|Detail of the altar of the Franciscan Saints, Malaga Cathedral: |
St. Clare can be seen in the upper niche, holding the exposed Blessed Sacrament.
I am rather fond of St. Clare. A follower of St.Francis, she was the first woman to practice the life of entire poverty which he epoused. She led the small community of sisters at the convent of San Damiano, near Assisi, for forty-two years, forming the foundation of the Franciscan Second Order, or 'Poor Clares'. She resisted successive attempts by popes and prelates to dilute the rule of her order, preferring to retain extreme austerity which included a frugal diet with perpetual abstinance from meat, going barefoot at all times, and sleeping on the ground. Obviously she was a woman of considerable moral fortiude, further exemplified by her seeing off the troops of Frederick II, who intended to sack the convent, by walking out of the door, brandishing (if that isn't too strong a word) the Blessed Sacrament in a monstrance. This is shown very graphically (typical of Spanish religious art) in the altarpiece shown above (see my earlier post for more detail).
Perhaps it might not be a bad thing for some of our female Religious who are currently affected by the ideas of modern, so-called feminism to look to her and similar saints for an example of true female strength and courage, worthy of respect and admiration.
I would like also at this time to remember the Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate, and the associated order of Friars, not least because of the restrictions they are now facing with respect to their use of the traditional Liturgy.
Francicans of the Immaculate at Blackfen - photo by Mulier Fortis
St. Clare died on August 11th., 1253. Her incorrupt body is preserved in the Basilica of St. Clare in Assisi.
Body of St. Clare