Feast Day: August 12
September 23: feast of the finding of her body
October 3: feast of her first translation, celebrated within the Poor Clares
Co-foundress of the Order of Poor Clares
"Go forth in peace,
for you have followed the good road. Go forth without fear, for he who created
you has made you holy, has always protected you, and loves you as a mother.
Blessed be you, my God, for having created me."
-Saint Clare of Assisi
Cofoundress of the Order of Poor Ladies, or Clares, and first Abbess of San Damiano; born at Assisi, 16 July, 1194; died there 11 August, 1253. She was the eldest daughter of Favorino Scifi, Count of Sasso-Rosso, the wealthy representative of an ancient Roman family, who owned a large palace in Assisi and a castle on the slope of Mount Subasio. Such at least is the traditional account. Her mother, Bl. Ortolana, belonged to the noble family of Fiumi and was conspicuous for her zeal and piety. From her earliest years Clare seems to have been endowed with the rarest virtues. As a child she was most devoted to prayer and to practices of mortification, and as she passed into girlhood her distaste for the world and her yearning for a more spiritual life increased. She was eighteen years of age when St. Francis came to preach the Lenten course in the church of San Giorgio at Assisi. The inspired words of the Poverello kindled a flame in the heart of Clare; she sought him out secretly and begged him to help her that she too might live "after the manner of the holy Gospel". St. Francis, who at once recognized in Clare one of those chosen souls destined by God for great things, and who also, doubtless, foresaw that many would follow her example, promised to assist her. On Palm Sunday Clare, arrayed in all her finery, attended high Mass at the cathedral, but when the others pressed forward to the altar-rail to receive a branch of palm, she remained in her place as if rapt in a dream. All eyes were upon the young girl as the bishop descended from the sanctuary and placed the palm in her hand. That was the last time the world beheld Clare. On the night of the same day she secretly left her father's house, by St. Francis's advice and, accompanied by her aunt Bianca and another companion, proceeded to the humble chapel of the Porziuncula, where St. Francis and his disciples met her with lights in their hands. Clare then laid aside her rich dress, and St. Francis, having cut off her hair, clothed her in a rough tunic and a thick veil, and in this way the young heroine vowed herself to the service of Jesus Christ. This was 20 March, 1212.
Clare was placed by St. Francis provisionally with the Benedictine nuns of San Paolo, near Bastia, but her father, who had expected her to make a splendid marriage, and who was furious at her secret flight, on discovering her retreat, did his utmost to dissuade Clare from her heroic proposals, and even tried to drag her home by force. But Clare held her own with a firmness above her years, and Count Favorino was finally obliged to leave her in peace. A few days later St. Francis, in order to secure Clare the greater solitude she desired, transferred her to Sant' Angelo in Panzo, another monastery of the Benedictine nuns on one of the flanks of Subasio. Here some sixteen days after her own flight, Clare was joined by her younger sister Agnes, whom she was instrumental in delivering from the persecution of their infuriated relatives. Clare and her sister remained with the nuns at Sant' Angelo until they and the other fugitives from the world who had followed them were established by St. Francis in a rude dwelling adjoining the poor chapel of San Damiano, situated outside the town which he had to a great extent rebuilt with his own hands, and which he now obtained from the Benedictines as a permanent abode for his spiritual daughters. Thus was founded the first community of the Order of Poor Ladies, or of Poor Clares, as this second order of St. Francis came to be called.
