St. Clare

  1. Chronology of the Life of St Clare
  2. The First Letter to St Agnes of Prague
  3. The Second Letter to the St Agnes of Prague
  4. The Third Letter to St Agnes of Prague
  5. The Fourth Letter to St Agnes of Prague
  6. Letter to Ermentrude of Bruges
  7. The Rule of St Clare
  8. The Testament of St Clare

s-chiara

1. Chronology of the Life of St. Clare

1193-1194

Birth in Assisi of Clare Offreduccio di Favarone

1198

Clare’s family takes refuge in its castle in Cocorano

1203-1205

Exile in Perugia along with families from the nobility at war with the Commune in Assisi

1210

Clare hears St. Francis preach

1211

On the evening of Palm Sunday, Clare is consecrated at the Portiuncula (Chapel of Our Lady of the Angles). She spends a short time with the Benedictines, and the settles at San Damiano.

1214

Sr. Balvina, Clare’s companion, founds a community of Damianites in Spello.

1215

Clare receives the title of abbess.

1216

She obtains the privilege of the most high poverty from the Pope.

1218-1219

Clare and her sisters receive the Constitutions of Cardinal Hugolino, along with the Rule of St. Benedict. Damianites at Siena, Lucca, and Florence, where Agnes, Clare’s sister, becomes abbess.

1220

According to tradition, a foundation at Reims – the first in France.

1224

Beginning of Clare’s sickness.

1227

The Pope confirms that the sisters at San Damiano are to receive the help of the friars.

1228

The first community of Damianites in Spain at Pampelune. At least 24 communities in Italy.

 

The Pope Gregory IX visits Clare at San Damiano

1234

St. Agnes, daughter of the king of Bohemia, founds a monastery in Prague, and takes the veil there. Clare’s writes her first letter to Agnes.

1238

Foundation of Trnava, A monastery of Damianites in Slovakia.

1240

The Saracens at San Damiano; miraculous protection of the community.

1241

June 22nd – through the intercessory prayers of the sisters, the city of Assisi is liberated from the siege of the imperial armies.

1242

The Blessed Cunegonda founds a monastery in Olomuc in Moravia.

1245

The Blessed Salome founds a monastery in Zawichost in Poland.

1247

The Rule of Innocent IV association of the Damianites to the Franciscan Order – the abandonment of the Rule of St. Benedict.

1253

Clare’s last known letter to Agnes of Prague.

1253

The Pope visits Clare and approves her Rule – August 11th, Clare’s death. At this date, 150 monasteries are associated with her.

1253

(Nov.) Death of St. Agnes of Assisi (Clare’s sister).

1255

The Canonization of St. Clare. FriarThomas of Celano writes his Life of St Clare.

1260

Clare’s body and the San Damiano community are transferred to the present monastery of Santa Chiara of Assisi.

1263

Rule of Urban IV – the Order of San Damiano takes the name of the Order of St. Clare.

painting-of-st-clare-by-sr-maria-van-galen-fmm

2. The First Letter to St Agnes of Prague Go to top of page

To the esteemed and most holy virgin, the Lady Agnes, daughter of the most excellent and illustrious King of Bohemia: Clare, an unworthy servant of Jesus Christ and useless handmaid of the Cloistered Ladies of the Monastery of San Damiano, her subject and servant in all things, presents herself totally with a special reverent [prayer] that she attain the glory of everlasting happiness.

As I hear of the fame of Your holy conduct and irreproachable life, which is known not only to me but to the entire world as well, I greatly rejoice and exult in the Lord. I am not alone in rejoicing at such great news, but [I am joined by] all who serve and seek to serve Jesus Christ. For, though You, more than others, could have enjoyed the magnificence and honor and dignity of the world, and could have been married to the illustrious Caesar with splendor befitting You and His Excellency, You have rejected all these things and have chosen with Your whole heart and soul a life of holy poverty and destitution. Thus You took a spouse of a more noble lineage, Who will keep Your virginity ever unspotted and unsullied, the Lord Jesus Christ:

When You have loved [Him], You shall be chaste; when You have touched [Him], You shall become pure; when You have accepted [Him], You shall be a virgin.

Whose power is stronger,
Whose generosity is more abundant,
Whose appearance more beautiful,
Whose love more tender,
Whose courtesy more gracious.
In Whose embrace You are already caught up;
Who has adorned Your breast with precious stones
And has placed priceless pearls in Your ears
and has surrounded You with sparkling gems
as though blossoms of springtime
and placed on Your head a golden crown
as a sign [to all] of Your holiness.

Therefore, most beloved sister, or should I say, Lady worthy of great respect: because You are the spouse and the mother and the sister of my Lord Jesus Christ, and have been adorned resplendently with the sign of inviolable virginity and most holy poverty: Be strengthened in the holy service which You have undertaken out of an ardent desire for the Poor Crucified, Who for the sake of all of us took upon Himself the Passion of the Cross and delivered us from the power of the Prince of Darkness to whom we were enslaved because of the disobedience of our first parents, and so reconciled us to God the Father.

O blessed poverty,
who bestows eternal riches on those who love and
embrace her!

O holy poverty,
to those who possess and desire you
God promises the kingdom of heaven
and offers, indeed, eternal glory and blessed life!

O God-centered poverty,
whom the Lord Jesus Christ
Who ruled and now rules heaven and earth,
Who spoke and things were made,
condescended to embrace before all else!

The foxes have dens, He says, and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man, Christ, has nowhere to lay His head, but bowing His head gave up His spirit.

If so great and good a Lord, then, on coming into the Virgin’s womb, chose to appear despised, needy, and poor in this world, so that people who were in utter poverty and want and in absolute need of heavenly nourishment might become rich in Him by possessing the kingdom of heaven, then rejoice and be glad! Be filled with a remarkable happiness and a spiritual joy! Contempt of the world has pleased You more than [its] honors, poverty more than earthly riches, and You have sought to store up greater treasures in heaven rather than on earth, where rust does not consume nor moth destroy nor thieves break in and steal. Your reward, then, is very great in heaven! And You have truly merited to be called a sister, spouse, and mother of the Son of the Father of the Most High and of the glorious Virgin.

