August 11: Clare, Abbess at Assisi, 1253

Welcome to the Holy Women, Holy Men blog! We invite you to read about this commemoration, use the collect and lessons in prayer, whether individually or in corporate worship, then tell us what you think. For more information about this project, click here.

About this commemoration

Clare of Assisi, by Simone Martini
Clare of Assisi, by Simone Martini

In the latter part of the twelfth century, the Church had fallen on evil days, and was weak and spiritually impoverished. It was then that Francis of Assisi renounced his wealth and established the mendicant order of Franciscans. At the first gathering of the order in 1212, Francis preached a sermon that was to make a radical change in the life of an eighteen-year-old young woman named Clare.

The daughter of a wealthy family, and a noted beauty, Clare was inspired by Francis’ words with the desire to serve God and to give her life to the following of Christ’s teaching. She sought out Francis, and begged that she might become a member of his order, placing her jewelry and rich outer garments on the altar as an offering. Francis could not refuse her pleas. He placed her temporarily in a nearby Benedictine convent.

When this action became known, friends and relatives tried to take Clare from her retreat. She was adamant. She would be the bride of Christ alone. She prevailed, and soon after was taken by Francis to a poor dwelling beside the Church of St. Damian at Assisi. Several other women joined her. She became Mother Superior of the order, which was called the “Poor Ladies of St. Damian.”

The order’s practices were austere. They embraced the Franciscan rule of absolute poverty. Their days were given over to begging and to works of mercy for the poor and the neglected. Clare herself was servant, not only to the poor, but to her nuns.

Clare governed the convent for forty years, caring for the sisters, ready to do whatever Francis directed. She said to him, “I am yours by having given my will to God.” Her biographer says that she “radiated a spirit of fervor so strong that it kindled those who but heard her voice.”

In 1253 her last illness began. Daily she weakened, and daily she was visited by devoted people, by priests, and even by the Pope. On her last day, as she saw many weeping by her bedside, she exhorted them to love “holy poverty” and to share their possessions. She was heard to say: “Go forth in peace, for you have followed the good road. Go forth without fear, for he that created you has sanctified you, has always protected you, and loves you as a mother. Blessed be God, for having created me.”

Collect of the Day

O God, whose blessed Son became poor that we through his poverty might be rich: Deliver us from an inordinate love of this world, that we, inspired by the devotion of your servant Clare, may serve you with singleness of heart, and attain to the riches of the age to come; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


Song of Solomon 2:10–13

1 Peter 4:1–2

Luke 12:32–37

Psalm 63:1–8

Preface of a Saint (2)

We invite your reflections about this commemoration and its suitability for the official calendar and worship of The Episcopal Church. How did this person’s life witness to the Gospel? How does this person inspire us in Christian life today?

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From Holy, Women, Holy Men: Celebrating the Saints © 2010 by The Church Pension Fund. Used by permission.

3 thoughts on “August 11: Clare, Abbess at Assisi, 1253

  1. do all churches observe saints days . from what i understand they are only observed by people that saint has a special meaning to ie St.patricks day for irish people St. Amdrew’s for scottinsh people or St. mathew’s day for accountants .

    Alexi, Thanks for your question. Next time we need your last name, too. — Ed.

    In response to your question, churches have different practices of observing saints days. It’s common in the Episcopal Church for parishes to celebrate a eucharist (communion) that commemorates a saint, though most churches don’t have a daily celebration, so they don’t commemorate all the people on our calendar.

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