The Letters of St. Clare of Assisi

By Mitchell Fair '16

     St. Clare of Assisi was born July 16. 1194, and was originally named Chiara Offreduccio. She was one of the first followers of St. Francis of Assisi. She also founded the Order of the Poor Ladies, and was the author of The Rule of Life which was the first monastic rule to be written by a woman. St. Clare of Assisi wrote 5 letters, four of them were written to Blessed Agnes of Prague regarding her life of spirituality. In these letters, Claire teaches Agnes about how to live and pray in an authentically Franciscan way.

     Clare’s first letter to Agnes of Prague was significant because Agnes gave up a love of money and royalty. "For, though You, more than others, could have enjoyed the magnificence and honor and dignity of the world, and could have been married to the great Caesar  with splendor befitting You and His Excellency, You have rejected all these things and have chosen with Your whole heart and soul a life of holy poverty and destitution." St. Clare used very polite and noble words congratulating Agnes on what she did. Because of that, St. Clare called Agnes the “spouse and mother and sister of [her] Lord” The conclusion of the letter includes St. Clare asking Agnes to pray for the sisters at the monastery, so that they may receive the mercy of Christ.

     The second letter to Agnes of Prague was sent at the beginning of Agnes’ journey into the religious faith. The entirety of the letter is basically Clare congratulating Agnes for beginning her journey, and that Agnes should never forget where she began her journey to eternal life with God. "If you suffer with Him, you shall reign with Him, [if you] weep [with Him], you shall rejoice with Him; [if you] die [with Him] on the cross of tribulation, you shall possess heavenly mansions in the splendor of the saints and in the Book of Life, your name shall be called glorious among men." It was in the letter that St. Clare taught Agnes how to pray as a Franciscan. Clare would have spent her life praying before the same cross that St. Francis received his call from God.  Clare wrote to “Gaze upon Him, consider Him, contemplate Him, as you desire to imitate Him." When we pray before Jesus on the cross, we come to know him and love him more and eventually will become more like him.

     The third letter to Agnes of Prague was St. Clare clearing up the practical concerns about life in the monastery such as the practices of fasting and abstinence.  Knowing that Agnes is trying to live this Franciscan life. Clare has joy that “nobody can rob her of.” St. Clare encourages and inspires her to try to live this life well. Even when things are difficult, Clare wants to remind Agnes about the big picture and the goal of following Christ. She writes:
“Place your mind before the mirror of eternity!
Place your soul in the brilliance of glory!
Place your heart in the figure of the divine substance!
And transform your whole being
into the image of the Godhead Itself through contemplation!
So that you too may feel what His friends feel as they taste the hidden sweetness Which God Himself has reserved from the beginning for those who love Him”

      The fourth letter to Agnes of Prague was sent much later after the third letter. Clare explained that the roads were too dangerous for travel and there were no messengers to deliver. All four letters had St. Clare introduce herself as a useless maid, and Agnes as someone of royalty. The letter was also written at the end of St. Clare’s life. She died a few months after the letter was sent. St. Clare congratulated Agnes on her journey, how she had become the “Spotless Lamb who takes away the sins of the world.”

      The four letters to Agnes of Prague hold a special meaning to me. St. Clare started sending the letters in the first place because of what Agnes did, she gave up royalty and a life of luxury for God. This means to me that no matter how easy something might be, you should still do the thing that is right, even if it is the most difficult. St. Clare sent the first letter out of admiration, and then Agnes responded and St. Clare began to teach the ways of faith. I admire many actors and authors, and if I sent a fan letter to them, and then they asked for help about something, I wouldn’t hesitate to respond. I could really relate to St. Clare when she did that, even though the reasons were much different.

      I’m glad I got to read more about these letters. I didn’t know too much about St. Clare before and I felt I got to know her more because of reading these writings. Her example can help me try to love God more and let God love me.  I always think about God in a time of need, and I also want to do things he did. The way he loved people and how he acted is something I hope to do someday.

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