FIOR (Franciscan Institute Outreach - Malta)

5. Sources: life of St. Clare (4)

Part III

2 Celano regarding Clare and the Poor Ladies (1246-1247)

5.20 The references to Clare and the Poor Ladies in 2 Celano are found in paragraphs 13 and 204-207. 2 Cel repeats what the L3S 24 states regarding Francis' prophecy of the founding of the Order of Damianites, or Poor Ladies of San Damiano, while he was repairing this church after the command he received from the icon of Christ Crucified. Paragraph 204 is a presentation of the importance of Clare and the Poor Ladies in Francis' own life. Celano extols the virtues of these virgins, and also mentions the FormViv which Francis gave to Clare in 1212. In paragraphs 205-207 Celano mentions Francis' unwillingness to visit the Poor Ladies personally, because he was convinced that the value of spiritual union with them was more important than bodily presence. In the same way he often asked the Brothers not to disturb the peace of mind and heart of the Poor Ladies by their inopportune visits to San Damiano. In an occasion when Francis was asked to preach to the Poor Ladies, he went in the place where the Sisters were gathered, placed ash on his head, recited the Psalm 51, "Miserere", and left. This action was cherished more than a sermon by those who were present.

The ancient Choir at San Damiano

Rule of Innocent IV (1247)

5.21 Pope Innocent IV gave this new Rule to the monasteries of the Poor Ladies, which had sprung up everywhere, on 9 August 1247. It seemed that the Pope wanted to accede to the wish of the Poor Ladies who did not regard the Rule of Hugolino (1219), with its insistence upon the Rule of St. Benedict, as expressing the ideals which Clare embraced. That is why Innocent IV promulgated his own Rule, which starts with the words "Cum omnis vera religio". This Rule is longer than that of Hugolino and does not mention the Benedictine Rule. It permitted the Poor Ladies to "the observance of the Rule of Saint Francis...as well as to the Form of Life written in the present document, according to which you have particularly decided to live" (c. 1). The Rule of Innocent IV also stated that the Poor Ladies were to be entrusted to the jurisdiction of the General and Provincial Ministers of the Order of Friars Minor (c. 12). However, and this was certainly a blow to Clare's ideals, the Rule permitted the Poor Ladies "to receive, to have in common, and to freely retain produce and possessions", through the help of a procurator (c. 11). This was a direct link to what the same Pope had allowed in the case of the Order of Friars Minor in the Bulls "Ordinem vestrum" of 14 November 1245 and "Quantum studiosus" of 19 August 1247. The Rule also lays down norms regarding the Divine Office, fasting and abstinence, silence, parlour and grille, custody of the enclosure, clothing of the sisters, the chaplain, the visitator. Clare had to accept this Rule, but it certainly prompted her to start writing her own Rule, modelled upon the Later Rule of the Friars Minor, and which the same Pope Innocent IV confirmed on 9 August 1253.

Notification of the Death of St. Clare (1253)

5.22 This is a notification sent by the Poor Ladies of San Damiano to their Sisters in one hundred and ten monasteries, announcing the sad event of the death of Clare in San Damiano on 11 August 1253. The document was discovered by Z. Lazzeri in the Landau Library in Florence, and was written in haste, and without a polished style. The notification mentions the many visits of Popes and prelates which Clare received before dying, and which were a proof of her sanctity.

The white dress of St. Clare and the habits of St. Francis and St. Clare

Process of Canonisation of St. Clare (1253)

5.23 On 18 October 1253, Pope Innocent IV issued the Bull "Gloriosus Deus", in which he entrusted Bartolomeo, Bishop of Spoleto, to conduct the canonical process for the canonisation of Clare. The Bishop's collaborators were Leonardo, archedeacon of Spoleto, Jacobo, archpriest of Trevi, Brothers Leo and Angelo of the Order of Friars Minor, Brother Marco, chaplain of the monastery of San Damiano, and a notary. The process was held in the monastery of San Damiano on 24 November 1253. Thirteen of the Sisters who knew Clare gave their testimony under oath. Two other Sisters testified on 28 November, and on that same day, Sister Benedetta, Abbess of San Damiano, spoke in the name of the entire community regarding the sanctity of life of Clare. Again on the same day, 28 November 1253, the Bishop continued the process in the church of San Paolo in Assisi. The citizens who gave witness were Ugolino di Pietro Giraldone, an elderly knight, the lady Bona Guelfuccio, Ranieri di Bernardo and Pietro di Damiano. All these persons had known Clare as a child and a young lady, as well as her family. On 29 November a certain Iovani di Ventura gave witness to one of the miracles which occured on the tomb of St. Clare. The original Acts of the Process of Canonisation have come to us in the original Umbrian dialect in which they were written by the notary. In 1920 Zefferino Lazzeri OFM discovered and published the Acts, "Il processo di canonizzazione di S. Chiara d'Assisi", in Archivum Franciscanum Historicum 13 (1920) 403-507.