You know, I am sure, that the kingdom of heaven is promised and given by the Lord only to the poor: for he who loves temporal things loses the fruit of love. Such a person cannot serve God and Mammon, for either the one is loved and the other is hated, or the one is served and the other despised.

You also know that one who is clothed cannot fight with another who is naked, because he is more quickly thrown who gives his adversary a chance to get hold of him; and that one who lives in the glory of earth cannot rule with Christ in heaven.

Again, [you know] that it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, you have cast aside Your garments, that is, earthly riches, so that You might not be overcome by the one fighting against You, [and] that You might enter the kingdom of heaven through the straight path and narrow gate.

What a great laudable exchange:
to leave the things of time for those of eternity,
to choose the things of heaven for the goods of earth,
to receive the hundred-fold in place of one,
and to possess a blessed and eternal life.

Because of this I have resolved, as best I can, to beg Your excellency and Your holiness by my humble prayers in the mercy of Christ, to be strengthened in His holy service, and to progress from good to better, from virtue to virtue, so that He Whom You serve with the total desire of Your soul may bestow on You the reward for which You long.

I also beg You in the Lord, as much as I can, to include in Your holy prayers me, Your servant, though unworthy, and the other sisters with me in the monastery, who are all devoted to You, so that by their help we may merit the mercy of Jesus Christ, and together with You may merit to enjoy the everlasting vision.

Farewell in the Lord. And pray for me.
Clare of Assisi


 

3. The Second Letter to the St Agnes of Prague Go to top of page

To the daughter of the King of kings, handmaid of the Lord of lords, most worthy spouse of Jesus Christ and therefore, very distinguished queen, the Lady Agnes, Clare, useless and unworthy handmaid of the Poor Ladies, sends her greetings and the prayer that Agnes may always live in the utmost poverty.

I thank the one who liberally bestows grace, from whom every best and perfect gift is believed to come, because he has adorned you with such a good reputation founded upon your virtues and has made you shine with the honors of so much perfection. He did this so that once you have been made a diligent imitator of the Father who is perfect, you may deserve to be made perfect, so that his eyes may not see anything imperfect in you. This is that perfection with which the King will unite you to himself in marriage in heaven’s bridal chamber where he sits in glory upon his starry throne, because despising the heights of an earthly kingdom and the less than worthy offers of an imperial marriage, you have been made an imitator of the holiest poverty, and in a spirit of great humility and the most ardent charity, you have clung to the footsteps of him with whom you have been worthy to be united in marriage.

Moreover, since I know that you are laden with virtues, I shall refrain from saying too much as I do not wish to laden you with superfluous words, even though to you no word seems superfluous of those that could be the source of some consolation for you. But because one thing is necessary, I invoke this one thing and advise you, by the love of him to whom you have offered yourself as a holy and pleasing sacrifice, to be mindful, like a second Rachel, of your founding purpose always seeing your beginning. What you hold, may you continue to hold, what you do, may you keep doing and not stop, but with swift pace, nible step, and feet that do not stumble so that even your walking does not raise any dust, may you go forward tranquilly, joyfully, briskly, and cautiously along the path of happiness, trusting in no one and agreeing with no one insofar as he might want to dissuade you from pursuing your founding purpose or might place a stumbling block in your way, preventing you, in that perfection with which the Spirit of the Lord has called you, from fulfilling your vows to the Most High.

No concerning this, so that you may walk more tranquilly along the way of the Lord’s commands, follow the advice of our venerable father, our Brother Elias, minister general. Prefer his advice to the advice of others and consider it more precious to you than any gift. Indeed, if someone tells you something else or suggests anything to you that may hinder your perfection and that seems contrary to your divine vocation, even though you must respect him, still, do not follow his advice; instead, poor virgin, embrace the Poor Christ.

Now that you have made yourself contemptible in this world for his sake, look upon and follow the one who made himself contemptible for your sake. Gaze upon, examine, contemplate, most noble queen, desiring to follow your spouse, who is more beautiful than the sons of humankind, and who for your salvation became the vilest of men, despised, struck, and flogged repeatedly over his entire body, dying while suffering the excruciating torments of the cross. If you suffer with him, with him you will reign, grieving with him, with him you will rejoice, dying with him on the cross of tribulation, with him you will possess mansions in heaven among the splendors of the saints, and your name will be recorded in the Book of Life and will bring you glory among men and women. This is why you may forever in eternity share the glory of the heavenly kingdom rather than what is earthly and transitory, eternal goods instead of those that perish, and why you will live forever and ever.

Farewell, dearest sister and lady, for the sake of the Lord, your spouse; and constantly remember me, as well as my sisters-for we rejoice in the good things of the Lord that he is accomplishing in you through his grace-in your devout prayers to the Lord.

Also, as often as possible, please remind your sisters to pray for us.


 

4. The Third Letter to St Agnes of PragueGo to top of page

To Agnes, most venerable lady and sister in Christ, deserving of love before all other mortals, blood-sister of the illustrious king of Bohemia, but now sister and spouse of the most high King of the heavens, Clare, most humble and unworthy handmaid of Christ and servant of the Poor Ladies, sends her prayer for the joys of salvation in him who is the Author of Salvation and for everything better that can be desired.

I am filled with such great joy about your well-being, your happiness, and your favorable successes through which, I understand, you are thriving on the journey you have begun to obtain the reward of heaven; and I breathe again in the Lord with elation equal to my knowledge and belief that you are supplying in wonderful ways what is lacking both in me and in the other sisters who are following in the footsteps of the poor and humble Jesus Christ.

I am indeed able to rejoice, and there is no one who could separate me from such great joy, since I already possess what under heaven I have yearned for, and I see that you, supported by some kind of wonderful claim on the wisdom that comes from God’s own mouth, are formidably and extraordinarily undermining the stratagems of the cunning enemy, the pride that destroys human nature, and the vanity that beguiles human hearts.

I see, too, that you are embracing with humility, the virtue of faith, and the arms of poverty the incomparable treasure that lies hidden in the field of the world and the hearts of human beings, where it is purchased by the One by whom all things were made from nothing. And, to use as my own the words of the apostle himself, I consider you someone who is God’s own helper and who supports the drooping limbs of his ineffable body. Who, then, would tell me not to rejoice about such great and marvelous joys? That is why you, too, dearest, must always rejoice in the Lord, and not let bitterness and confusion envelop you, O Lady most beloved in Christ, joy of the angels, and crown of your sisters.