The history of the Poor Clares will be dealt with in a separate article. Here it suffices to note that we may distinguish, during the lifetime of St. Clare, three stages in the complicated early history of the new order. In the beginning St. Clare and her companions had no written rule to follow beyond a very short formula vitae given them by St. Francis, and which may be found among his works. Some years later, apparently in 1219, during St. Francis's absence in the East, Cardinal Ugolino, then protector of the order, afterwards Gregory IX, drew up a written rule for the Clares at Monticelli, taking as a basis the Rule of St. Benedict, retaining the fundamental points of the latter and adding some special constitutions. This new rule, which, in effect if not in intention, took away from the Clares the Franciscan character of absolute poverty so dear to the heart of St. Francis and made them for all practical purposes a congregation of Benedictines, was approved by Honorius III (Bull, "Sacrosancta", 9 Dec., 1219). When Clare found that the new rule, though strict enough in other respects, allowed the holding of property in common, she courageously and successfully resisted the innovations of Ugolino as being entirely opposed to the intentions of St. Francis. The latter had forbidden the Poor Ladies, just as he had forbidden his friars to possess any worldly goods even in common. Owning nothing, they were to depend entirety upon what the Friars Minor could beg for them. This complete renunciation of all property was however regarded by Ugolino as unpractical for cloistered women. When, therefore, in 1228, he came to Assisi for the canonization of St. Francis (having meanwhile ascended the pontifical throne as Gregory IX), he visited St. Clare at San Damiano and pressed her to so far deviate from the practice of poverty which had up to this time obtained at San Damiano, as to accept some provision for the unforeseen wants of the community. But Clare firmly refused. Gregory, thinking that her refusal might be due to fear of violating the vow of strict poverty she had taken, offered to absolve her from it. "Holy Father, I crave for absolution from my sins", replied Clare, "but I desire not to be absolved from the obligation of following Jesus Christ".
The heroic unworldliness of Clare filled the pope with admiration, as his letters to her, still extant, bear eloquent witness, and he so far gave way to her views as to grant her on 17 September, 1228, the celebrated Privilegium Paupertatis which some regard in the light of a corrective of the Rule of 1219. The original autograph copy of this unique "privilege"--the first one of its kind ever sought for, or ever issued by the Holy See--is preserved in the archive at Santa Chiara in Assisi. The text is as follows: "Gregory Bishop Servant of the Servants of God. To our beloved daughters in Christ Clare and the other handmaids of Christ dwelling together at the Church of San Damiano in the Diocese of Assisi. Health and Apostolic benediction. It is evident that the desire of consecrating yourselves to God alone has led you to abandon every wish for temporal things. Wherefore, after having sold all your goods and having distributed them among the poor, you propose to have absolutely no possessions, in order to follow in all things the example of Him Who became poor and Who is the way, the truth, and the life. Neither does the want of necessary things deter you from such a proposal, for the left arm of your Celestial Spouse is beneath your head to sustain the infirmity of your body, which, according to the order of charity, you have subjected to the law of the spirit. Finally, He who feeds the birds of the air and who gives the lilies of the field their raiment and their nourishment, will not leave you in want of clothing or of food until He shall come Himself to minister to you in eternity when, namely, the right hand of His consolations shall embrace you in the plenitude of the Beatific Vision. Since, therefore, you have asked for it, we confirm by Apostolic favour your resolution of the loftiest poverty and by the authority of these present letters grant that you may not be constrained by anyone to receive possessions. To no one, therefore, be it allowed to infringe upon this page of our concession or to oppose it with rash temerity. But if anyone shall presume to attempt this, be it known to him that he shall incur the wrath of Almighty God and his Blessed Apostles, Peter and Paul. Given at Perugia on the fifteenth of the Kalends of October in the second year of our Pontificate."
That St. Clare may have solicited a "privilege" similar to the foregoing at an earlier date and obtained it vivā voce, is not improbable. Certain it is that after the death of Gregory IX Clare had once more to contend for the principle of absolute poverty prescribed by St. Francis, for Innocent IV would fain have given the Clares a new and mitigated rule, and the firmness with which she held to her way won over the pope. Finally, two days before her death, Innocent, no doubt at the reiterated request of the dying abbess, solemnly confirmed the definitive Rule of the Clares (Bull, "Solet Annuere", 9 August, 1253), and thus secured to them the precious treasure of poverty which Clare, in imitation of St. Francis, had taken for her portion from the beginning of her conversion. The author of this latter rule, which is largely an adaptation mutatis mutandis, of the rule which St. Francis composed for the Friars Minor in 1223, seems to have been Cardinal Rainaldo, Bishop of Ostia, and protector of the order, afterwards Alexander IV, though it is most likely that St. Clare herself had a hand in its compilation. Be this as it may, it can no longer be maintained that St. Francis was in any sense the author of this formal Rule of the Clares; he only gave to St. Clare and her companions at the outset of their religious life the brief formula vivendi already mentioned.
