History of the Canonization of Blessed Clare of Montefalco

detail of a portrait of Saint Clare of Montefalco, 17th century, artist unknown; swiped off the Wikimedia CommonsThe cause connected with the canonization of this saint merits the peculiar attention of the reader. The sanctity of blessed Clare is so great, the miracles “with which her tomb has been illustrated are so many, that they assign her a place amongst the most wondrous of the saints that have shed a glory on the Church militant. Nearly five centuries have rolled by since the cause for the canonization of this saint was commenced. It was in the pontificate of John XXII that the first steps were taken respecting it, since then it has progressed slowly; but now it seems to draw near its final consummation.

Amongst the miracles by which God has been pleased to make known the sanctity of blessed Clare, and which began immediately after her death, and have continued to the present time, in the first place must be mentioned three globules, which were found in her body after her death, arranged in the shape of a triangle, and formed of a substance whose nature is not known. They are of the same weight, whether weighed singly or together; and form an admirable symbol of the mystery of the holy Trinity. On her heart was found a remarkable impression of the instruments of the passion. Her body has remained flexible and incorrupt during five centuries. Whenever trials and dangers have threatened the Church, or the authority or freedom of the Holy See, mysterious and extraordinary signs have taken place in relation to the body of the saint.

The facts connected with these wonders are mentioned in the various processes which have been instituted in former times. They are said to have occurred at the time of Calvin and Luther. One of these prodigies is thus spoken of by Bozzi: “I have seen,” he says, “at Montefalco, where every one who chooses may behold it, a vessel full of the blood of blessed Clare. It is quite dry, without being reduced to powder after so many years. When any calamity menaces the Church, it becomes liquid, and appears to be in a state of ebullition; if the danger is great, it continues so for a long time; and the greater the affliction with which God intends to visit the Church, the more violent is the agitation of the blood, and the longer the period during which it continues in this state. Such is the love which blessed Clare even yet retains for the Church, that her blood after death seems to speak of its future prospects.”

Respecting the signs which have been witnessed in more modern times, the inhabitants of Montefalco tell us that the body seemed to foretell the calamities which befell the Church, during the period of the French Revolution, which took place at the latter end of the last century. The body moved miraculously, and there were other manifestations which indicated clearly the struggles which were about to arise between an infidel philosophy and the authority of the Holy See. These prodigies were again renewed during the pontificate of Pius VII. In 1831, when “young Italy” was preparing to excite a disturbance amongst the population of Romagna, the body of blessed Clare turned one of its feet, and also its head. The town of Montefalco is in the diocese of Spoleto. At this period the present Pontiff, Pius IX, was the archbishop of that see. From 1817 to 1849, when revolutions were disturbing the governments of Europe, and when the temporal dominion of the Holy See was threatened by those unrighteous men who caused such trouble in the eternal city, the body of Blessed Clare thrice announced the progress of these evil machinations. The circumstances connected with these last prodigies were mentioned in a letter by the Archbishop of Spoleto, and were made a matter of judicial inquiry by the Congregation of Rites in 1851.

Facts so astonishing in themselves, and continuing during five centuries, have brought much celebrity to the cause of Blessed Clare of Montefalco. They show why the people and clergy have been so much interested in her canonization, and why she has obtained such devotion amongst the Augustinian order, to which she belonged. They also serve to account for the veneration which has been paid to Blessed Clare ever since the time of her death, and which seems equal to beatification. The Holy See has been supplicated to decree her formal canonization, according to, the regulations established for that purpose. The cause was begun in the pontificate of Clement XII, and carried on through that of Benedict XIV. In 1850 and 1852, formal decrees were passed by the Holy See respecting her canonization.

Chapter I – Commencement of the Cause under John XXII – The Cardinal, Napoleon Ursinius – Urban VIII – Clement X

Blessed Clare was a nun of the Augustinian order, and died August 17, 1308, at Montefalco. She was remarkable both for her sanctity and for her miracles. Those which were made known after her death, and to which allusion has already been made, increased much the reputation for sanctity, which she already enjoyed. During her lifetime she had been honored as a saint, and after her death she was venerated as such. Her body, which enjoyed the privilege of being incorruptible, was placed in an urn, like the relics of a saint, and the devotion which the faithful paid to it, caused it to be transferred to a more public place. The day on which she died became one of the principal feasts of Montefalco, and also of the Augustinian order. The church and the convent in which Blessed Clare had lived were placed under her protection. All the evidences of ecclesiastical veneration, such as the faithful are wont to pay to the saints, were given to her by different nations, by Bishops, by persons of eminent sanctity, and by the Popes themselves.

