The Poor Clares were founded in 1212 in Assisi, Italy, when St. Francis received St. Clare as a follower of his way of life.
Francis was the son of Peter Bernardone, an Italian merchant. He was a generous, light-hearted man, not at all the son his father had envisioned taking over his cloth business. Francis longed to become a knight, and after an experience in battle and subsequent imprisonment, Francis became ill and his conversion process had begun.
After recovering, he reached out to the poor and outcasts in society, notably lepers, and shared his material resources generously. He even began to repair churches in Assisi, after hearing the Lord tell him to rebuild the church. His father was outraged at his behavior, and brought him before the bishop of Assisi. Francis returned his father’s material possessions, and professed his love for God the father alone.
After hearing the Gospel in which Our Lord commissions His apostles to carry no possessions, Francis recognized God’s will in his life and began a radical penitential movement. Others joined him, living in poverty, traveling, and preaching. They called themselves the friars minor, and Pope Innocent III gave approval. A second order, for women,was established and headed by Saint Clare, and a third order was established for both men and women.
Francis showed a great love for all of creation, and is known for his songs and poetry praising God in creation. His love of the crucified Christ filled his heart, and, 2 years before his death, he received the stigmata (sacred wounds) on his body. Francis died in 1226. His feast day is October 4th.
Christ has no body now on earth but yours, no hands but yours, no feet but yours; yours are the eyes through which to look at Christ’s compassion to the world, yours are the feet with which He is to go about doing good, and yours are the hands with which He is to bless us now.
What a great laudable exchange:
to leave the things of time for those of eternity,
to choose the things of heaven for the goods of earth,
to receive the hundred-fold in place of one,
and to possess a blessed and eternal life.