Place your mind in the mirror of eternity;
Place your soul in the splendour of glory;
Place your heart in the figure of the divine substance;
And, through contemplation, transform your entire being into the image of the Divine One himself,
So that you, yourself, may also experience what his friends experience when they taste the hidden sweetness that God alone has kept from the beginning
For those who love him.

And completely ignoring all those who in this deceitful and turbulent world ensnare their blind lovers, you might totally love him who gave himself totally out of love for you, whose beauty the sun and moon admire, and whose rewards, in both their preciousness and magnitude, are without end. I am speaking about the Son of the Most High, to whom the Virgin gave birth and, after whose birth, she remained a virgin. May you cling to his most sweet Mother, who gave birth to the kind of Son whom the heavens could not contain, and yet, she carried him in the tiny enclosure of her sacred womb, and held him on her young girl’s lap.

Who would not abhor the treachery of the enemy of humanity who, by means of the pride that results from fleeting and false glories, compels that which is greater than heaven to return to nothingness? See, it is already clear that the soul of a faithful person, the most worthy of God’s creations through the grace of God, is greater than heaven, since the heavens and the rest of creation together cannot contain their Creator and only the soul of a faithful person is his dwelling place and throne and this is possible only through the charity that the wicked lack. For the Truth says: The one who loves me, will be loved by my Father, and I shall love him and we shall come to him and make our dwelling place with him.

So, just as the glorious Virgin of virgins carried him physically, so, you too, following in her footsteps especially those of humility and poverty, can without any doubt, always carry him spiritually in your chaste and virginal body, containing him by whom both you and all things are contained, and possessing that which, even when compared with the other transitory possessions of this world, you will possess more securely. Regarding this, some kings and queens of this world are deceived; even though in their pride they have climbed all the way up to the sky, and their heads have touched the clouds, in the end they are destroyed like a pile of dung.

Now, I thought that I should respond to your charity about the things that you have asked me to clarify for you; namely, what were the feasts-and I imagine, that you have perhaps figured this out to some extent-that our most glorious father, Saint Francis, urged us to celebrate in a special way with different kinds of foods. Indeed, your prudence knows that, with the exception of the weak and the sick, for whom he advised and authorized to use every possible discretion with respect to any foods whatsoever, none of us who are healthy and strong ought to eat anything other than Lenten fare, on both ordinary days and feastdays, fasting every day except on Sundays and on the Lord’s Nativity, when we ought to eat twice a day. And, on Thursdays in Ordinary Time, fasting should reflect the personal decision of each sister, so that whoever might not wish to fast would not be obligated to do so. All the same, those of us who are healthy fast every day except Sundays and Christmas. Certainly, during the entire Easter week, as Blessed Francis states in what he has written, and on the feasts of holy Mary and the holy apostles, we are also not obliged to fast, unless these feasts should fall on a Friday; and, as has already been said, we who are healthy and strong always eat Lenten fare. But because neither is our flesh the flesh of bronze, nor our strength the strength of stone, but instead, we are frail and prone to every bodily weakness, I am asking and begging in the Lord that you be restrained wisely, dearest one, and discreetly from the indiscreet and impossibly severe fasting that I know you have imposed upon yourself, so that living, you might profess the Lord, and might return to the Lord your reasonable worship and your sacrifice always seasoned with salt.

Stay well, always in the Lord, just as I very much desire to stay well, and be sure to remember both me and my sisters in your holy prayers.


 

5. The Fourth Letter to St Agnes of PragueGo to top of page

To the other half of her soul and repository of the special love of her deepest heart, illustrious queen, spouse of the Lamb of the eternal King, the Lady Agnes, her own dearest mother and, among all the others, her special daughter, Clare, unworthy servant of Christ and useless handmaid of his handmaids who live in the Monastery of San Damiano in Assisi, sends greetings and her prayer that Agnes, together with the other most holy virgins, will sing a new song before the throne of God and of the Lamb, and will follow the Lamb wherever he goes.

O mother and daughter, spouse of the King and all ages, even if I have not written to you as frequently as both your soul and mine would have desired and longed for, do not for a moment wonder or believe in any way that the fire of my love for you burns any less sweetly in the deepest heart of your mother. The truth is that a shortage of messengers and the obvious perils of travel have hindered me. But now, as I write to your love, I rejoice and exult for you in the joy of the Spirit, spouse of Christ, because like that other most holy virgin, Saint Agnes, you have been in an astonishing way espoused to the immaculate Lamb, who, having assumed responsibility for all the vanities of this world, takes away the sins of the world. Happy, indeed, is the one permitted to share in this sacred banquet so as to be joined with all the feelings of her heart to him

Whose beauty all the blessed hosts
of the heavens unceasingly admire,
Whose affection moves,
whose contemplation invigorates,
Whose generosity fills,
Whose sweetness replenishes,
Whose remembrance pleasantly brings light,
Whose fragrance will revive the dead,
And whose glorious vision will bless
All the citizens of the heavenly Jerusalem,
Because the vision of him is the
splendor of everlasting glory,
The radiance of everlasting light,
and a mirror without tarnish.
Look into this mirror every day,
O queen, spouse of Jesus Christ,
And continually examine your face in it,
So that in this way you may adorn yourself
completely, Inwardly and outwardly,
Clothed and covered in multicolored apparel,
Adorned in the same manner with
flowers and garments
Made of all the virtues as is proper,
Dearest daughter and spouse of the most high King.

Moreover, in this mirror shine blessed poverty, holy humility, and charity beyond words, as you will be able, with God’s grace, to contemplate throughout the entire mirror. Look closely, I say, to the beginning of the life of this admired one, indeed at the poverty of him who was wrapped in swaddling clothes and placed in a manger.

O marvelous humility!
O astonishing poverty!
The King of the angels,
The Lord of heaven and earth is
Laid to rest in a manger!

