Today across the Church universal and especially among the Franciscan communities, we celebrate the Feast of St. Clare of Assisi. It is a very appropriate gospel chosen for the feast day. In the gospel we hear: “Peter said to Jesus, ‘We have given up everything and followed you. What will there be for us?’” It is a replay of the rich young man who comes to Jesus and asks what more must I do to inherit the Kingdom of God. Jesus tells him to sell everything he has and give it to the poor and then follow Jesus. At least the rich young man supplies the answer to what’s in it for him – even as he walks away sad.
Clare could rightly be called “a rich young woman.” She was born into one of the majores families of Assisi, the nobility with homes “up town”, wealth, land and privilege. She did not want… at least not in the traditional measure.
She was perhaps a half-a-generation younger than Francis of Assisi, the son of a successful merchant. A one time knight-in-shining-armour ‘wannabe” A leader of the frat boys of Assisi, a rather all around feckless lad who was not likely to amount to much… at least not in the traditional measure. We know how his story turned out. But this is Clare’s story.
Francis’ living example of evangelical poverty was, to Clare, the gospel clarion of the way she was to live life. On the evening of Palm Sunday, she was spirited away from the uptown home and joined Francis and his nascent group of brothers outside of the town walls of Assisi, down valley at the Benedictine chapel, the Proziuncola.
Francis cut her hair, gave her the simple sack-like clothes of a minores and then escorted her to a Benedictine women’s cloister. In one simple act, she gave up everything to follow Christ in the example of Francis of Assisi. What could there be for her?
She became the abbess of her own community, soon called the Poor Clares, now a world-wide religious order of women. Her mother and two sisters eventually joined her family. Her advice and wisdom were sought out by kings and bishops. She drew ever closer to Christ.
She would surely tell us she received 100 times more than she gave up.
The rich young man walked away sad. The rich young women gave up everything to follow Christ and inherited the Kingdom of God.
Happy Feast Day.