Since Francis had founded no women's convent, he sent Clare to stay with Benedictine nuns near Bastia, but in 1215 Francis set up a women's community, appointing Clare as abbess - a position she held till her death in 1253.
The saint was delighted when she obtained from the pope the privilege of total poverty. Her sisters, Poor Clares as they came to be called, possessed not even property in common, belonging to the community. They never ate meat. They did without shoes and stockings. Clare went further than most of her nuns. She wore a hair shirt, and lived on bread and water throughout Lent.
When later popes tried to persuade the Poor Clares to accept at least common property, so as to mitigate the rule of absolute poverty, Clare herself would have none of it. Later in life she grew less harsh with her followers, writing to Sister Agnes of Prague not to be quite so rigorous in her pattern of life, 'since our bodies are not of brass'. Yet she herself remained austere and gentle at the same time, kissing the feet of those who brought the goods they had begged in the streets and yet walking round her nunnery at night to make sure the Poor Glares were warmly covered up in bed.
'They say we are too poor.
Can a heart which possesses God
really be called poor?'
- St Clare
From A Calendar of Saints,
The Lives of Principal Saints of the Christian Year
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