Consider also the midst of his life, his humility, or at least his blessed poverty, the countless hardships, and the punishments that he endured for the redemption of the human race. Indeed, ponder the final days of this mirrored one, contemplate the ineffable love with which he was willing to suffer on the tree of the cross and to die there a kind of death that is more shameful than any other. That mirror suspended upon the wood of the cross from there kept urging those passing by of what must be considered, saying: O all you who pass by this way, look and see if there is any suffering like my suffering. In response let us with one voice and in one spirit answer him who is crying out and lamenting: I will remember this over and over and my soul will sink within me. Therefore, seeing this, O queen of the heavenly King, you must burn ever more strongly with the fervor of charity! Furthermore, as you contemplate his indescribable delights, riches, and everlasting honors, and heaving a sigh because of your heart’s immeasurable desire and love may you exclaim:

Draw me after you, Heavenly Spouse, we shall run in the fragrance of your perfumes! I shall run and not grow weary until you bring me into the wine cellar, until your left hand is under my head and your right arm blissfully embraces me; and you kiss me with the most blissful kiss of your mouth.

As you are placed in this contemplation, may you remember your poor little mother, (knowing that I have inseparably inscribed the happy memory of you on the tablets of my heart, for I regard you as dearer than all others. Why say more? Let my physical tongue be silent, as it is said, and let the tongue of the Spirit speak.

O blessed daughter, since in no way at all could my bodily tongue express more fully the love that I have for you, that which I have written is certainly inadequate. I beg you to receive these words with kindness and devotion, seeing in them at least the motherly affection, by which every day I am stirred by the fire of love for you and your daughters; please ask them to pray for me and my daughters in Christ.
Indeed, inasmuch as they are able, my own daughters, and especially the most prudent virgin, Agnes, our sister, beg you and your daughters to pray for them in the Lord.

Farewell, dearest daughter, together with your own daughters, until we meet at the throne of glory of the great God, and pray for us. I must now commend to your charity, as fully as possible, our dearest bearers of this letter, Brother Amato, beloved by God and human beings, and Brother Bonaugura.

Amen.


 

6. Letter to Ermentrude of BrugesGo to top of page

To Ermentrude, dearest sister, Clare of Assisi, humble handmaid of Jesus Christ, greetings and peace.

I know that you, o dearest sister, have fled the filth of the world, with the help of God’s grace; for which I rejoice and give thanks with you and again rejoice that you tread the paths of virtue strenuously with your daughters. Be faithful, dearest, to him to whom you are promised until death, and you will be crowned by him with the laurel of life.

This labor of ours is brief, but the reward is eternal; let the noises of the fleeting world and its shadow not confound you; let the empty specters of the deceiving world not drive you mad; shut your ears to the whispers of hell and, strong, break down its attempts [against you]; willingly bear adverse evils and let provident goods not puff you up; for the one requires faith, the other demands it; what you promised God, faithfully render, and he will repay you.

O dearest, look on heaven that invites us, and bear the cross and follow Christ who preceded us; indeed, after various and many tribulations we shall enter through him into his glory. Love with your whole heart God and Jesus, his son, crucified for our sins, and never let his memory escape your mind; make yourself mediate continually on the mysteries of the cross and the anguish of the mother standing beneath the cross.
Pray and be always vigilant. And the work that you began well, finish and the ministry you assumed, fulfil in holy poverty and sincere humility. Do not fear, daughter, God is faithful in all his words and holy in all his works, he will pour out his blessing on you and your daughters; and he will be your helper and your best consoler; he is our redeemer and our eternal reward.

Let us pray God for each other, for in bearing each other’s burden of charity we shall fulfil the law of Christ.

Amen.


dscn0821

7. The Rule of St ClareGo to top of page

Chapter I

In the nam e of the Lord,
here begins the form of life of the Poor Sisters.

The form of life of the order of the Poor Sisters that Blessed Francis established is this: to observe the Holy Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, by living in obedience, without anything of one’s own, and in chastity.

Clare, the unworthy servant of Christ and the little plant of the most blessed Francis, promises obedience and reverence to the Lord Pope Innocent and his canonically elected successors, and to the Roman Church. And as, at the beginning of her conversion she, together with her sisters, promised obedience to Blessed Francis, so now she promises his successors to observe the same obedience inviolably. And the other sisters shall always be obliged to obey the successors of Blessed Francis and Sister Clare and the other canonically elected Abbesses who succeed her.

Chapter II

Those who wish to live this life and how they are to be received.

If, by divine inspiration, someone comes to us desiring to accept this life, the Abbess is bound to seek the consent of all the sisters; and if the majority has agreed, she may receive her, after having obtained the permission of the Lord Cardinal Protector. If she sees that the candidate is acceptable, let the Abbess diligently examine her or have her examined concerning the Catholic faith and the sacraments of the Church. And if she believes all these things and is willing to profess them faithfully and to observe them steadfastly to the end; and if she has no husband, or if she has a husband who has already entered religious life with the authority of the Bishop of the diocese and has already made a vow of continence; and if there is no impediment to her observance of this life, such as advanced age or ill-health or mental weakness. let the tenor of our life be thoroughly explained to her.

If she is suitable, let the words of the Holy Gospel be addressed to her that she should go and sell all that she has and take care to distribute the proceeds to the poor. If she cannot do this, her good will shall suffice. Let the Abbess and sisters take care not to be concerned about her temporal affairs, so that she may freely dispose of her possessions as the Lord may inspire her. However, if some council is required, let them send her to some discerning and God-fearing men, according to whose advice her goods may be distributed to the poor.

After her hair has been cut off round her head and her secular clothes have been set aside, she may be permitted three tunics and a mantle. Thereafter, she may not go outside the monastery except for useful, reasonable, evident, and approved purpose. When the year of probation is ended, let her be received into obedience, promising to observe perpetually our life and form of poverty.

Let no one receive the veil during the period of probation. The sisters may also have little mantles for convenience and propriety in serving and working. In fact let the Abbess, with discernment, provide them with clothing according to the diversity of persons, places, seasons and cold climates, as it shall seem expedient to her by necessity.

