth.

The daughter of a noble family living in Assisi, Clare was known for her deep spirituality and love for the poor. Her heart was attracted to the radical way of life preached by St. Francis. One night, to the dismay of her family, Clare secretly met Francis and his small band of brothers to commit her life to God and to begin a community of women devoted to living the gospel. Clare and the holy women who followed her—and who continue to follow her in our day—have always been a revered part of the Franciscan movement.

The Clares serve as vibrant models of contemplative prayer that all Franciscans seek.

A Feast-Day Favor

Clare, whose name means “light” or “bright,” has indeed been a brilliant source of light for the Franciscan Order and the Church. At the time of my visit to the friary chapel, I had already chosen Lights as the title and theme of my book, published in 1995. As I sat there looking at the picture of Clare and Francis, I asked Clare a favor on the occasion of her feast: Would she, in her goodness, share with me some light and advice on prayer and contemplative union with God?

Almost immediately, the realization came to me that if our prayer lacks vitality at times, it is because we are not relating to God, but only to concepts of God. The best prayer is not one that is satisfied with ideas about God, but one which seeks only the living God!



Suddenly, my awareness shifted. I left behind my ideas and concepts, as it were, and simply sat in the realness of God—the God of beauty, the God of far-flung galaxies and vast oceans, the God of all nations and peoples of all centuries. During that “gifted moment” of prayer, the vastness and goodness of God touched me, not just theological concepts of these mysteries. I felt high—and at one with God.

The experience helped me understand why St. Francis spent whole nights in prayer, simply repeating “My God and My All!” He was not analyzing concepts of God. He was embracing no one less than the Most High God, who is lovelier and more vast and mysterious than any word or concept—the God who “is not far from any one of us, in whom ‘we live and move and have our being’” (Acts 17:27b-28).

Like Gazing at a Sunset

It made me recall that prayer can be as simple and as silent as a loving couple holding hands and sitting in silent admiration before a sunset. It’s an experience—a relationship—and not an exercise in thinking. There is no need for words or thoughts. The couple is content simply to rest quietly and lovingly in each other’s presence.

Evaluating our prayer experiences, I know, is tricky. Prayer cannot be judged on the basis of “highs” or “feel-good” experiences. All I can say is that, for me, my experience on Clare’s feast day was truly one of those lights that God gives each of us on our personal journeys. To this day, I consider it a special gift from Clare.


Prayer in Gratitude of St. Clare

Loving God, Clare, the noble lady of Assisi,
left behind all that she knew to follow Christ as a poor lady.
Her choice is a reminder that sometimes faith requires us to step away
from the comfort of our lives so that we can minister to those in need.
Teach us to imitate Clare’s total commitment to you.
Amen.


Light of Assisi: The Story of Saint Clare


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3 thoughts on “Honoring St. Clare of Assisi”

  1. Jamie Ballenger

    Rabbi Abraham Joshua Herschel in his sublime book, The Sabbath, speaks beautifully of the Sabbath being like a Bride, or like a Queen. Then, he moves on the Sabbath, not as personified, but as a real Presence. I believe St Theresa of Avila said there is a point in one’s prayer when all thoughts cease, and Presence increases. That’s where we rest as St John Apostle did, on His Bosom in Love. 🕊️ jb

  2. Excellent analysis of how 🤔 we can expand our relationship with God instead of trying to intellectualize everything by just being and doing in God’s presence as a loved one does

  3. thank you st clare for prayers answered
    publication promised.
    Pray whether you believe or not and promise to publish or circulate. Ask for 3 favors: 1 business and 2 impossible. Say 9 Hail Marys and the following prayer for 9 nights in front of a lighted candle: God of mercy you inspired St. Claire w/ the love of poverty by the help of her prayers. May we follow Christ in poverty of spirit and come to the joyful vision of your glory in the kingdom of heaven. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ your son who lives and reigns with the Holy Spirit, One God forever and ever. Amen

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