After a few years, the Bishop of Spoleto opened an official inquiry into the life, virtues, and miracles of the saint, and demanded of John XXII her canonization. Beranger Domadei went to Avignon, and made the request in a public consistory, in the name of the Bishops of Spoleto, Assisium, Foligno, and of several prelates both secular and regular, and also in the name of the cities of Spoleto, Perugia, Foligno, and many other towns in the duchy of Spoleto.

John XXII entrusted the case of her canonization to Napoleon Ursinius, cardinal deacon of Saint Adrian. Upon the relation made by this cardinal in full consistory, the Pope gave a commission to the Bishops of Perugia and Orvieto and Reginald de Saint Antheme, auditor of the causes in the pontifical palace, to draw up an account of the life, virtues, and miracles of Blessed Clare. In consequence of this commission, they examined 470 witnesses. The process which they drew up was, in accordance with the customs of the times, entrusted to three cardinals, who made their relation respecting it in a public consistory. Perigilio, the historian of Blessed Clare, states that the Pope would have decreed her canonization, had not the calamitous times, and the troubles which arose in Christendom, prevented his doing so. When the cause was resumed four centuries afterwards, this relation made by the cardinals served as the grounds on which the decree was passed respecting the heroic virtues of the saint.

For three centuries after the time of John XXII no movement appears to have been made respecting her canonization. During this time she received all the honors of public veneration. Urban VIII had been Bishop of Spoleto, and was well acquainted with the reputation for sanctity which Blessed Clare enjoyed. In 1624 he granted a mass and office with a special prayer, to be recited in her honor. This privilege was first given to the Augustinian order, but was afterwards extended to the diocese of Spoleto by a decree of the Congregation of Rites, dated September 28, 1621. Clement X approved of proper lessons for the office, and caused the name of Blessed Clare to be inscribed in the Roman Martyrology in the following terms: “On the 15th of the kalends of September, at Montefalco, in Umbria, the Blessed Clare, Virgin of the order of Saint Augustine. In her heart the mysteries of the passion of our Lord were renewed, and are venerated with the greatest devotion.”

Chapter II – The Cause resumed under Clement XII – Approval of Constant Veneration – Letters for the Beginning of a New Process

Before a saint who has been venerated from time immemorial can be canonized, and thus obtain the homage of the Church universal, the canonical requirements must be fulfilled. If the saint be a confessor, his virtues must be subjected to examination; if a martyr, the martyrdom must be judicially inquired into. The approbation of the veneration which has been paid to the saint does not include an approbation of the virtues or of the martyrdom. The veneration must be distinguished from the formal canonization, which requires the approval of the virtues and of the miracles. The following shows the manner in which this process has been carried on, with respect to Blessed Clare of Montefalco.

The devotion of the people, which increased continually, the constant miracle of her body still remaining incorruptible, with all its joints flexible, and the mysterious prodigies already spoken of, seemed to indicate that the servant of God merited the honor of a solemn canonization. The cause was resumed before Clement XII, who signed the commission February 22, 1736. A decree of the Congregation of Rites, dated April 6, 1737, declares that it forms an exceptional case to the decrees of Urban VIII, and that there is evidence of public veneration being paid to Blessed Clare for more than one hundred years previous to the issuing of this decree. In August, 1738, the letters usual on such occasions were issued, ordering an inquiry to be made into the virtues and miracles of the saint. These were signed by Clement XII. In the following year the Congregation made a decree in favor of the saint, which was approved of by the Pope. During the next year a judicial inquiry was ordered to be made in the city and diocese of Spoleto respecting the miracles and virtues of Blessed Clare.