Young girls who are received into the monastery before the age established by law may have their hair cut round their heads; and, after they have put aside their secular clothes, they may be clothed in a religious garb, as the Abbess sees fit. However, when they reach the age required by law, let them make their profession clothed in the same way as the others. The Abbess shall carefully provide a Mistress from among the more discerning sisters of the monastery both for these and the other novices. She shall diligently form them in a holy way of life and proper behaviour according to the form of our profession.

Let the same form described above be observed in the examination and reception of the sisters who serve outside the monastery. These sisters may wear shoes. No one may live with us in the monastery unless she has been received according to the form of our profession.And for love of the most holy and beloved Child who was wrapped in such poor little swaddling clothes and laid in a manger and of his most holy Mother, I admonish, beg and exhort my sisters always to wear poor garments.

Chapter III

The Divine Office and fasting confession and communion.

Let the sisters who can read celebrate the Divine Office according to the custom of the Friars Minor. For this reason they may have breviaries, reading them without singing. Those who, for some reasonable cause, are at times unable to recite their hours by reading them, may, like the other sisters, say the Our Fathers.

Let those who do not know how to read say twenty-four Our Father’s for Matins; five for Lauds; seven for each of the hours of Prime, Terse, Seat, and None; twelve, however, for Vespers; seven for Compline. For the deceased , let them also say seven Our Father’s with the Requiem aeternam at Vespers; twelve for Matins, whereas the sisters who can read are obliged to recite the Office of the Dead. When a sister in our monastery shall have departed this life, however, let them say fifty Our Fathers.

Let the sisters fast at all times. They may eat twice on Christmas, however, no matter on what day it happens to fall. The younger sisters, those who are weak, and those who serve outside the monastery may be mercifully dispensed as the Abbess sees fit. In time of manifest necessity, however, let the sisters not be bound to corporal fasting.

With the permission of the Abbess, the sisters may confess at least twelve times a year. Let them be careful not to introduce other talk unless it pertains to the confession and the salvation of souls. Let them receive Communion seven times a year, that is, on Christmas, Thursday of Holy Week, Easter, Pentecost, the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin, the feast of Saint Francis, and the feast of All Saints. The Chaplain may celebrate within the enclosure in order to give Communion to the sisters who are in good health or to those who are ill.

Chapter IV

The election and office of the Abbess; the chapter, and the officials and discreets.

The sisters are bound to observe the canonical form in the election of the Abbess. Let them quickly arrange to have the Minister General or the Minister Provincial of the order of Friars Minor present. Let him dispose them, through the Word of God, to perfect harmony and to the common good in the election to be held. Let no one be elected who is not professed. And if a non-professed is elected or given to them in another way, she may not be obeyed unless she first profess our form of poverty.

At her death let the election of another Abbess take place. If at any time it should appear to the entire body of sisters that she is not competent for their service and common welfare, the sisters are bound as quickly as possible to elect another Abbess and mother according to the form of life described above.

Let whoever is elected reflect on the kind of burden she has undertaken and to whom she must render an account of the flock committed to her. Let her strive to preside as well over the others more by her virtues and holy behaviour than by her office, so that moved by her example, the sisters may obey her more out of love than out of fear. Let her avoid exclusive loves, lest by loving some more than others she may cause scandal among all.

Let her console those who are afflicted. Let her also be the last refuge for those who are troubled, lest, should they fail to find in her the remedies for health, the sickness of despair might overcome the weak.

Let her preserve common life in everything, especially in whatever pertains to the church, the dormitory, refectory, infirmary, and clothing. Her Vicaress is bound to preserve it in the same way.

The Abbess is bound to call her sisters together at least once a week in the chapter, where both she and her sisters should humbly confess their common and public offences and negligences. Let her consult with all her sisters there regarding whatever concerns the welfare and integrity of the monastery, for the Lord frequently reveals what is best to the least among us.

No heavy debt may be incurred except with the common consent of the sisters and by reason of manifest necessity, and let this be done through a procurator. Let the Abbess and her sisters, however, be careful that nothing is deposited in the monastery for safekeeping; for such practices often give rise to troubles and scandals.

Let all who hold offices in the monastery be chosen by the common consent of all the sisters to preserve the unity of mutual love and peace. In the same way, let at least eight sisters be elected from the more discerning whose counsel the Abbess should be always bound to use in those matters which our form of life demands. Moreover, the sisters can and should, if it seems useful and expedient, remove the officials and discreets and choose others in their place.

Chapter V

Silence, the parlour, and the grille.

Let the sisters keep silence from the hour of Compline until Terse, except those who are serving outside the monastery. Let them also continually be silent in the church, the dormitory, and the refectory, only while they are eating. At all times, however they may be permitted to speak with discernment in the infirmary for the recreation and service of the sick. Nevertheless, they may communicate whatever is necessary always and everywhere, briefly and in a low tone of voice.

The sisters may not be permitted to speak in the parlour or at the grille without the permission of the Abbess or her Vicaress. Let this e who have permission not dare to speak in the parlour unless they are in the presence and hearing of two sisters. Moreover, let them not presume to go to the grille, unless there are at least three sisters present who have been appointed by the Abbess or her Vicaress from the eight discreets who were elected by all the sisters for the council of the Abbess. Let the Abbess and her Vicaress be themselves bound to observe this form of speaking and this very rarely at the grille and, by all means never, at the door.

Let a curtain be hung inside the grille which may not be removed except when the Word of God is preached or when a sister is speaking with someone.

Let the grille have a wooden door which is well provided with two distinct iron locks, bolts, and bars, so that, it can be locked, especially at night, by two keys, one of which the Abbess may keep and the other the sacristan. Let it always be locked except when the Divine Office is being celebrated and for the reasons given above. Under no circumstance whatever, may a sister speak to anyone at the grille before sunrise or after sunset. Let there always be a curtain on the inside of the parlour, which may not be removed.

No one may speak in the parlour during the Lent of Saint Martin and the Greater Lent, except a priest for Confession or for some other manifest necessity, which is left to the prudence of the Abbess or her Vicaress.

Chapter VI

The lack of possessions.

After the most high heavenly Father saw fit by his grace to enlighten my heart to do penance according to the example and teaching of our most blessed Father, Saint Francis, I, together with my sisters, willingly promised him obedience shortly after his own conversion.