St. Clare, who in 1215 had, much against her will been made superior at San Damiano by St. Francis, continued to rule there as abbess until her death, in 1253, nearly forty years later. There is no good reason to believe that she ever once went beyond the boundaries of San Damiano during all that time. It need not, therefore, be wondered at if so comparatively few details of St. Clare's life in the cloister "hidden with Christ in God", have come down to us. We know that she became a living copy of the poverty, the humility, and the mortification of St. Francis; that she had a special devotion to the Holy Eucharist, and that in order to increase her love for Christ crucified she learned by heart the Office of the Passion composed by St. Francis, and that during the time that remained to her after her devotional exercises she engaged in manual labour. Needless to add, that under St. Clare's guidance the community of San Damiano became the sanctuary of every virtue, a very nursery of saints. Clare had the consolation not only of seeing her younger sister Beatrix, her mother Ortolana, and her faithful aunt Bianca follow Agnes into the order, but also of witnessing the foundation of monasteries of Clares far and wide throughout Europe. It would be difficult, moreover, to estimate how much the silent influence of the gentle abbess did towards guiding the women of medieval Italy to higher aims. In particular, Clare threw around poverty that irresistible charm which only women can communicate to religious or civic heroism, and she became a most efficacious coadjutrix of St. Francis in promoting that spirit of unworldliness which in the counsels of God, "was to bring about a restoration of discipline in the Church and of morals and civilization in the peoples of Western Europe". Not the least important part of Clare's work was the aid and encouragement she gave St. Francis. It was to her he turned when in doubt, and it was she who urged him to continue his mission to the people at a time when he thought his vocation lay rather in a life of contemplation. When in an attack of blindness and illness, St. Francis came for the last time to visit San Damiano, Clare erected a little wattle hut for him in an olive grove close to the monastery, and it was here that he composed his glorious "Canticle of the Sun". After St. Francis's death the procession which accompanied his remains from the Porziuncula to the town stopped on the way at San Damiano in order that Clare and her daughters might venerate the pierced hands and feet of him who had formed them to the love of Christ crucified--a pathetic scene which Giotto has commemorated in one of his loveliest frescoes. So far, however, as Clare was concerned, St. Francis was always living, and nothing is, perhaps, more striking in her after-life than her unswerving loyalty to the ideals of the Poverello, and the jealous care with which she clung to his rule and teaching.
When, in 1234, the army of Frederick II was devastating the valley of Spoleto, the soldiers, preparatory to an assault upon Assisi, scaled the walls of San Damiano by night, spreading terror among the community. Clare, calmly rising from her sick bed, and taking the ciborium from the little chapel adjoining her cell, proceeded to face the invaders at an open window against which they had already placed a ladder. It is related that, as she raised the Blessed Sacrament on high, the soldiers who were about to enter the monastery fell backward as if dazzled, and the others who were ready to follow them took flight. It is with reference to this incident that St. Clare is generally represented in art bearing a ciborium.
