Saint Clare of Montefalco, Virgin

August 17

Today is the feast day of Saint Clare of Montefalco (Santa Chiara da Montefalco, Saint Clare of the Cross).  Ora pro nobis.

Clare was born into a wealthy family, named Damiani in Montefalco, Italy.  From an early age, she devoted herself to Christ, pledging her virginity.  She used her natural gifts of sincerity and intelligence to witness to others. Along with her older sister, Joan, Clare engaged in demanding acts of mortification and self-denial.  Clare spend the majority of her day in prayer and contemplation of Our Lord.  As a little girl of six she was placed in the convent of Saint Illuminata, where her sister Jane was superior.

From the beginning little Clare observed the rule of the Third Order of St Francis and added severe penances, keeping strict silence, taking only bread and water, and sleeping on the ground. About eight years later, Clare and the other sisters moved to a new convent, that of Santa Croce, which had been built for them on a nearby hill. During these years all of them followed the rule of the Third Order; but in 1290 the bishop of Spoleto substituted the rule of St Augustine.

After the death of her sister in 1298, Clare, who distinguished herself by her spirit of prayer and penance and was then about thirty years old, was chosen superior. Not only did she carry out her duties as a religious and a superior in an exemplary manner, but she exerted an extraordinary influence also on the outside world. She confuted heretics, converted sinners, reconciled families which were at odds with one another, made peace between neighboring warring towns, drove out devils, foretold future events, healed the sick, and raised the dead.

Saint Clare was gifted with spiritual gifts, including ecstasies. In 1294 while celebrating the feast of the Epiphany, Clare made a general confession in front of her sisters. She immediately fell into ecstasy and remained in that state for several weeks. Unable to eat, the nuns maintained Clare’s life by giving her sugar water on the tongue. During this time, Clare reported having a vision in which she saw herself being judged in front of the Lord.

Saint Clare’s entire body was wracked with acute pain—a pain she endured patiently and joyfully until her death. She described the pain to her sisters, saying, “If you seek the Cross of Christ, take my heart; there you will find the suffering Lord.”

Saint Clare’s pain and illness eventually became so severe that she was confined to her bed. She said to her sisters, “There is little else for me to say: Today, you shall all be with me in Christ, because I go to him,” and after a short time, she died peacefully having made her last confession. Commending her sisters to her Franciscan brother, Father Francis Damiani, Saint Clare of Montefalco died at the age of forty on August 17, 1308, and was buried in the chapel of Santa Croce Convent. Later a church was built next to it and dedicated to her.

After her death, her heart was removed from her body; and the cross and the other instruments of Christ’s passion were found, clearly imprinted, on the cardiac tissue. Her body, miraculously incorrupt, is preserved together with her heart with the miraculous imprints at the Church of the Holy Cross in Montefalco, Italy.

The miracle of liquefaction and ebullition of her blood has also taken place. The cult which had been paid to her as Blessed from the time of her death was approved in 1624; and in 1881 Pope Leo XIII canonized her.

The Roman Martyrology reads: “At Montefalco in Umbria, Saint Clare, a nun of the Order of Hermits of Saint Augustine, virgin. In her flesh were renewed the mysteries of the Lord’s passion, which the faithful honor with great devotion. Pope Leo XIII solemnly inscribed her in the list of the holy virgins.”

Image: Crop of Saint Clare of Montefalco. Fresco on a pillar in the nave of Santa Maria Incoronata in Milan, Italy (4)

Research by REGINA Staff


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