The old process that had been formed in the pontificate of John XXII, and the relation of the three cardinals, remained in a good state of preservation at the time of the judicial inquiry under Clement XII. It was sent to Rome, sealed and enclosed in a box, by the judges, from Spoleto. An account of it is preserved in the archives of the Congregation of Rites, who caused only the relation of the cardinals to be copied, in order to diminish the expense. It has now, however, disappeared, and cannot be found. The relation of the cardinals is divided into four parts. The first of these contains an account of the life of Blessed Clare, beginning with her childhood, and ending with her going to her first hermitage. The second speaks of her dwelling in her second hermitage, and of the austerities of her penance. The third part gives the details of her elevation to the position of abbess, and the virtues which she practised in this situation. The fourth mentions a prediction which she uttered respecting her death, and the heroic virtues which she displayed when it took place. This relation was inserted in the summary of the cause made at this time. As no objection was offered by the promoter of the faith, there can be no doubt of its authenticity. Two or three pages of the document have been lost; but they contained nothing material, except an account of a vision, which a pious woman had, of the glorification of Blessed Clare at the moment of her death.

Chapter III – The Sentence of the Holy See respecting the Virtues of Blessed Clare

Allusion has already been made to the miracles, which have occurred in connection with the body of Blessed Clare. The following account of the modern ones was drawn up by the relators of the cause in 1851. “Respecting those miracles which have taken place in modern times, we can appeal to the testimony of him who now occupies the chair of Saint Peter. When he ruled the Church of Spoleto, the body of Blessed Clare, by the motion of the feet, and by the turning of the head, indicated the new attempts which would be made against the Pontifical States. When a change was made in the Government of France, in 1831, certain conspirators, calling themselves “Young Italy,” endeavored to excite commotion amongst the inhabitants of Romagna. In the years 1847 and 1849, when similar attempts were renewed, and when the desire to promote the so called national independence proved partially successful, the Bishop of Spoleto wrote to the Cardinal Vicar, stating that Blessed Clare intimated the progress of their machinations by the movements of her body at three different times.”

On the 7th of September, 1850, the Congregation of Bites pronounced in favor of the heroic virtues of Blessed Clare, and Pius IX confirmed the sentence on the 13th of the same month.

The following are the proofs, which were adduced, and which caused this decision to be given: The ancient process made in the time of John XXII having been lost, the famous relation made in the consistory by the cardinals was yet remaining in the summary of the cause made in 1742. This contained a narration of the common tradition prevailing at Montetalco, and in other places, respecting Blessed Clare, together with the accounts of several authors who had written her life. The archives of the monastery of Montefalco supplied considerable portions of the ancient process. The nuns, anxious, if possible, to obtain the original documents, caused a strict search to be made, when some portions of the manuscripts were discovered, written in Gothic characters of the fourteenth century. The language, the style, and the testimony of the witnesses, show its antiquity. When these were discovered, judgment was about being delivered respecting the virtues of the saint. The promoter of the faith had already presented his objections, which had been answered by the postulators. Although the introduction of these testimonies would naturally retard the progress of the cause, the postulators resolved to present them to the Sacred Congregation. The promoter of the faith found in them materials for further objections. Another difficulty also presented itself-to what did these newly discovered fragments belong? Were they a part of the process made in the time of John XXII, or merely the inquiry which had been instituted by the Bishop of Spoleto? The original process had been sent to Rome in 1742; and it had not been proved that the Congregation restored it to the convent of Montefalco. These documents, which had been lately discovered, had several vacant parts which were not written on. This was not found in those presented to the congregation in 1742. It appeared, however, that they contained certain passages, which agreed with those extracts made by the promoter of the faith in 1742 from the process of John XXII. Whatever conclusions might be come to, it seemed that the virtues of the saint would now be more clearly proved. For not only would the relation of the cardinals made in the consistory bear witness to these, but also the testimony of historians worthy of credit, and the constant voice of tradition would show that she was worthy of the veneration, which had been paid to her during five centuries. Accordingly, the Sacred Congregation made the customary decree respecting the virtues of the saint, which was confirmed by the Holy Father, who also gave the necessary permission to proceed with the canonization, and to adduce the proofs required for the approbation of the miracles.

Chapter IV – Objections made by the Promoter of the Faith to the Virtues of Blessed Clare

Before proceeding to state the evidence by which the miracles of the saint were proved, it may be interesting to mention the objections made by the promoter of the faith to the heroic virtues of Blessed Clare. They are as follows: The fact of her having broken the vow which she made in her youth, never to look a man in the face; secondly, that when dying she received the sacraments from a heretic; thirdly, that she was on terms of friendship with suspected persons; and, in the fourth place, that she had been guilty of errors against humility.

