In the height of the Middle Ages, a woman from Assisi held out against the powers that be so that her community of sisters could live a life of poverty. Two days before her death on August 11, 1253, the approved Rule of Life of the Poor Ladies arrived at the convent of San Damiano outside Assisi.
Saint Clare was the first woman to follow Francis in imitation of the poor Christ. She left her family of power and wealth and promised to live a life of evangelical poverty on Palm Sunday, 1212.
It was not easy. Her brothers tried to drag her away. But once she showed them her shorn hair, they left. Later, two sisters and her mother joined Clare.
In a letter to Saint Agnes of Prague who had joined the Poor Clares in Bohemia, Clair wrote about their way of life as a mirror.
In this mirror by the grace of God you will be able to observe blessed poverty, holy humility, and love beyond the power of words to describe. As you gaze into it, you behold the poverty of Him who was laid in the manger and wrapped in swaddling clothes. What wondrous humility! What astounding poverty! The King of angels, the Lord of heaven and earth, is laid in a manger.
The mystery of the God who comes among us as a poor child moved Clare, Francis, and many others. They felt called by a God made vulnerable to be poor and vulnerable as He was. They sought to live open to the loving care of God.
How easy it is to look on our talents, our possessions, our connections to provide a fortress of safety against vulnerability.
But Clare and others were willing to put these aside – not because they are bad, but because they can detain us on our way to God if we cling to them.
Today, I pray that God – through the intercession of Clare and Francis – help me to become empty and welcoming, holding on to God. In that way I might be able to be more available to those most in need.