When, some time later, a larger force returned to storm Assisi, headed by the General Vitale di Aversa who had not been present at the first attack, Clare, gathering her daughters about her, knelt with them in earnest prayer that the town might be spared. Presently a furious storm arose, scattering the tents of the soldiers in every direction, and causing such a panic that they again took refuge in flight. The gratitude of the Assisians, who with one accord attributed their deliverance to Clare's intercession, increased their love for the "Seraphic Mother". Clare had long been enshrined in the hearts of the people, and their veneration became more apparent as, wasted by illness and austerities, she drew towards her end. Brave and cheerful to the last, in spite of her long and painful infirmities, Clare caused herself to be raised in bed and, thus reclining, says her contemporary biographer "she spun the finest thread for the purpose of having it woven into the most delicate material from which she afterwards made more than one hundred corporals, and, enclosing them in a silken burse, ordered them to be given to the churches in the plain and on the mountains of Assisi". When at length she felt the day of her death approaching, Clare, calling her sorrowing religious around her, reminded them of the many benefits they had received from God and exhorted them to persevere faithfully in the observance of evangelical poverty. Pope Innocent IV came from Perugia to visit the dying saint, who had already received the last sacraments from the hands of Cardinal Rainaldo. Her own sister, St. Agnes, had returned from Florence to console Clare in her last illness; Leo, Angelo, and Juniper, three of the early companions of St. Francis, were also present at the saint's death-bed, and at St. Clare's request read aloud the Passion of Our Lord according to St. John, even as they had done twenty-seven years before, when Francis lay dying at the Porziuncula. At length before dawn on 11 August, 1253, the holy foundress of the Poor Ladies passed peacefully away amid scenes which her contemporary biographer has recorded with touching simplicity. The pope, with his court, came to San Damiano for the saint's funeral, which partook rather of the nature of a triumphal procession.
The Clares desired to retain the body of their foundress among them at San Damiano, but the magistrates of Assisi interfered and took measures to secure for the town the venerated remains of her whose prayers, as they all believed, had on two occasions saved it from destruction. Clare's miracles too were talked of far and wide. It was not safe, the Assisians urged, to leave Clare's body in a lonely spot without the walls; it was only right, too, that Clare, "the chief rival of the Blessed Francis in the observance of Gospel perfection", should also have a church in Assisi built in her honour. Meanwhile, Clare's remains were placed in the chapel of San Giorgio, where St. Francis's preaching had first touched her young heart, and where his own body had likewise been interred pending the erection of the Basilica of San Francesco. Two years later, 26 September, 1255, Clare was solemnly canonized by Alexander IV, and not long afterwards the building of the church of Santa Chiara, in honour of Assisi's second great saint, was begun under the direction of Filippo Campello, one of the foremost architects of the time. On 3 October, 1260, Clare's remains were transferred from the chapel of San Giorgio and buried deep down in the earth, under the high altar in the new church, far out of sight and reach. After having remained hidden for six centuries--like the remains of St. Francis--and after much search had been made, Clare's tomb was found in 1850, to the great joy of the Assisians. On 23 September in that year the coffin was unearthed and opened, the flesh and clothing of the saint had been reduced to dust, but the skeleton was in a perfect state of preservation. Finally, on the 29th of September, 1872, the saint's bones were transferred, with much pomp, by Archbishop Pecci, afterwards Leo XIII, to the shrine, in the crypt at Santa Chiara, erected to receive them, and where they may now be seen. The feast of St. Clare is celebrated throughout the Church on 12 August; the feast of her first translation is kept in the order on 3 October, and that of the finding of her body on 23 September.
The sources of the history of St. Clare at our disposal are few in number. They include (1) a Testament attributed to the saint and some charming Letters written by her to Blessed Agnes, Princess of Bohemia; (2) the Rule of the Clares, and a certain number of early Pontifical Bulls relating to the Order; (3) a contemporary Biography, written in 1256 by order of Alexander IV. This life, which is now generally ascribed to Thomas of Celano, is the source from which St. Clare's subsequent biographers have derived most of their information.
The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume IV
Nihil Obstat, Remy Lafort, Censor
Imprimatur. +John M. Farley, Archbishop of New York
Prayers in honor of St. Clare
God of mercy,
You inspired St. Clare with the love of poverty.
By the help of her prayers
may we follow Christ in poverty of spirit
and come to the joyful vision of Your glory
in the kingdom of heaven.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son,
who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Litany of Saint Clare
Lord, have mercy
Christ, have mercy upon us.
Lord, have mercy upon us.
O Christ, hear us.
O Christ, graciously hear us.
O God the Father, of
have mercy upon us.
O God the Son, Redeemer of the world:
O God, the Holy Ghost:
O Holy Trinity, one God:
have mercy upon us.
Pray for us.
Mother and Mistress of our Order:
Pray for us.
first-born of thy Order:
Pray for us.