The three cardinals, who composed the relation made in the time of John XXII, which has been so frequently alluded to, state that Blessed Clare had never committed a mortal sin. “Although,” write the cardinals, “we have received statements against Blessed Clare respecting her general mode of life, and also about her actions on particular occasions, we have never been able to discover that she committed a mortal sin, either by word or deed. We have examined, not only those persons who lived with her, but those who had heard her confessions, from the period of her childhood to her death; and also two persons, who had voluntarily presented themselves to give their testimony. All these witnesses testified on oath that they never knew Blessed Clare to have committed a mortal sin, and that she avoided venial sins with the greatest care – often saying, for the good instruction of the sisters, that it was easy to fall into grievous sins, if we committed venial ones.”

Such was the zeal of Blessed Clare that she made a resolution, when she was a little child, that she would never look a man in the face. Some doubts existed as to whether this should be considered as a vow, or merely as a promise. The promoter of the faith wished to regard it in the former light. To this the postulators objected, showing, by many proofs, that it should be looked upon only as a simple promise. Amongst others, they mentioned a conversation which Blessed Clare had with some of the sisters shortly before her death. “As for me,” said the saint, “I can, through the grace of God, say, with good conscience, that I never beheld the face of a man during the entire period of my life. Should I see any of those persons about the house I could not recognize them.” She also added that if one of those men came, and threw her into the adjoining river, she would not know who it was, for she would be certain not to lift up her eyes to look at him. She also reproached herself severely for having by chance seen a man, who was passing before the grate of the choir, when she wished to contemplate the sacred host at the moment of the elevation. She left the following; order to her religious: “That they were to avoid all conversation with men; and when they approached the grate they were to keep it covered with a double thick veil; and that they were never to see any male persons, unless their fathers, their brothers, their uncles, or their nephews.” Her own practice was, that, if any person approached the grate, she always went away, or, if it was necessary for her to speak to them, she generally retired behind the wall, or placed a veil before the window.

It would appear, with respect to the second objection of Blessed Clare having made her confession to a secret heretic when dying, that it loses all its weight under the following circumstances: The heresy of the Fratricelli at this time disturbed a great number of persons, especially the Franciscan order. The confessor to whom allusion is made in the objection of the promoter of the faith, was called Brother Joannutius. It was Brother Thomas, who assisted her in her last hours, and heard her last confession. The Bishops and not the religious, appoint the chaplains, and the confessors to the convent. Jane, the mother abbess, gives the following account of this matter: “Clare was seized with the malady of which she afterwards died. Brother Joannutius came to the monastery to hear her confession. Clare did not know that he was a heretic, for in conversing with her he so arranged his words, as to make Chirc believe that his sentiments coincided with hers. Clare had her suspicions respecting him, and told him so in this same confession; to which he replied that he believed exactly as she did.” As Brother Joannutius had never been excommunicated, his absolution was valid; and had Blessed Clare, in consequence of her suspicions, refused to make her confession to him, she would have caused both surprise and scandal. She did not know he was a heretic. But, so great was her zeal for the true faith, she wished to satisfy her doubts. Nor did she make her confession until she had heard the protestations made by Joannutius, that his opinions agreed with hers.

The heresy of the Fratrlcelli had gained, over to it a great number of the Franciscans. These men declaimed against the Popes and the Church. Under a pretence of desiring to practise the rule of poverty in all its strictness, they wandered about from house to house asking alms, and stated that our blessed Lord and the apostles possessed nothing, either as their own property, or in common. For nearly two centuries they troubled the peace of Europe, the the disorders which they committed, and by the wicked lives which they led. During the lifetime of blessed Clare, they infested Umbria, and even Montefalco itself; but were afraid to make themselves known, lest condign punishment might have been inflicted on them. Blessed Clare was deeply attached to the Church, which she defended, as long as she was able, against the calumnies and impostures of those heretics. When Brother John, the confessor of the monastery, desired to be convinced of his errors, she allowed herself no repose until she brought him back to the true faith. Those whom she did not convince, she denounced to the proper ecclesiastical authorities. She often said to the religious of her convent: “Do not be moved from the true faith. Remember that you are the true children of the old Church founded by God. Listen not to the novelties of Satan, which his ministers, who conduct souls to perdition, are constantly preaching.” She did not allow any to approach her convent, unless those who were spiritually-minded persons. She would often say: “Converse with such a person; avoid this man, for he is not well disposed.” To one, whose only title to be called a member of a religion, was his wearing the habit, she said, when he approached the grate of her convent: “Do not come here, for I do not desire to see you. I shall pray to God that he may give you the grace, and light which you have so much need of.”

