Today we celebrate the feast of St. Clare of Assisi. Clare was born to a wealthy, noble family of Assisi in July of 1194, just 13 years after the birth of Assisi’s most famous saint, Saint Francis. Francis’ preaching greatly influenced Clare, and, at the age of 18, she snuck out of her family’s home never to return. That evening, she committed her life to following Christ in poverty and chastity in the manner of St. Francis. Throughout her life, she and Francis were close friends, and he became her spiritual advisor.
Clare founded the Order of Poor Ladies, also known as the Poor Clares. Following the example of St. Francis, they lived solely on alms donated to them. Radical faith and trust in God, poverty and prayer marked their spirituality. The order spread all over Europe, and wherever the Franciscan order sprung up, the Poor Clares were nearby.
This is still true today. In the town next to where I live, sits a Franciscan Friary. Across the street, the Poor Clares reside in cloister. If you ever need a powerhouse of prayer, ask for the Poor Clares’ intercession.
St. Clare’s physical poverty and reliance on God brought about a deep poverty of spirit in her and those of her order.
Poverty of spirit is one of the virtues which, especially for children, can be confusing. I think of it as my spirit being weak in me, and the Holy Spirit being strong. A constant battle goes on in my soul, like St. Paul, I do what I do not want to do, and do not do what I want to do. (Rm 7:15). Only when I yield to the Holy Spirit can God do a mighty work in me. Without a doubt, St. Clare knew this.
So how do we grow to be poor in spirit?
- Pray – especially meditate on the Passion of Christ
- Fast – from food or drink or certain behaviors with a purpose of offering it up to God
- Purge – get rid of the things that clutter up your home or your mind and detach yourself from physical goods
- Make sacrifices – in small and big ways consciously perform good deeds rooted in the love of Christ. Do not count the cost.
- Forgive – letting go of attachments to hurts and resentments frees us to love as God wants us to love
- Grow in humility – recognize that everything is from God and for God
So today and in the days ahead, decide to grow in poverty of spirit by choosing one or more of these ways. Make it deliberate and purposeful with Clare at your side.
St. Clare, pray for us! Anne