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July 10, 2003     443 Words

St. Clare of Assisi Still Inspires After 750 Years

CINCINNATI—St. Clare of Assisi, patron of television and telegrams, died in 1253, but her legacy is timeless, and her life, the stuff of novels. Born privileged in Italy, St. Clare abandoned her family's wealth and nobility, joining her friend St. Francis in living a community life of prayer and poverty.

The life of St. Clare of Assisi is featured in the August St. Anthony Messenger cover story entitled "Celebrating St. Clare of Assisi." Sister Claire André Gagliardi, O.S.C., author of the article and abbess of the Monastery of St. Clare in Columbus, New Jersey, writes of St. Clare's life of purity, her passion for God and the many who still follow her example.

Speculation abounds as to whether St. Francis first approached St. Clare or vice versa, but one fact is indisputable: Their friendship and mutual interest in living uncluttered, pious lives produced the Franciscans and the Poor Clares—religious orders that continue to witness to the Good News of Jesus. After being received by St. Francis and his band of followers in 1212, St. Clare's disapproving family members followed her to San Paolo, in efforts to bring her back to the family. She flatly refused and shortly thereafter her sister Catherine, soon to be called Agnes, joined her, as did other women inspired by the example of Francis and Clare.

Clare's support for Francis with prayers and wise advice was the bedrock of their friendship. Outliving him by 27 years, St. Clare remained true to her holy, contemplative life—a life she treasured but one that contained hardships. "[St. Clare] knew grace would be present and that this grace would give her the strength and courage she needed," Sister Claire André Gagliardi writes. "It would also give her the vision to see beyond herself and grasp the insights that only God could teach."

St. Clare's choice for a life of simplicity is one that continues to inspire and challenge people today—religious and secular. St. Clare needed only to look inward to find the strength to greet each day. In a letter to her sister Agnes, Clare wrote: "The soul of a faithful person is greater than heaven itself, since the heavens and the rest of creation cannot contain the creator and only the faithful soul is God's dwelling place and throne."

The article also includes a sidebar with a Web link to the Poor Clares around the world. After July 20, the article can be found at: AmericanCatholic.org.

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