Founder of the contemplative “Order of Poor Ladies” with the help of Francis of Assisi, Clare spent the majority of her life in imitation of Francis and his order, seeking above all else a life of poverty and charity in the Christian mystic tradition. Canonized in 1255, Clare’s devotion to asceticism for herself and her order saw her in conflict with the Catholic Church on more than one occasion; however, she was ultimately praised by the church for her unwavering Catholic spirituality.
In recognizing her mystic qualities, the Catholic Church deemed Clare the patron saint of television in 1958, a title which celebrates her connection to the Holy Spirit, which was said to project a vision of the daily mass on the wall of her room when she was too sick to psychically attend.
In a manner similar to her future mystic mentor, Claire of Assisi grew up a child of a wealthy family in Assisi. However, unlike Francis of Assisi, her ardent commitment to Catholic spirituality and contemplative living was evident at an early age. Perhaps taking after her mother, who was said to be a pious and god-fearing woman, Clare was seen as a young girl to be uninterested in the practices of the world at large, preferring mystic endeavors, such as mortification.
This early desire to imitate the passion of Jesus can be seen as a starting point for her Catholic spirituality and a precursor to her eventual commitment to the life of a mystic.
Soon after these early signs of devotion, Claire’s desire to pursue a contemplative life and achieve a mystic union with God took hold. When she was 18 years old, Clare heard Francis of Assisi preach at a local church. As he spoke, Clare felt the presence of the Holy Spirit burn inside of her. Being greatly inspired by his message, Clare requested that Francis help her grow stronger in her Catholic spirituality. In recognizing the sincerity that accompanied her words, Francis agreed to assist her.
In what was another display of her devotion to the mystic and contemplative lifestyle that lay before her, Clare left her father’s house in secret in order to provisionally join an order of Benedictine nuns. When her father heard of this, he went to the covenant and attempted to physically remove her from the premises. However, Clare resisted, and with seemingly no other options, her father left her in peace. This courageous act further displayed Clare’s commitment to her Catholic spirituality, as she would soon enter into a welcomed life of contemplative living and austerity on her path to achieving a mystic union with God.
As more people began to follow Clare’s example of shunning the world at large in order achieve a mystic union with God, Francis decided that Clare and those who followed her should take on an order of their own. With their stationing by Francis at an adjoining building of the Chapel at San Domino, the contemplative “Order of Poor Ladies” was born. Early on, it was the intention of Clare and her covenant to live in imitation of the mystic order of the Franciscans, which meant a life of poverty and charity.
However, the church at this time felt this was not suitable for women, and as such attempted to deny the right of the order to live a life of poverty. Finding this incompatible with her Catholic spirituality and mystic endeavors, Clare, in a meeting with Pope Gregory XI, remarked that in living in poverty, she was fulfilling her obligation to Jesus Christ. This desire to follow in the mystic and contemplative tradition of the Franciscans inspired the pontiff, and led to the granting of her request.
Towards the end of her life, Clare experienced perhaps her most famous mystic endeavor, as she is said to have thwarted the advance of rival forces intent on terrorizing the chapel simply by lifting a ciborium over her head. This final mystic experience grew Clare’s reputation as a woman of great Catholic spirituality. The heroism displayed in this action solidified Clare as a woman of great and love and devotion, which may be said to be her greatest imitation of the life of Jesus.