Skip to main content

St. Clare of Assisi

Saint Clare

St. Clare of Assisi

Born to one of the most noble and influential families in Assisi, Chiara Offreduccio di Favarone was prepared by her mother for a life of generosity and service. Her father wanted his beautiful daughter to marry well.

As a teenager whose home adjoined the public square of the Cathedral of San Rufino in Assisi, Clare often heard Francis, the young radical preacher, greet his listeners with "peace and good" in the name of Jesus and learned of his devotion to the lepers on the outskirts of the city. Moved by her love for God and attracted to Francis' love for the Gospel message, she left home — much to the dismay of her father — to secretly join Francis in a life of prayer and service.

Founding her own community of "poor ladies" in the church of San Damiano, Clare was the first woman to write her own rule of life for religious women. This rule guaranteed her and her Sisters the "privilege of poverty," the right never to own anything of their own. She steadfastly clung to this principle and won papal approval for the rule, despite many misgivings from church authorities.

Clare's life served as a model of feminine leadership. As abbess, she considered herself not above her Sisters but an equal among them, listening to them and including them in decision making. She maintained a calm demeanor, was a spiritual teacher, a healer and a woman who was fearless in the face of external threats to Assisi and to her cloister.

She was also a mentor to her Franciscan male counterparts in the resolution of their conflicts. And she once advised a weary Francis, who was considering giving up preaching for a life of solitude and prayer, to continue in service of others. When Francis was near death, she arranged a place for him in an olive grove near San Damiano, a spot from which he wrote his famous "Canticle of the Creatures."

Completely devoted to the ideals of Francis, Clare is remembered as Francis' most faithful follower and co-founder of the Franciscan movement. Therefore, we look to both Francis and Clare to teach us Franciscan values.

When Cardinal Stritch University gathers for official functions, the Clare Candle is lighted, reminding the community of Clare's role in the University as light, guide and exemplar of Franciscan values.