The objection of her holding communication with suspected persons, has no better foundation than the preceding ones. It states that she had two chaplains – one of whom died in prison for heresy; and that the other, at the time that the relation was made by the cardinals, was yet in confinement for the same offense. The author of the deposition, upon whose authority this statement was made, seems to have been one of those witnesses who, when questioned by the cardinals, were obliged to allow that they never knew her to be guilty of mortal sin; and, also, a person with whom she disputed with great earnestness. When she could not convince him of his errors, she gave information to those whose duty it was to see, that he would not lead other persons astray. To communicate with a secret heretic has never been considered, as an obstacle to persons being canonized, as may be seen in the cases of Saint Vincent of Paul, and Saint Jane of Chantal; who, though they had intercourse with the first Jansenists, jet were afterwards added to the catalogue of the saints. It was also stated respecting Blessed Clare that she lived on good bread and electuaries. The following is a true account of her usual mode of living: “She eat in general nothing but bread, and this usually of the coarsest description – sometimes a few wild herbs were added to this. Often days were allowed to pass without her ever tasting even bread. Apples and other fruits, which sometimes were gathered after they had fallen from the trees, she deemed too great a luxury. She seemed to look upon it as committing a great excess when she fed on dry beans, or even allowed them to be soaked in water.”

The manuscripts which in 1850 had been discovered in Montefalco, supplied the defender of the faith with fresh matter respecting the fourth objection, which states that she had done many things, which seemed contrary to humility. The following is a brief account of what was alleged by the promoter of the faith, and by the postulators of the cause on this point.

“The surest way,” says Saint Augustine, “to go to heaven is, in the first place, by humility; in the second place, by humility; and, in the third place, by humility; and so would I answer as often as you would put the question to me.” All the virtues seem to unite in him who is endowed with profound humility. To say a person has not this virtue, is as much as to affirm he is gifted with none. Blessed Clare, proceeds the defender of the faith in making his objections, seems to have often sinned against humility, for there is no virtue or supernatural gift, which she did not boast that she possessed. She flattered herself that in her infancy she had a faith so perfect, a confidence so deep, a purity so great, that she might hope to obtain from God all she desired. Sister Marina stated that she “heard Blessed Clare say that in her youth she had such faith, that she believed she could get from God all she required.” Sister Jane, also, added that she heard her make similar statements. A few years before her death, she told some persons, that so great was her faith that she was not afraid to tell it to all the world. This, adds the promoter, cannot be called humility. She often mentioned the love which she had for God, the prayers which she had made in her infancy, the affection which the passion of our Lord caused in her, and the ardent desire which she had to serve him. She often told the sisters that the anxiety she had for their salvation, and for the welfare of the monastery, was so great that she esteemed as nothing, in comparison to it, her own peace and her bodily wants. She said at another time that she had recommended the soul of a sinner to God in her prayers, and seeing that these were totally rejected, she took on herself all that person’s sins, and thus obtained her conversion. This seems, continues the promoter, as if she desired to obtain glory by alluding to the favor which she had with God, and as if she wished to excite admiration by mentioning the charity, which she had for her neighbor. She also spoke to the sisters in the following manner: “Many of those who came to the monastery have done so, to show not what they are, but what they are not.” She had reproved two of the sisters of the convent for committing acts of dishonesty. She also accused others of thoughts, or secret temptations, which they at first denied, but afterwards confessed. Sister Teresa also deposed that she heard Blessed Clare say, that she had reproved a friar for having an improper temptation, or a diabolical illusion, and that the sisters did not wish him to come, and say mass at the convent.

