Where do nuns come from?


Pope Francis with Franciscan nuns


Today is the birthday of St. Clare of Assisi, born 1194. As the eldest daughter of a wealthy family, she was expected by her parents to marry well, and they began trying to fix her up with eligible bachelors when she was only 12. She managed to convince them to wait until she was 18, but by that time she preferred to go and listen to the young and radical Francis of Assisi preaching the gospel. One Palm Sunday, she ran away in the middle of the night to give her vows to Francis. He cut her hair, dressed her in black, and brought her to a group of Benedictine nuns. Later, he moved her to the Church of San Damiano, where she embraced a life of extreme poverty, after the example set by Jesus. Claire’s sister Agnes eventually ran away to join her, and so did other women, and the order became known as the “Poor Ladies.” They spent their time in prayer and manual labor, and refused to own any property.
Throughout her tenure as abbess, Clare fought for the right to adopt her Rule of Life as the official governing policy of the Poor Ladies, rather than the Rule of St. Benedict, which was more lax. She was the first woman to write the rule for a religious order, and Pope Innocent IV finally granted her request just two days before she died at the age of 59. She was canonized two years after her death, and eventually the Poor Ladies became known as the Order of St. Clare, or the “Poor Clares.”

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