Miniature Lives of the Saints – Saint Clare, Abbess

detail of a stained glass window of Saint Clare of Assisi; date unknown, artist unknown; church of Saint Stephen, South Kensington, London, England; photographed on 22 December 2014 by Oxfordian Kissuth; swiped from Wikimedia CommonsArticle

On Palm Sunday, 17 March 1212, the Bishop of Assisi left the altar to present with a palm a noble maiden, eighteen years of age, whom bashfulness had detained in her place. This maiden was Saint Clare. Already she had learnt from Saint Francis to hate the world, and was secretly resolved to live for God alone. The same night she escaped, with one companion, to the Church of the Portiuncula, where she was met by Saint Francis and his brethren. At the altar of Our Lady, Saint Francis cut off her hair, clothed her in his habit of penance, a piece of sack-cloth with his cord as a girdle. Thus was she espoused to Christ. When her relatives would have carried her home, she resisted them by force, and drove them away in horror by the sight of her shaven head. In a miserable house outside Assisi she founded her Order, and was joined by her sister, fourteen years of age, and afterwards by her mother and other noble ladies. They went barefoot, observed perpetual abstinence, constant silence, and perfect poverty. Saint Clare absolutely refused all revenues, and would have but one possession, the Blessed Sacrament and what served for its use. During her illness of twenty-eight years the Holy Eucharist was her only support, and spinning linen for the altar the one work of her hands. She died A.D. 1253 as the Passion was being read, and our Lady and the angels conducted her to glory.

In a luxurious and effeminate age the daughters of Saint Clare still bear the noble title of poor, and preach by their daily lives the poverty of Jesus Christ.

They say that we are too poor; alas, can a heart which possesses God be truly called poor? – Saint Clare

While the Saracen army of Frederick II was ravaging the valley of Spoleto, a body of infidels advanced to assault Saint Clare’s convent, which stood outside Assisi. The Saint in her poverty had no servants to defend her, and no treasure wherewith to buy off the foe. Her one resource was the Blessed Sacrament. She caused It to be placed in a monstrance above the gate of the monastery facing the enemy, and kneeling before It, prayed, “Deliver not to beasts, O Lord, the souls of those who confess to Thee.” A voice from the Host replied, “My protection will never fail you.” A sudden panic seized the infidel host, which took to flight, and the Saint’s convent was spared. Thus was Saint Clare’s poverty more powerful than the strength of man.

Behold I have refined thee, but not as silver; I have chosen thee in the furnace of poverty. – Isaiah 48:10

MLA Citation

  • Henry Sebastian Bowden. “Saint Clare, Abbess”. Miniature Lives of the Saints for Every Day of the Year, 1877. CatholicSaints.Info. 9 March 2015. Web. 25 April 2017. <>