The same sister also adds that she heard Blessed Clare tell how exactly she guarded the silence, prescribed from the evening before to the next day after tierce, and that she resolved to keep it all day; and if any person dared to say a word to her, she would make them stand in snow, with their arms stretched out, as long as they were saying a hundred “our Fathers.” Sister Marina states that she heard her praising, in like manner, her own profound obedience, her watchfulness, and her patience in trials and sufferings. The same sister adds that she sometimes eat only acorns; and that she heard her say she baked her bread in the ashes, and loved fasting so much, that she resolved to live on bread and water for the remainder of her days. She also made the other sisters acquainted with her macerations, with her wearing hair shirts, and her other penances. Blessed Clare also told how much she disliked praise, and how she loved to be despised; that she was pained when people spoke well of her; and but for the sake of the monastery, she would bring on herself some infamy, and cause people to talk ill of her, as far as she could do so without offending God. The promoter of the faith charges her also with speaking in the same manner respecting divine apparitions, her encounters with Satan, her visions, and her supernatural gifts. That she told Sister Marina that she had lost the grace of consolation which she had experienced in the passion of our Lord, who had shown his sufferings to her as they had taken place, and that the cause of this was her speaking of it to another sister. When she was dying, she spoke of the visions of the saints with which she was then favored.

The postulators in the cause replied to these objections in the following manner: To praise one’s self is an action in itself indifferent, and depends on the motives from which it is done. It does not savor of boasting or of imperfection to make these actions known to our friends. Such communications are often lawful, are calculated to do much good, and are sometimes necessary.” “A sincere friend,” says Saint Augustine, “conceals nothing; he opens his soul as our Lord opened his mysteries to his heavenly Father.” This changes the nature of the animadversions which have been offered respecting the communications made by Blessed Clare to the sisters or to the novices. Another principle, also, may be applied: that when there is a doubt whether the manifestation of these gifts or virtues on the part of a servant of God are to be attributed to a spirit of boasting or not, the doubt should be thus resolved-that if the virtue of humility in a heroic degree has been proved in the other acts of the cause, the making known these supernatural graces and gifts should be attributed to a desire for tlie glory of God and the salvation of souls. They cannot be ascribed to any other motive without being in danger of forming a rash judgment. Saint Paul, in his second epistle to the Corinthians, praises himself, relates his greatness, and the graces which God has given him. lie says that he labored more and suffered more than the other apostles. He speaks of his revelations and of his raptures in the third heaven. When this was not necessary for the good of others, he knew well how to humble himself, and say that he did not deserve to be called an apostle, who was the greatest of sinners, and had persecuted the Church of Christ. In the founder of an order, the narration of virtues and of gifts are lawful and necessary, to the end that their followers and spiritual children may be edified. It must never be forgotten that they are often inspired by God to reveal, in their profound humility and simplicity, the secrets of their souls and the gifts which He has conferred upon them, for the benefit of others and for the advantages which will be derived from it.

Let these rules be applied to the words of Blessed Clare, which have been found fault with. All the witnesses testify that she spoke these things in order to instruct others and to encourage them to do good. When she mentioned her desire to tell her faith to the entire world she was conversing with a disguised heretic; for we thus read in the acts: “The sister Clare told the witness that the brother Bentivenga had stated to her that his faith was older than hers; and that if he were permitted to preach it, he would convert the entire world. Sister Clare then asked him why he did not do so. He replied that he feared. Then Sister Clare said to him. ‘As for me, I have no fear; and I would not dread to preach mine to the entire world, so great is the faith God has given me; and consequently my faith is better than yours.'” What she said respecting her prayers and devotion in the time of her infancy, tended to give edification. The witnesses testify that she said that no one could teach the soul but God, for there is none other in the world as good a teacher as he is. Sister Thornasa deposes, that when she spoke of the sufferings of Christ her visage was filled with compassion; and when she heard her say anything on this subject she wept, and seemed deeply affected, and with many sighs and tears, she exhorted the sisters to meditate on the death and passion of our Lord.

