“The Testament” of Clare of Assisi

Background:  Clare (c. 1193-1253) was a young noble woman of Assisi who learned of Francis and his “lesser brothers” through his preaching.  Francis accepted her decision to follow a gospel life-style in 1212; she refused an arranged marriage and, after a short stay with Benedictine nuns, lived in a house attached to San Damiano, a church recently rebuilt by Francis.  Clare was a strong leader who insisted on constructing her own rule for her “poor ladies” and insisted on the value of poverty as a mirror of the divine.

When Clare tells her sisters that their vocation is a great gift (1), what does she mean?  What does she claim is the role of Francis (2-5) in this gift?  What is she getting at when she asserts that they are a “mirror” (6) for others?

What sense can you find in Clare’s discussion of “poverty” (10-15), particularly in relationship to the theme of this step?

Clare places some astonishing expectations (19) on superiors of her community.  Have you found anything like this form of authority among officials here at SBU?  What do you think of her exhortations to those sisters subject to authority (20)?  Would you agree that this ought to be the “best” way of acting for such individuals?

Given the assumptions and expectations of our culture, can you make any sense of Clare’s claim that the life-style she has described, particularly its commitment to poverty, might be a “blessing” (24)?  Do you think the expectations of her culture (where she was born into a “noble” family) would have been much different from today’s assumptions regarding her choice of a life-style?