St. Clare, spouse of the Crucified:
St. Clare, lover of the Blessed Sacrament:
St. Clare, lover of the Sacred Heart:
St. Clare, lover of the Sacred Wounds:
St. Clare, lover of the Sacred Name:
St. Clare, lover of the Sacred Gospel:
St. Clare, to thy mother forenamed "resplendent":
St. Clare, resplendent with the light of Jesus:
St. Clare, resplendent in thy noble heritage:
St. Clare, resplendent in thy renunciation thereof:
St. Clare, resplendent in clinging to the altar as thy portion:
St. Clare, resplendent as first abbess of a great Order:
St. Clare, resplendent in putting the Saracens to flight:
St. Clare, resplendent in reparation for the sins of the world:
St. Clare, resplendent in wondrous miracles:
St. Clare, little plant of St. Francis:
St. Clare, princess of the poor:
St. Clare, duchess of the humble:
St. Clare, mistress of the chaste:
St. Clare, abbess of the penitent:
St. Clare, alabaster box of ointment broken at the feet of Jesus:
St. Clare, received at death by a choir of virgins:
St. Clare, censer of sweet perfume filling heaven and earth:
Pray for us.
O Lamb of God, that takest away the sins of the world:
spare us, O Lord.
O Lamb of God, that takest away the sins of the world:
graciously hear us, O Lord.
O Lamb of God, that takest away the sins of the world:
have mercy upon us.
V. Pray for us, O
blessed Clare. Alleluia.
R. That we may be worthy of the promises of Christ. Alleluia.
Let us pray.
Choose one of the following Collects.
O God Who hast raised up blessed Clare as a shining lamp of holiness to lighten the way before a multitude of virgins: by her merits and prayers grant to us who do call to mind her commemoration, that in this life we may walk in Thy light, and in the life to come, may forever enjoy the light of Thy countenance. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
We beseech Thee, O Lord, that like as we do celebrate the memory of blessed Clare thy Virgin: so she may intercede for us; and that we may become partakers with her of eternal joy and joint heirs of Thy Only-Begotten Son. Who livest and reignest forever and ever. Amen.
O God, Who hast filled the world with the splendid virtues of blessed Clare, Thy Virgin, by whom Thou hast also increased Thy Church with a new offspring: be pleased to grant; that we may so follow in her steps as to attain unto the splendor of her eternal glory. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
O wondrous blessed clarity
In life she shone to a few;
after death she shines on the whole world!
On earth she was a clear light;
Now in heaven she is a brilliant sun.
O how great the vehemence of the
brilliance of this clarity!
On earth this light was indeed kept
within cloistered walls,
yet shed abroad its shining rays;
It was confined within a convent cell,
yet spread itself through the wide world.
- Pope Innocent IV
He Christ is the
splendor of eternal glory, "the brightness of eternal light, and the mirror
Behold, I say, the birth of this mirror. Behold Christ's poverty even as he was laid in the manger and wrapped in swaddling clothes. What wondrous humility, what marvelous poverty! The King of angels, the Lord of heaven and earth resting in a manger! Look more deeply into the mirror and meditate on his humility, or simply on his poverty. Behold the many labors and sufferings he endured to redeem the human race. Then, in the depths of this very mirror, ponder his unspeakable love which caused him to suffer on the wood of the cross and to endure the most shameful kind of death. The mirror himself, from his position on the cross, warned passers-by to weigh carefully this act, as he said: "All of you who pass by this way, behold and see if there is any sorrow like mine." Let us answer his cries and lamentations with one voice and one spirit: "I will be mindful and remember, and my soul will be consumed within me."
from a letter to Blessed Agnes of Prague by Saint Clare of Assisi
St Clare with the Scene of the Siege of Assisi
In 1234, the army of Frederick II was devastating the valley of Spoleto, the soldiers, preparatory to an assault upon Assisi, scaled the walls of San Damiano by night, spreading terror among the community. Clare, calmly rising from her sick bed, and taking the ciborium from the little chapel adjoining her cell, proceeded to face the invaders at an open window against which they had already placed a ladder. It is related that, as she raised the Blessed Sacrament on high, the soldiers who were about to enter the monastery fell backward as if dazzled, and the others who were ready to follow them took flight. It is with reference to this incident that St. Clare is generally represented in art bearing a ciborium.