The times in which Blessed Clare lived, as has been already stated, were calamitous. The heresy of the Fratricelli spread in every direction, and it required much caution to prevent its further progress. She therefore told the sisters, that such persons came to show not what they were, but what they were not; and she desired to put them on their guard with respect to such people. The charge brought against Blessed Clare of not being sufficiently careful of the reputation of other persons, has no better foundation. When she spoke of the fault committed by two sisters in the convent, it was only out of compassion for their souls. They had already acknowledged their error, and had been corrected; and were the first themselves to mention the miraculous warning they had received from Blessed Clare. The brother Joannutius received from her only what he deserved, for he was a man secretly attached to heretical opinions. It also appears, from the testimony of the two sisters, Jane and Marina, that what Blessed Clare said with respect to her fidelity in keeping the rule, and her obedience, and other virtues, was through her anxiety to give edification to others. It only remains now to speak of her visions. The Holy Ghost is ever anxious that the gifts which he gives to saints should be published, in order that advantages may thus be conferred on the Church. Hence comes the desire to make these known to others. Christian humility and simplicity cannot hinder this taking place. The religious often went to the cell of Sister Clare at night, on hearing the cries which she uttered when the demons approached her room. “When asked how they knew this, they said that Sister Clare told them so; and that they appeared sometimes under the form of a man, at other times under that of a woman, or of a beast; and that they attempted to choke her, or to injure her in some other manner. The sisters also stated that Blessed Clare had been for many years favored with beholding the passion, as it had taken place, and that she was deprived of it, not because she spoke of it, but because she seemed to be affected with vain-glory, when she found, that another person whom she thought possessed this privilege was not gifted with it. It appears that God gave her many consolations by revealing to her the sufferings of his Son, and that she was affected with a little self-esteem on conversing with a religious, whom she supposed had the same favors, when she saw she did not enjoy them. For eleven years she was deprived of these visions. She then inflicted many penances on herself, and at length was permitted to behold them once more. When she spoke of these to her companions, it was for their advantage, and not through desire of praise. It was thus that Saint Paul and Saint Barnabas announced the conversion of the Gentiles, and the miracles which God had effected through them. Saint Bernard recounted to his brethren whatever took place in connection with his spiritual state, to encourage them to walk in his footsteps. Saint Francis made known to his disciples his stigmata and the particulars of his vision. Saint lldegarde wrote an account of her visions, which was afterwards approved of by Eugenius III, by Anastasius IV, and by Adrian IV. Saint Angustine composed a narrative of his conversion. Saint Jerome speaks of his visions, and Saint Cajetan wrote about the divine favors which he received in the Church of Saint Mary Major. These facts show the power of the heavenly inspiration, and that, notwithstanding their humility, the saints are compelled to make known the supernatural gifts which God bestows on them. Thus it appears, how the opposition, which. was manifested against the virtues of the saint, only served to make them more evident.

Chapter V – The Miracles of Blessed Clare. – The Inquiry made by the Bishop respecting them

Judgment in favor of her heroic virtues had been pronounced by the Congregation of Rites. The next step to be taken was to obtain a similar sentence respecting the miracles of the saint. The documents required for making an examination of the former mira cles had already been granted. It was necessary to have the authority of the Holy See, in order that an inquiry should be made into the new miracles which were alleged to have been performed by Blessed Clare. In 1847 the Archbishop of Spoleto had formed a process respecting the wonders, which were said to have taken place on the 27th of May, and the 17th of July, in the same year.

The following is a translation of this document: “On the 4th of August, 1847, the Archbishop of Spoleto arrived at Montefalco, and sent to the mother abbess the documents which had been already printed respecting the canonization. She stated, from the account furnished her by some of the nuns, that certain prodigies had taken place in connection with the body of the servant of God; that the door which closed in the interior of the choir was observed to open of its own accord; and that there was a movement in the body at the same time, and that the nuns could bear testimony respecting it. As soon as the Archbishop had heard of this, he resolved to enter within the enclosure of the convent, and make the necessary inquiries respecting it. He was accompanied by the usual ecclesiastical authorities. When they arrived in the choir, in the interior of the monastery, where the urn containing the body of the saint is placed in the wall, which divides the church from the choir, they found the doors open, and they saw through the glass that the body was not in the same position, in which it had been originally placed. The head seemed to be removed from the cushion, and the crown which was on the head was somewhat raised, and did not touch the velvet. The marks on the latter showed where the head and crown had originally been. The veil was not in its ordinary position, but seemed to be open and pushed back. This appeared to have been caused by the movement of the head. The tunic had also folds in it; which showed the motion made by the body, when the change took place in the position of the head. A golden crucifix, weighing eleven ounces, and which was placed on a little pedestal made of velvet, was inclined on the hands, and leaned on the thumb of the right hand. The arm of the cross touched the left hand. The Archbishop, in order to know the circumstances connected with this, ordered Sister Mary Vincent Luciana to be called; who stated, “that on the 27th of May, when they were all in the choir, to recite compline, about live o’clock in the evening, a noise was heard at the doors which enclosed the urn, as if the bolt, which fastened them, had been drawn back. The doors immediately opened. We were all surprised at beholding an event which seemed to be miraculous. None of the sisters were near the place, and the doors had been closed by a bolt. After compline Sister Mary Augustine, and Sister Mary Gertrude, the sacristan, told me that the body of Blessed Clare had moved itself, and that the crucifix had fallen down. I went to see it, and found that the crucifix, which before was placed on a velvet cushion, which served as a pedestal, had fallen down on the hands. The head was not on the cushion, on which it usually reclined. On the 17th of July last, Sister Mary Xavier, another sacristan, told me that she could not clean the urn in which the body of the saint rested, as it approached too near the iron grating which surrounded it. I went to look at it, and found that it was not only quite impossible to pass my hand between the urn and the grating to wipe away the dust, as was usually done, but there was not even room to put in my finger. The urn must evidently have stirred, for we could always remove the dust in this manner. It required much force to put it in its usual position.” The mother abbess, and the sacristan, confirmed the above statement.