Bull of Canonisation of St. Clare (1255)

5.24 Clare was solemnly canonised on 15 August 1255, in the cathedral church of Anagni, by Pope Alexander IV, who had been Cardinal Rainaldus, Protector of the Poor Ladies. The Bull of Canonisation "Clara, claris praeclara", was issued later on, between 26 September and 19 October 1255. It is a splendid document, written in a poetical style and in an elegant Latin. It plays upon the word "Clara", using all the richness of the Latin language to express various images of light and apply them to Clare. It also places Clare in a Paschal light, by its reference to the Exultet of the Easter Vigil. As any Bull of Canonisation would proceed, it lays great importance upon the miraculous element present in the life of St. Clare. In fact, the sanctity of Clare was taken for granted even by the Pope himself. The LegCl 47 says that when "it came time to celebrate the divine praises (during Clare's funerals), after the brothers had begun the Office of the Dead, the Lord Pope suddenly declared that the Office of the Virgins should be celebrated, not that of the Dead. It seemed as though he would canonize her before placing her body in the tomb. When the most eminent Lord of Ostia replied that it would be better to proceed more slowly in these matters, the Mass of the Dead was celebrated".

The Legend of Saint Clare

5.25 The LegCl was written in the typical style of hagiographical literature during the Middle Ages. It was meant to be a document to be read in public for the edification of the faithful and as a result of what witnesses who knew Clare recounted. It would also lay great importance to the miracles which happened through Clare's intercession. The text of the LegCl, present in the Assisi Codex 338, was studied by Francesco Pennacchi, "Legenda Sanctae Clarae Virginis", Assisi, 1910. This professor attributed the LegCl to Thomas of Celano, who would have written it shortly after Clare's death in 1253. The authorship of Celano is not accepted by all scholars of Franciscan Sources. Other names have been proposed. Lazzeri, for example, proposed St. Bonaventure, or Brother Marco, the chaplain of the Poor Ladies. In 1953, during the 7th centenary celebrations of Clare's death, Fausta Casolini published an Italian translation and study, "La Leggenda di S. Chiara, Vergine", Assisi, 1953. She also proposed Thomas of Celano as the author of the LegCl. The Italian Poor Clare, Sister Chiara Augusta Lainati OSC, an eminent scholar in the field of the Sources for the life of St. Clare, states that the LegCl was commissioned by Pope Alexander IV some time after the canonisation of St. Clare, that is, between 1255 and 1256. Other German, French, English-speaking and Spanish scholars vary in their opinions. All we can say is that Celano is generally proposed as the person to whom the LegCl can be attributed, but that there is no sufficient proof for this thesis. The LegCl has two parts, the first part dedicated to the life of St. Clare and the second part dealing with the miracles attributed to the intercession of St. Clare.

The silent Cloister at San Damiano

Letter of St. Bonaventure to the Sisters of St. Clare (1259)

5.26 Bonaventure was elected Minister General of the Franciscan Order on 2 February 1257. It is unlikely that he ever met Clare when she was alive. This letter was written to the Poor Clares, when Bonaventure was in a period of retreat on La Verna in 1259. It was during the same period that he was inspired to write the famous mystical treatise "Itinerarium mentis in Deum" (The Journey of the Soul into God). In the letter Bonanventure mentions Brother Leo, who was very close to the Poor Clares. The letter is very mystical in its approach, especially when it mentions the virgins who await their heavenly spouse. Bonaventure also recommends himself to the prayers of the Poor Clares.

The Major Life of St. Francis regarding Clare and the Poor Ladies (1260-1263)

5.27 For an introduction to the LegMaj see the lecture about the Sources for the Life of St. Francis. In LegMaj IV,6 Bonaventure compares Clare to a "tender sprout", using the words of Thomas of Celano. In LegMaj XII,2 Bonaventure presents the critical moment in Francis' life when the saint was searching for God's will upon him, regarding the choice to live a life of contemplation or a life of apostolic preaching. Francis asked Brother Sylvester and Sister Clare to pray for him. Although physically far apart, the two came up with the same answer, namely, that God's wish was that "Francis should preach as the herald of Christ".


© copyright FIOR-Malta
Text by Fr. Noel Muscat ofm


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