Theirs was a curious romance, spiritual but not sexual, ministerial but not marital. Francis and Clare were celibates, evidently in love but unable to marry, who joined forces for Christ.
Clare was born in Assisi, Italy, in 1194, growing up in a palace. When 16, she heard St. Francis preach and was deeply moved. She sought him out, and he spoke to her of spiritual things. For two years he visited often in her home.
On Palm Sunday, 1211, Clare pulled off her beautiful clothes, donned an ash-colored robe, and slipped from an unused gate on her parent’s estate. She found her way through the darkening woods to a spot where Francis awaited her. There she joined a group of Benedictine nuns. Francis prepared a home for her in the Chapel of St. Damian just outside Assisi, and according to some biographers, Clare never left the cloister for the remaining 40 years of her life, entertaining those seeking spiritual help. Francis, too, visited often.
She grieved deeply at his death, but lived another 30 years, confined to a bench from a leg disease. But from that bench, she taught, counseled, and prayed while sewing linens for churches.
In 1249, her cloister was attacked by marauders intent on ransacking and burning it. Showing no fear, she had herself carried to the door where she prayed resolutely for protection. The invaders scrambled from the walls and retreated.
Another tradition, an odd one, developed from her deathbed. From her room in San Damian, she reportedly saw and heard solemn midnight Mass being conducted in a basilica miles away. In 1958, citing this ability to receive images and sound over distance, Pope Pius XII proclaimed her the patron saint of television.
Her more common title has been “The Little Flower of St. Francis.”
She died on August 11, 1253, but her sisters, the Poor Clares, are serving the needy to this day.
God blesses those people who depend only on him. They belong to the kingdom of heaven! God blesses those people who grieve. They will find comfort! God blesses those people who are humble. The earth will belong to them! (Matthew 5:3-5)
Robert J. Morgan, On This Day : 365 Amazing and Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs & Heroes, electronic ed. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2000, c1997). August 11.