When the blessed Father saw we had no fear of poverty, hard work, trial, shame, or contempt of the world, but, instead, regarded such things as great delights, moved by compassion he wrote a form of life for us as follows:

“Because by divine inspiration you have made yourselves daughters and servants of the Most High King, the heavenly Father and have espoused yourselves to the Holy Spirit, choosing to live a life according to the perfection of the holy Gospel, Resolve and promise for myself and for my brothers to always have that same loving care and solicitude for you as I have for them.”

As long as he lived he diligently fulfilled this and wished that it always be fulfilled by his brothers.

Shortly before his death he once more wrote his last will for us that we or those, as well, who would come after us would never turn aside from the holy poverty we had embraced. He said:

“I , little brother Francis, wish to follow the life and poverty of our most high Lord Jesus Christ and of his Holy Mother and to persevere in this until the end; and I ask and counsel you , my ladies, to live always in this most holy life and poverty. And keep most careful watch that you never depart from this by reason of the teaching or advice of anyone.”

As I, together with my sisters, have ever been solicitous to safeguard the holy poverty which we have promised the Lord God and blessed Francis, so, too, the Abbesses who shall succeed me in office and all the sisters are bound to observe it inviolably to the end: that is, by not receiving or having possession or ownership either of themselves or through an intermediary, or even anything that might reasonably be called property, except as much land as necessity requires for the integrity and proper seclusion of the monastery, and this land may not be cultivated except as a garden for the needs of the sisters.

Chapter VII

The manner of working

Let the sisters to whom the Lord has given the grace of working work faithfully and devotedly after the Hour of Terce at work that pertains to a virtuous life ads the common good. Let them do this in such a way that, while they banish idleness, the enemy of the soul, they do not extinguish the Spirit of holy prayer and devotion to which all other things of our earthly existence must contribute.

At the Chapter, in the presence of all, the Abbess or her Vicaress is bound to assign the work that each should perform with her hands. Let the same be done if alms have been sent by some benefactors for the needs of the sisters, so that, in common, a recommendation may be made for them. All such alms may be distributed for the common good by the Abbess or her Vicaress with the advice of the discreets.

Chapter VIII

The sisters shall not acquire anything of their own; begging alms; the sick sisters.

Let the sisters not appropriate anything, neither a house nor a place nor anything at all; instead, as pilgrims and strangers in this world who serve the Lord in poverty and humility, let them confidently send for alms. Nor should they be ashamed, since the Lord made himself poor in this world for us. This is the summit of the highest poverty which has established you, my dearest sisters, heiresses and queens of the kingdom of heaven; it has made you poor in the things of this world but exalted you in virtue. Let this be your portion which leads into the land of the living. Clinging totally to this, my most beloved sisters, for the name of Our Lord Jesus Christ and his most holy mother, do not ever wish to have anything else under heaven.

Let no sister be permitted to send letters or receive or give away anything outside the monastery without the permission of the Abbess. Let it not be permitted to have anything that the Abbess has not given or permitted. Should anything be sent to a sister by her relatives or others, let the Abbess give it to the sister. If she needs it, the sister may use it; otherwise, let her give it lovingly to a sister who does need it. If, however, money is sent to her, the Abbess with the advice of the discreets, may provide for the needs of the sister.

As for the sick sisters, let the Abbess be strictly bound to inquire with diligence, by herself and through other sisters, what their illness requires both by way of counsel as well as food and other necessities, and let her provide for them charitably and kindly according to the resources of the place. Because everyone is bound to serve and provide for their sisters who are ill, let them do this as they would wish to be served if they were suffering from some illness. Let each one confidently manifest her needs to the other. For if a mother loves and cherishes her child according to the flesh, how much more diligently should a sister love and cherish her sister according to the Spirit.

Those who are ill may lie on sacks filled with straw and may use feather pillows for their head; those who need woollen stockings and quilts may use them.

When the sick sisters are visited by those who enter the monastery, they may answer with brevity, each responding with some good words to those who speak to them. But the other sisters who have permission may not dare to speak to those who enter the monastery unless in the presence and hearing of the two sister-discreets assigned by the Abbess or her Vicaress.

Let the Abbess and her Vicaress, as well, be bound to observe this manner of speaking.

Chapter IX

The penance to be imposed on the sisters who sin; the sisters who serve outside the monastery.

If any sister, at the instigation of the enemy, has sinned mortally against the form of our profession, and, Wafter having been admonished two or three times by the Abbess or other sisters, she does not amend, let her eat bread and water on the floor before all the sisters in the refectory for as many days as she shall of been obstinate. If it seems advisable to the Abbess, let her be subjected to even greater punishment. Meanwhile, as long as she remains obstinate, let them pray that the Lord will enlighten her heart to do penance.

The Abbess and her sisters, however, must beware not to become angry or disturbed on account of any one’s sin, for anger and disturbance prevent charity in oneself and in others.

If it should happen may it never be so that an occasion of trouble or scandal should arise between sister and sister through a word or a gesture, let she who was the cause of the trouble, before offering her gift of prayer to the Lord, prostrate herself humbly at once at the feet of the other and ask pardon, but also beg her with simplicity to intercede for her to the Lord that he might forgive her. Let the other sister, mindful of that word of the Lord; “If you do not forgive from the heart, neither will your heavenly Father forgive you” generously pardon her sister every wrong she has done her.

The sisters who serve outside the monastery may not linger outside unless some manifest necessity requires it. Let them conduct themselves virtuously and say little, so that those who see them may always be edified.

Let them strictly beware of having suspicious meetings and dealings with others. They may not be godmothers of men or women lest gossip or trouble arise because of this. Let them not presume to repeat the gossip of the world inside the monastery. And let them be strictly bound not to repeat outside the monastery anything that was said or done within which could cause scandal.

If anyone should innocently offend in these two matters, let it be left to the prudence of the Abbess to mercifully impose a penance on her. But if a sister does this through a vicious habit, the Abbess with the advice of her discreets, may impose a penance on her according to the nature of the fault.

Chapter X

The admonition and correction of the sisters.

Let the Abbess admonish and visit her sisters, and humbly and charitably correct them, not commanding them anything that is against their soul and the form of our profession. Let the sisters, however, who are subjects, remember that they have renounced their wills for Gods sake. Therefore let them be firmly bound to obey their Abbess in all things they have promised the Lord to observe and which are not against their soul and our profession.