(Principal source - Catholic Encyclopedia - 1913 edition)
Feast Day: November 23rd
Pope Saint Clement Adoring the Trinity
St Clement, the son of Faustinus, a Roman by birth, was of Jewish extraction; for he tells us himself that he was of the race of Jacob. He was converted to the faith by St. Peter or St. Paul, and was so constant in his attendance on these apostles, and so active in assisting them in their ministry, that St. Jerome and other fathers call him an apostolic man; St. Clement of Alexandria styles him an apostle; and Rufinus, almost an apostle. Some authors attribute his conversion to St. Peter, whom he met at Cesarea with St. Barnabas; but he attended St. Paul at Philippi in 62, and shared in his sufferings there. We are assured by St. Chrysostom that he was a companion of the latter, with SS. Luke and Timothy, in many of his apostolic journeys, labours, and dangers. St. Paul (Phil. iv, 3) calls him his fellow-labourer, and ranks him among those whose names are written in the book of life; a privilege and matter of joy far beyond the power of commanding devils. (Luke x. 17) St. Clement followed St. Paul to Rome, where he also heard St. Peter preach, and was instructed in his school, as St. Irenaeus and Pope Zosimus testify. Tertullian tells us that St. Peter ordained him bishop, by which some understand that he made him a bishop of nations, to preach the gospel in many countries; others, with Epiphanius, that he made him his vicar at Rome, with an episcopal character to govern that church during his absence in his frequent missions. Others suppose he might at first be made bishop of the Jewish church in that city. After the martyrdom of SS. Peter and Paul, St. Linus was appointed Bishop of Rome, and after eleven years, succeeded by St. Cletus. Upon his demise in 89, or rather in 91, St. Clement was placed in the apostolic chair. According to the Liberian Calendar he sat nine years, eleven months, and twenty days.
At Corinth, an impious and detestable division, as our saint called it, happened amongst the faithful, like that which St. Paul had appeased in the same church; and a party rebelled against holy and irreproachable priests and presumed to depose them. It seems to have been soon after the death of Domitian in 96, that St. Clement, in the name of the church of Rome, wrote to them his excellent epistle, a piece highly extolled and esteemed in the primitive church as an admirable work, as Eusebius calls it. It was placed in rank next to the canonical books of the holy scriptures, and with them read in the churches. Whence it was found in the very ancient Alexandrian manuscript copy of the Bible, which Cyril Lucaris sent to our King James I, from which Patrick Young, the learned keeper of that king's library, published it at Oxford in 1633. St. Clement begins his letter by conciliating the benevolence of those who were at variance, tenderly putting them in mind how edifying their behaviour was when they were all humble-minded, not boasting of anything, desiring rather to be subject than to govern, to give than to receive, content with the portion God had dispensed to them, listening diligently to his word, having an insatiable desire of doing good, and a plentiful effusion of the Holy Ghost upon all of them. At that time they were sincere, without offence, not mindful of injuries, and all sedition and schism was an abomination to them. The saint laments that they had then forsaken the fear of the Lord, and were fallen into pride, envy, strife, and sedition; and pathetically exhorts them to lay aside all pride and anger, for Christ is theirs who are humble and not theirs who exalt themselves. The sceptre of the majesty of God, our Lord Jesus Christ, came not in the show of pride, though he could have done so; but with humility. He bids them look up to the Creator of the world, and think how gentle and patient he is towards his whole creation; also with what peace it all obeys his will, and the heavens, earth, impassable ocean, and worlds beyond it, are governed by the commends of this great master. Considering how near God is to us, and that none of our thoughts are hid from him, how ought we never to do anything contrary to his will, and honour them who are set over us! showing with a sincere affection of meekness, and manifesting the government of our tongues by a love of silence. "Let your children," says the saint, "be bred up in the instruction of the Lord, and learn how great a power humility has with God, how much a pure and holy charity avails with him, and how excellent and great his fear is."
