St. Clare of Assisi and Being Poor in Spirit
Today’s saint of the day is St. Clare of Assisi. At a young age, St. Clare decided to follow St. Francis’ simple way of life. When her father discovered that she had entered the convent, he tried to force her back home. However, St. Clare was adamant and said that she would have no other husband than Jesus Christ.
St. Clare was later joined by her sister Agnes and some other women who also wanted to devote themselves to Jesus Christ. With the help of St. Francis, they were given their own dwelling to live in according to the Rule which St. Francis gave to them. The sisters wore no shoes, ate no meat, and lived a quiet life of prayer and manual labor. At the request of St. Francis, St. Clare soon became the abbess of the community of sisters, a role which she exercised until her death in 1253.
One thing that moves me deeply about St. Clare’s life is her passion for poverty. In the Office of Readings for her feast today, we find a letter in which she wrote:
“Behold his [Jesus’] poverty even as he was laid in the manger and wrapped in swaddling clothes. What wondrous humility, what marvelous poverty! The King of angels, the Lord of heaven and earth resting in a manger!”
What captured St. Clare was how God, the all-powerful King of the universe, chose to become the poorest of the poor on earth. Materially speaking, He possessed nothing coming into the world. Another idea, though, that catches my attention is how poor spiritually He was too.
In the Beatitudes, Jesus says:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3).
Jesus was poor in spirit. But what does that mean? As the Church teaches, to be poor in spirit means to be dependent on God. It means to be dependent on Him for everything, including to fill us with His life and love through the gift of His Spirit. Jesus emptied Himself to be able to be touched and led by the Spirit into the desert (Matthew 4:1). He also affirmed that He can only do what He sees the Father doing (John 5:19). Jesus made Himself poor in every way. He made Himself dependent on the Father. And for this, the Father gave Him everything.
I think this is the type of poverty that awed St. Clare and inspired her to give up everything to pursue religious life. I think it is this type of poverty we can all strive to have. Especially in light of the pandemic we are experiencing, many of us have had to give up a lot: plans, routines, security, and cherished time with family and friends. We have had to make ourselves more poor. But the beauty is that, in offering our poverty to God, He gives us true wealth. And this wealth is none other than Our Lord, Christ Jesus Himself.