Let the Abbess on her part, be so familiar with them that they can speak and act with her as ladies do with their servant. For this is the way it must be: the Abbess should be the servant of all the sisters.

In fact, I admonish and exhort the sisters in the Lord Jesus Christ to beware of all pride, vainglory, envy, avarice, care and anxiety about this world, detraction and murmuring, dissension, and division. Let them be always eager to preserve among themselves the unity of mutual love which is the bond of perfection. Let those who do not know how to read not be eager to learn. Let them dire ct their attention to what they should desire to have above all else: the Spirit of the Lord and its holy activity, to pray always to him with a pure heart, and to have humility, patience in difficulty and infirmity, and to love those who persecute, blame, and accuse us, for the Lord says:

“Blessed are those who suffer persecution for the sake of justice, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. But whoever perseveres to the end will be saved”.

Chapter XIGo to top of page

The custody of the enclosure.

Let the portress be mature in her manner of acting, discerning, and of a suitable age. Let her remain in an open cell without a door during the day. Suitable companion may be assigned to her who may take her place in everything whenever necessary.

Let the door be well secured by two different iron locks, with bars and bolts, so that especially at night, it may be locked with two keys, one of which the portress may have, the other the Abbess. Let it never be left without a guard and securely locked with one key.

Let them most diligently take care to see that the door is never left open, except when this can hardly be conveniently avoided. Let it never be opened to anyone who wishes to enter, except those who have been given permission by the Supreme Pontiff or our Lord Cardinal. The sisters may not aglow anyone to enter the monastery before sunrise or to remain within after sunset, unless a manifest, reasonable, and unavoidable cause demands otherwise.

If a bishop has permission to offer Mass within the enclosure, either for the blessing of an Abbess or for the consecration of one of the sisters as a nun or for any other reason, let him be satisfied with both few and virtuous companions and assistants as possible.

Whenever it is necessary for other men to enter the monastery to do some work, let the Abbess carefully post a suitable person at the door, who may only open it to those assigned for work and to no one else. Let the sisters be extremely careful at such times not to be seen by those who enter.

Chapter XII

The visitator, the chaplain, and the Cardinal Protector.

Let our Visitator always be taken from the Order of the Friars Minor according to the will and command of our Cardinal. Let him be the kind of person who is well known for his integrity and good manner of living. His duty shall be to correct any excesses against the form of our profession, whether these be in the head or in the members. Taking his stand in a public place, that he can be seen by others, let him speak with several and with each one concerning the matters that pertain to the duty of the visitation as he sees best.

We ask as a favour of the same Order a chaplain and a clerical companion of good reputation, of prudent discretion and two lay brothers, lovers of a holy and upright way of life, in support of our poverty, as we have always mercifully had from the aforesaid Order of Friars Minor, in light of the love of God and our blessed Francis.

Let the chaplain not be permitted to enter the monastery without a companion. When they enter, let them remain in an open place, in such a way that they can always be see each other and be seen by others. They may enter the monastery for confession of the sick who cannot go to the parlour, for their communion, for the last anointing and the prayers of the dying.

Suitable and sufficient outsiders may enter, moreover, according to the prudence of the Abbess, for funeral services, for the solemnity of Masses for the dead, for digging or opening a grave, or also for making arrangements for it.

Let the sisters be strictly bound to always have that Cardinal of the Holy Roman Church who has been delegated by the Lord pope for the Friars Minor as governor, protector, and corrector, that, always submissive and subject at the feet of that holy Church and steadfast in the Catholic faith, we may always observe the poverty and humility of our Lord Jesus Christ and of his most holy Mother and the Holy Gospel we have firmly promised. Amen.


mother-colette-on-lift-for-painting-monastery

8. The Testament of Saint ClareGo to top of page

In the name of the Lord! Amen.

Among the other gifts that we have received and do daily receive from our benefactor, the Father of Mercies, and for which we must express the deepest thanks to the glorious Father of Christ, there is our vocation, for which, all the more by way of its being more perfect and greater, do we owe the greatest thanks to him. Therefore the Apostle writes: “Know your vocation”. The Son of God has been made for us the Way, which our Blessed Father Francis, his true lover and imitator, has shown and taught us by word and example. Therefore, beloved sisters, we must consider the immense gifts that God has bestowed on us, especially those that he has seen fit to work in us through his beloved servant, our blessed father Francis, not only after our conversion but also while we were still living among the vanities of the world.

Rebuild my Church

In fact, almost immediately after his conversion, when he had neither brothers nor companions, while he was building the church of San Damiano, where he was totally visited by divine consolation and impelled to completely abandon the world , through the great joy and enlightenment of the Holy Spirit, the holy man made a prophecy about us that the Lord later fulfilled.

For at that time , climbing the wall of that church, he shouted in French to some poor people who were standing nearby: “Come and help me in the work of building the monastery of San Damiano, because ladies are yet to dwell here who will glorifr our heavenly Father throughout his holy, universal Church by their celebrated and holy manner of life.”

We can consider in this , therefore, the abundant kindness of God to us. Because of his mercy and love, he saw fit to speak these words through his saint about our vocation and choice through his saint. And our most blessed Father prophesied not only for us, but also for those who would come to this same holy vocation to which the Lord has called us.

With what eagerness and fervour of mind and body, therefore, must we keep the commandments of our God and Father, so that, with the help of the Lord, we may return to him an increase of his talent! For the Lord himself has placed us not only as a form for others in being an example and mirror, but even for our sisters whom the Lord has called to our way of life as well, that they in turn might be a mirror and example to those living in the world. Since the Lord has called us to such great things that those who are to be a mirror and example to others may be reflected in us, we are greatly bound to bless and praise God and be all the more strengthened to do good in the Lord. Therefore, if we live according to the form mentioned above, we shall leave others a noble example and gain, with very little effort, the prize of eternal happiness.

