Franciscan Spirit Blog

Lent with St. Clare: Fifth Friday

dove flying over cross with a sunset

“She would deprive her own body of delicate foods and, sending them secretly through intermediaries, she would nourish the bodies of the poor.” —The Legend of St. Clare

St. Clare was known to fast often, even before she left her family home. During the canonization process, one of her sisters said that Clare would fast three days a week. The other days she would subsist on bread and water. Because of her extreme fasting practices at times, at one point St. Francis had to insist that she eat. When we fast during Lent, do we truly see it as a sacrifice or just a rule to follow? For Clare, the purpose behind her fasting was what drove her actions. What is driving our actions?

Gaze | Consider | Contemplate | Imitate

Clare’s acts of self-denial did not begin after her escape from home. Even as a youngster she exhibited a pattern of giving up her own food or comforts to take care of the needy. Once ensconced in San Damiano she fasted in dramatic ways. It is reported that she ate nothing on several days of each week.

On a Sunday, she would allow herself a small repast. This renunciation of food worries us given its parallels with the affliction of anorexia. Was Clare suffering from an illness or making a rational choice? Recent studies show that such extreme fasting was not uncommon among female mystics of the Middle Ages.

Research on the meaning of these female fasting practices gives us a window onto a culture far from our own but one that has its own internal coherence. Many holy women fasted to excess and attracted disciples who accepted their spiritual teaching. Profound self-denial was understood to be participation in the mystery of Christ’s sufferings. —from Light of Assisi: The Story of Saint Clare


St. Clare,
May we use your example as a spark
to dig deeper into the meaning of our actions.
In doing so, may we become more attuned to
our Lenten promises.

lent with saint clare

12 thoughts on “Lent with St. Clare: Fifth Friday”

  1. I really struggle with all these writing on St. Clare. One of the greatest gifts God gives to us is our life and our bodies. How can one take this body, starve it constantly, and wear clothing to induce pain, all for the glory of the One who gave us the gift? I just don’t understand.

  2. I have been praying for St. Clare ,she may have suffered from Anorexia that no one recognized and I wonder if her strong convictions simply made it worse. At any rate I amazed she was able to do so much as her body slowly withered from lack of nutrients,

  3. Francis also placed his body under extreme stress from fasting and other ascetic practices, to the point that he apologized to his body near the end of his life. I think for us, who know more about the necessity for good nutrition to be at our best, attention to healthy eating, both for our bodies and the earth, is the kind of fast that is most meaningful.

  4. Saint Clare is a role model for us all. The suffering for Christ she took on was for Love not self. Had nothing to do with anorexia, that is too convenient for us today whose biggest suffering is to not look at social media for 40 days.

  5. One of the effects of extreme fasting/dieting on the female body is the cessation of menstruation.
    Given the attitudes of the time towards women’s ‘uncleanliness’ it is unlikely that this particular effect would not have been unnoticed and may have seemed desirable as a means of sacrifice of one’s femininity,being ‘pure’.
    I’ve loved getting to know St Clare and I find it quite easy to understand the spiritual view of fasting…and as someone who’s spent more than 50 years battling eating disorders I don’t think Clare was anorexic, anorexia is commonly rooted in feeling physically unattractive, unlovable and mainly a control agent .
    This doesn’t fit with Clare’s life and legacy.
    Sorry to waffle on! God bless all .

  6. Remember Saints are guided by the Holy Spirit. There ways are not that of the world . As such we might not comprehend why they do what they do. But if we recall all there acts / way of life mirrors the scriptures. Did Jesus not say – the days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them they will fast. Fasting can be said to be an act of repentance and a return to G-d. Influencing G-d to act graciously towards us – sinners. When you seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit your way of life is no longer your. Remember G-d will always provide for his people.
    G-d Bless.

    To show devotion to God – fast to put God as our first priority over food and pleasures see Zechariah 7:4-5
    As an Act of Solidarity with the Poor – go hungry to provide for the poor, to stop oppression, and as a sharing in the suffering of the poor. Isaiah 58:6-7
    As Preparation for a Holy Feast – go without food to better appreciate the bounty of a feast. Luke 2:37-38
    As Reparation for Sins – Don’t eat as penance for personal sins and the sins of our society. 1 Samuel 7:6, Jonah 3:5-8

  8. Lord Jesus Christ, may we your disciples be ever ready to lay down our lives in conformity to your will, to willingly suffer and die for you, that we may also share in your victory and glory. Amen.

  9. I pray in my daily Divine Office to St Francis and St. Clare all the time, I’m Brother in the OFS since 1980, So I find real
    Calm and peace after my prayers.
    Pax et Bonum.
    Br. Karl.

  10. Christine L Esteves OFS

    I am shocked at some of the remarks! That is the devil planting the idea of anorexia. The next thing you know they will be saying Jesus had anorexia for his fasting of 40 days. Oh, ye of little faith!

  11. I really appreciate all the thoughts by participants , so many points of view to consider today that help me consider that St. Clare’s reasons were so complex for her fasting.

    God Bless all who read or share!

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