Although this was of great weight, it did not dispense with the apostolical inquiry. Therefore in a few days, after the sentence had been passed on the heroic virtues, the postulators of the cause asked the Holy Father to send the usual letters directed to the Archbishop, the Vicar-General, and to the canons of the cathedral, to institute the necessary inquiry into the miracles, which have taken place, since the cause has been renewed. These letters contained the form of the oath which the delegate judges should take; and it was to terminate within two years. The examination of the witnesses, and their depositions were to be sealed, and carefully laid by at the termination of each sitting. When the process was finished, the documents were to be transcribed, and sent to Rome to the Congregation of Rites. These letters were dated October 14, 1850.

Chapter VI – The Inquiry made hy the Authority of the Holy See into the Miracles

The inquiry was commenced on the 22d October, 1850, and continued until the 16th of the following November. It was held in the enclosure of the convent, as the judges had received permission to enter it in order to take the depositions of the witnesses. Each meeting commenced with the usual formalities, the citation of the sub-promoter of the faith, and of the witnesses. The customary oath was administered to them. The questions sent from Rome by the promoter of the faith were read. The examination of the witnesses, produced by the postulator of the cause, lasted until the 8th of November; that of the other witnesses until the 11th. The sub-promoter of the faith required, that persons should be named to examine the body of Blessed Clare. The judges appointed two physicians and five matrons for this purpose; and four of the ecclesiastics, and inhabitants of Montefalco were to assist them. The examination took place on the 15th and 16th of November. The urn containing the body of Blessed Clare was placed in the middle of the choir. The dress, and each part of the body was examined. It was then replaced in the urn, and sealed with the arch-episcopal seal. The transcribing of the process, and the comparing it with the original, was not completed until the 3d of January. A new order was sent from Rome to inspect the relics of Blessed Clare. This did not take place until the following October. The medical men, who were appointed for this purpose, gave their testimony viva voce, and also in writing. The judges held their last meeting on the 2lst of November, 1852, when the necessary documents were transmitted to Rome.

The sacred Congregation of Rites, on the 25th November, 1852, declared the process to be valid. The following is the decree. After the apostolical dispensation, and the vote of the consultors, granted on the 10th of the kalends of May this year, the most Eminent and Rev. Cardinal Patrizzi, to whose charge the cause of Blessed Clare of Montefalco is intrusted, having in the meeting held at the Vatican, proposed the following questions: “Is the assembly satisfied about the validity of the process, made in the diocese of Spoleto by apostolical authority respecting the miracles wrought by God at the sepulchre, and also by the body of Blessed Clare, since the veneration offered to her has received approbation? Have the witnesses been properly examined, and have all things been duly performed?” After the Cardinals had maturely considered the matter, and heard the objections of the promoter of the faith, they decided “that all had been properly done.” This decree received the approbation of the Holy Father on the thirtieth of the same month.

Such is the present state of the case. Two more miracles must be approved of before they can proceed to the canonization of the saint.

MLA Citation

  • Rev. William H Keligan, LL.D., M.A.. “History of Canonization of Blessed Clare of Montefalco”. Saintly Chararacters Presented for Canonization, 1859. CatholicSaints.Info. 17 August 2016. Web. 19 September 2021. <>