Adapted from a post originally situated here.
St. Clare of Assisi was probably St. Francis’ (saint of the week here) best friend. She, like Francis, came from a wealthy family in Assisi, and abandoned it all for the Gospel — which for a woman in thirteenth-century Italy was a lot harder than for a man; she had to run away from home basically and escape out of an arranged marriage.
Having made the Laudable Exchange (blogged here), she joined up with Francis. Since the Church of the Middle Ages did not have a place for women in the wandering, preaching work of mendicants, she and her sistren who also abandoned the world lived the cloistered life. The order she founded is the Poor Sisters of St. Clare, the nuns who are the female counterparts of the Little Brothers.
Now, the thirteenth century was still the Middle Ages, and Sts. Francis & Clare were out to change the Holy Catholic Church from within, not start a hippie commune (as it looks in Brother Sun, Sister Moon) with Donovan leading the Gregorian Chant. The Poor Clares lived separately from the Little Brothers; mediaeval monastics, no matter how counter-cultural, knew well the temptations and lusts of the flesh. Having large quantities of unmarried men and women living in close community is not necessarily conducive to righteous living.
St. Clare is another reason we love Franciscans. St. Francis treated her as an equal, as a friend, as a sister. Many great things there are about the Middle Ages, but the treatment of the average woman by the men around her is not one of them. That Francis and Clare were such good friends is a testament to the power of the Gospel to transform lives. Their friendship is also one of those beautiful spiritual bonds that many of us long for, such as between St. John of the Cross and St. Teresa of Avila, or St. Basil the Great and St. Gregory of Nazianzus. They would meet and discuss the things of Christ into the wee hours, unconscious of the passage of time. Their conversation and prayers would get caught up into the heavenly realms as these two mystics sought the glorious Trinity together.
So, here’s a collect for St. Clare’s Day, as found over at the Daily Office blog:
Collect of the Day: St. Clare of Assisi, 1253
O God, whose blessed Son became poor that we through his poverty might be rich: Deliver us from an inordinate love of this world, that we, inspired by the devotion of your servant Clare, may serve you with singleness of heart, and attain to the riches of the age to come; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.