After the most high heavenly Father saw fit in his mercy and grace to enlighten my heart, that I should do penance according to the example and teaching of our most blessed father Francis, a short while after his conversion, willingly promised him obedience, as the Lord gave us the light of his grace through his wonderful life and teaching. When the blessed Francis saw, however, that, although we were physically weak and frail, we did not shirk deprivation, poverty, hard work, trial, or the shame or contempt of the world – rather , we considered them as great delights, as he had frequently examined us according to the example of the saints and his brothers – he greatly rejoiced in the Lord. And moved by compassion for us, he bound himself, both through himself and through his Order, to always have the same loving care and special solicitude for us as for his own brothers.

And thus, by the will of God and our most blessed father Francis, we went to dwell in the Church of San Damiano, where, in a little while, the Lord, through his mercy and grace, made our numbers increase so that he would frdfil what he had foretold through his saint, In fact, we had stayed in another place before this, but only for a short while.

Lady Poverty

Afterwards he wrote a form of life for us, especially that we always persevere in holy poverty. While he was living he was not content to encourage us with many words and examples to the love of holy poverty and its observance, but he gave us many writings that, after his death, we would in no way turn away from it, as the Son of God never wished to abandon this holy poverty while he lived in the world. And our most blessed father Francis, having imitated his footprints, never departed either in example or in teaching from this holy poverty that he had chosen for himself and his brothers.

Therefore, I, Clare, a handmaid of Christ and the Poor Sisters of the Monastery of San Damiano – although unworthy – and the little plant of the holy father, consider together with my sisters so lofty a profession and the command of such a father and also the frailty of some others that we feared in ourselves after the passing of our holy father Francis, who was our pillar of strength and, after God, our one consolation and support. Time and again we willingly bound ourselves to our Lady, most holy Poverty, that after my death, the sisters, those present and those to come, would never turn away from her.

And as I have always been most zealous and solicitous to observe and to have the others observe the holy poverty that we have promised to the Lord and our holy father Francis, so, too, the others who will succeed me in office should be always bound to observe holy poverty with the help of God and have it observed by the other sisters. Moreover, for greater security, I took care to have our profession of the most holy poverty that we promised our father strengthened with privileges by the Lord Pope Innocent, during whose pontificate we had our beginning, and by his other successors, that we would never nor in any way turn away from her.

For this reason, on bended knees and bowing low with both body and soui, I commend all my sisters, both those present and those to come, the holy Mother the Roman Church, the supreme Pontiff; and, especially, the Lord Cardinal who has been appointed for the Order of Friars Minor and for us, that out of love of the God Who was placed poor in the crib, lived poor in the world, and remained naked on the cross, our Protector may always see to it that his little flock, which the lord Father has begotten in his holy Church by the word and example of our blessed father Francis by following the poverty and humility of his beloved Son and his glorious Virgin Mother, observe the holy poverty that we have promised to God and our most blessed father Saint Francis. May he always encourage and support them in these things.

And as the Lord gave us our most blessed father Francis as a founder, planter, and helper in the service of Christ and in those things we have promised to God and to our blessed father, who while he was living was always solicitous in word and deed to cherish and take care of us, his plant, so I commend and leave my sisters, both those present and those to come, to the successor of our blessed Father Francis and to the entire Order, that they may always help us to progress in serving God more perfectly and, above all, to observe more perfectly most holy poverty. If the sisters spoken of ever leave and go elsewhere, let them be bound, after my death, wherever they may be, to observe that same form of poverty that we have promised God and our most blessed futher Francis.

Living Witness

Nevertheless, let both the sister who is in office, as well as the other sisters exercise such care and farsightedness that they do not acquire or receive more land about the place than extreme necessity requires for a vegetable garden. But if, for the integrity and privacy of the monastery, it becomes necessary to have more land beyond the limits of the garden, no more should be acquired than extreme necessity demands. This land should not be cultivated or planted but remain always untouched and undeveloped.

In the Lord Jesus Christ, I admonish and exhort all my sisters, both those present and those to come, to strive always to imitate the way of holy simplicity, humility and poverty and to preserve the integrity of our holy way of living, as we were taught from the beginning of our conversion by Christ and our blessed father Francis. May the Father of mercies always spread the fragrance of a good name from them, both among those who are far away as well as those who are near, not by any merits of ours but by the sole mercy and grace of his goodness. And loving one another with the charity of Christ, may the love you have in your hearts be shown outwardly in your deeds so that, compelled by such an example, the sisters may always grow in love of God and in charity for one another.

I also beg that sister who will be in an office of the sisters to strive to exceed the others more by her virtues and holy life than by her office, so that, stimulated by her example, they obey her not so much because of her office as because of love. Let her also be discerning and attentive to her sisters as a good mother is to her daughters, and let her take care especially to provide for them according to the needs of each one out of the alms that the Lord shall give. Let her also be so kind and available that they may safely reveal their needs and confidently have recourse to her at any hour, as they see fit both for themselves and their sisters.

Let the sisters who are subjects, however, keep in mind that they have given up their own wills for the sake of the Lord. Therefore I want them to obey their mother of their own free will as they have promised the Lord, so that seeing the charity, humility and unity they have toward one another, their mother might bear all the burdens of her office more easily, and, through their way of life, what is painful and bitter might be changed into sweetness.

And because the way and path is difficult and the gate through which one passes and enters to life is narrow, there are both few who walk it and enter through it. And if there are some who walk that way for a while, there are very few who persevere on it. But how blessed are those to whom it has been given to walk that way and to persevere till the end. Let us be very careful, therefore, that, if we have set out on the path of the Lord, we do not at any time turn away from it through our own fault or negligence or ignorance, nor that we offend so great a Lord and his Virgin Mother, and our blessed father Francis, the Church Triumphant and even the Church Militant. For it is written: “Those who turn away from your commands are cursed”.

For this reason I bend my knee to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ that, through the supporting merits of the glorious and holy Virgin Mary, his Mother, and of our most blessed father Francis and all the saints, the Lord himself, who has given us a good beginning, will also give the increase and final perseverance. Amen. So that it may be better observed, I leave you this writing, my very dear and beloved sisters, those present and those to come, as a sign of the blessing of the Lord and of our most blessed father Francis and of my blessing, your mother and servant.

Go to top of page 

Your browser is out-of-date!

Update your browser to view this website correctly. Update my browser now

×