It appears by what follows, that some at Corinth boggled at the belief of a resurrection of the flesh, which the saint beautifully shows to be easy to the Almighty power, and illustrates by the vine which sheds its leaves, then buds, spreads its leaves, flowers, and afterwards produces first sour grapes, then ripe fruit; by the morning rising from night; and corn brought forth from seed. The saint adds a strong exhortation to shake off all sluggishness and laziness, for it is only the good workman who receives the bread of his labour. "We must hasten," says he, "with all earnestness and readiness of mind, to perfect every good work, labouring with cheerfulness; for even the Creator and Lord of all things rejoices in his own works." The latter part of this epistle is a pathetic recommendation of humility, peace, and charity. "Let every one," says the saint, "be subject to another, according to the order in which he is placed by the gift of God. Let not the strong man neglect the care of the weak; let the weak see that he reverence the strong. Let the rich man distribute to the necessity of the poor, and let the poor bless God who give :h him one to supply his want. Let the wise man show forth his wisdom, not in words, but in good works. Let him that is humble, never speak of himself, or make show of his actions. Let him that is pure in the flesh, not grow proud of it, knowing that it was another who gave him the gift of continence. They who are great cannot yet subsist without those that are little; nor the little without the great. In our body, the head without the feet is nothing; neither the feet without the head. And the smallest members of our body are yet both necessary and useful to the whole." Thus the saint teaches that the lowest in the church may be the greatest before God, if they are most faithful in the discharge of their respective duties. St. Clement puts pastors and superiors in mind that, with trembling and humility, they should have nothing but the fear of God in view, and take no pleasure in their own power and authority. "Let us," says he, "pray for all such as fall into any trouble or distress; that being endued with humility and moderation, they may submit, not to us, but to the will of God." Fortunatus, who is mentioned by St. Paul, was come from the church of Corinth to Rome, to inform that holy see of their unhappy schism. St. Clement says, he had dispatched four messengers to Corinth with him, and adds, "Send them back to us again with all speed in peace and joy, that they may the sooner acquaint us with your peace and concord, so much prayed for and desired by us; and that we may rejoice in your good order."
We have a large fragment of a second epistle of St. Clement to the Corinthians, found in the same Alexandrian manuscript of the Bible; from which circumstance it appears to have been also read like the former in many churches, which St. Dionysius of Corinth expressly testifies of that church, though it was not so celebrated among the ancients as the other. In it our saint exhorts the faithful to despise this world and its false enjoyments, and to have those which are promised us always before our eyes; to pursue virtue with all our strength, and its peace will follow us with the inexpressible delights of the promise of what is to come. The necessity of perfectly subduing both the irascible and concupiscible passions of our souls, he lays down as the foundation of a Christian life, in words which St. Clement of Alexandria enforces and illustrates. Besides these letters of St. Clement to the Corinthians, two others have been lately discovered, which are addressed to spiritual eunuchs or virgins. Of these St. Jerome speaks, when he says of certain epistles of St. Clement, "In the epistles which Clement, the successor of the Apostle Peter, wrote to them, that is, to such eunuchs, almost his whole discourse turns upon the excellence of virginity." These two letters were found in a manuscript copy of a Syriac New Testament, by John James Westein, in 1752, and printed by him with a Latin translation at Amsterdam in 1752, and again in 1757. A French translation of them has been published, with short critical notes. These letters are not unworthy this great disciple of St. Peter; and in them the counsels of St. Paul concerning celibacy and virginity are explained, that state is pathetically recommended, without prejudice to the honour due to the holy state of marriage; and the necessity of shunning all familiarity with persons of a different sex, and the like occasions of incontinence is set in a true light.
