Poor Clares

[Saint Clare of Assisi]
Also known as the Poor Ladies, the Sisters of Saint Clare, and the Second Order of Saint Francis. Founded in 1212 at the convent of San Damiano, Assisi, Italy by Saint Clare of Assisi under the direction of Saint Francis of Assisi, who charged the community to live according to the gospel counsels. Following the example of Saint Clare, groups of women banded together in various cities, and Cardinal Ugolino, Bishop of Ostia (later Pope Gregory IX), drew up a rule for them based on that of Saint Benedict. The privilege of absolute poverty for the community as well as for individuals of the order had been granted by Pope Innocent III at the request of the foundress. Pope Gregory IX also conferred this privilege in 1228, though several convents accepted the permission of the pope to retain possessions; thus two observances arose among the followers of Saint Clare. Reference to the rule of Saint Francis instead of to that of Saint Benedict was inserted in the rule of the order under Pope Innocent IV. Pope Urban IV placed the society under a cardinal protector. The congregation spread throughout Europe, many convents holding property in the name of the community. Saint Colette carried on a reform within the order, emphasizing its original spirit of poverty; followers of her reform were known as Collettine Sisters. The life is one of mortification, prayer, and meditation. Originally solely a contemplative order, in 1804 a change was made in its rule permitting the religious to take part in active work. The Order has houses in Italy, Corsica, Palestine, Prussia, Bavaria, Holland, Belgium, Ireland, England, France, Spain, Peru, Colombia, Ecuador, Bolivia, Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Canada, and the United States. See also