This year marks the 800th anniversary of the religious consecration of St. Clare before St. Francis of Assisi. The diocese in which Assisi sits is celebrating a special “Claretian Year” to mark it, and Pope Benedict recently sent the bishop of the diocese of letter on the occasion.
An article I wrote marking the anniversary appears in the new issue of Our Sunday Visitor. Here’s a snippet:
The decisive moment of her life came on Palm Sunday in 1212, when Clare was 18. After observing the holy day with her family, she sneaked out of her house at night and hurried to the little church of St. Mary of the Portiuncula. Several friars waited with torches and led her into the church. Inside, she presented herself formally to Francis, who cut her hair in a rite of tonsure, symbolizing her renunciation of the world and consecration to God. It was an extraordinary moment, because tonsure was normally performed by bishops. Francis was not even a priest, and yet he took it upon himself to do it.
After the ceremony, Francis and the friars brought Clare to the nearby monastery of San Paolo delle Abbadesse to stay. Clare’s family came after her and angrily insisted she return home, even trying to force her physically. But she refused.
Clare sold her goods and gave the money to local poor people. Clare scholar Marco Bartoli has written, in a book translated by Sister Downing, that since these goods would ordinarily have either gone back to her family or to the monastic community as a sort of dowry, Clare’s approach was a bold act of independence and defiance of both her family and the community that took her in.
The full article is here.