St. Clement with patience and prudence got through the persecution of Domitian. Nerva's peaceable reign being very short, the tempest increased under Trajan, who, even from the beginning of his reign, never allowed the Christian assemblies. It was in the year 100 that the third general persecution was raised by him, which was the more afflicting, as this reign was in other respects generally famed for justice and moderation. Rufin, Pope Zosimus, and the council of Bazas in 452, expressly styles St. Clement a martyr. In the ancient canon of the Roman mass, he is ranked among the martyrs. Eusebius tells us, that St. Clement departed this life in the third year of Trajan, of Christ 100. From this expression some will have it that he died a natural death; but St. Clement says of St. Paul, who certainly died a martyr, that "he departed out of the world." It is also objected, that St. Irenaeus gives the title of martyr only to St. Telesphorus among the popes before St. Eleutherius. But it is certain that some others were martyrs, whatever was the cause of his omission. St. Irenaeus mentions the epistle of St. Clement yet omits those of St. Ignatius, though in some places he quotes him. Shall we hence argue, that St. Ignatius wrote none? When the Emperor Lewis Debonnair founded the great abbey of Cava, in Abruzzo, four miles from Slaerno, in 872, he enriched it with the relics of St. Clement, pope and martyr, which Pope Adrian sent him, as is related at length in the chronicle of that abbey, with a history of many miracles. These relics remain there to this day. The ancient Church of St. Clement in Rome, in which St. Gregory the Great preached several of his homilies, still retains part of his relics. It was repaired by Clement XI, but still shows entire the old structure of Christian churches, divided into three parts: the narthex, the ambo, and the sanctuary.
St. Clement inculcates, that the spirit of Christianity is a spirit of perfect disengagement from the things of this world. "We must," says he, "look upon all the things of this world, as none of ours, and not desire them. This world and that to come are two enemies. We cannot, therefore, be friends to both; but we must resolve which we would forsake, and which we would enjoy. And we think, that it is better to hate the present things, as little, short-lived, and corruptible; and to love those which are to come, which are truly good and incorruptible. Let us contend with all earnestness, knowing that we are now called to the combat. Let us run in the straight road, the race that is incorruptible. This is what Christ saith: keep your bodies pure and your souls without spot, that ye may receive eternal life."
Prayers of St. Clement
We beg you, Master, be our help and strength. Save those among us who are oppressed, have pity on the lowly, and lift up the fallen. Heal the sick, bring back the straying, and feed the hungry. Release those in prison, steady those who falter, and strengthen the fainthearted. Let all nations come to know you, the one God, with your Son Jesus Christ, and us your people and sheep of your pasture. Do not keep count of the sins of your servants, but purify us through the bath of your truth and direct our steps. Help us walk in holiness of heart, and do what is good and pleasing in your eyes and in the eyes of our rulers. Master, let your face shine on us to grant us every good in peace, protect us by your powerful hand, deliver us from every evil by the might of your arm. Grant us and all who dwell on this earth peace and harmony, O Lord.
Saint Clement I, Roman Missionary and Fourth Pope
It was through jealousy and
envy that the greatest and most upright pillars of the Church were persecuted
and struggled unto death. Let us set before our eyes the good apostles. First
of all, Peter, who because of unreasonable jealousy, suffered not merely once
or twice but many times, and, having thus given his witness, went to the place
of glory that he deserved. It was through jealousy and conflict that Paul
showed the way to the prize for perseverance. He was put in chains seven
times, sent into exile, and stoned; a herald both in the east and the west, he
achieved a noble fame by his faith. He taught justice to all the world and,
when he had reached the limits of the western world, he gave his witness
before those in authority; then he left this world and was taken up into the
holy place, a superb example of endurance.
Around these men with their holy lives there gathered a great throng of the elect, who, though victims of jealousy, gave us the finest example of endurance in the mist of many indignities and tortures.
We are writing this, beloved, not only for your admonition but also as a reminder to ourselves; for we are placed in the same arena, and the same contest lies before us. Hence we ought to put aside vain and useless concerns and should consider what is good, pleasing and acceptable in the sight of him who made us. Let us fix our gaze on the blood of Christ, realizing how precious it is to his Father, since it was shed for our salvation and brought the grace of repentance to all the world.
from a letter to the Corinthians by Pope Saint Clement I