Who is Clare?
In 2001, when Clarehouse was formed, our founding Board of Directors struggled to name the organization. We wanted something that was warm and personal and somehow expressed our values. After weeks of brainstorming suggestions, we were not satisfied with our efforts, and began to look toward the idea of “patron”. In researching the saints, we came across the story of Clare of Assisi, and immediately identified with her story. She was a strong woman of action who sacrificed to care for people in need.
Clare Offreduccio was born in 1194, into a wealthy family in Assisi in Italy. Her father was Count of Sasso-Rosso, a descendant of an ancient Roman family, who owned a large palace in Assisi, where Clare grew up.
When Clare was about eighteen years old, the Italian monk and preacher, Francis came to preach the Lenten course in a local church. She heard the sermon by Francis of Assisi, and was so moved by it that she wanted to leave her privileged life to follow the example of the Franciscan brothers and vow herself to a life of poverty. Her family was horrified, and took her back home by force. In those days some of the larger homes had a small door called the “the door of the dead” (a small side door that was traditionally opened only to carry out a corpse), and late one night, Clare slipped out this door of her home and returned to the house of the Franciscans. She begged Francis to help her that she too might live “after the manner of the holy Gospel”. Francis, who recognized in Clare one of those chosen souls destined by God for great things, cut off her hair and placed her in a nearby convent.
Later, a house was found for her, and she was eventually joined by two of her sisters, her widowed mother, and several members of the wealthy families in the area. Clare’s best friend, Pacifica, could not resist, and joined them, too.
The sisters of her order came to be known as Poor Clares. This is known as the second order of St. Francis.
When the order was formed, Francis suggested Clare for the Superior. But she refused the position until she turned twenty-one. Clare became abbess in 1216. The Poor Clares devoted themselves to prayer, nursing the sick, and works of mercy for the poor and neglected. Clare left this life for a greater one on August 11th, 1253.
The community of Poor Clares continues to this day, both in the Roman and in the Anglican communions. Clarehouse carries on these works of mercy; nursing the dying and caring for the sick that she started so long ago.