Introduction to Clare of Assisi: Early Documents - 30 

to Agnes of Prague, since this Scriptural passage was so central to their poverty.

We can also see that Clare quotes the Gospel of Matthew most frequently in her writings and borrows most frequently from the Sermon on the Mount. Although the passages she uses reflect a variety of Jesus' teachings, Clare continually returns to verses on poverty, on the blessedness of those who are poor, on the passing nature of material goods, and on the rewards that come from walking the more difficult and arduous path of renunciation of all things. From this perspective, Clare's writings offer us a meditation on Matthew's theology of the kingdom possessed by those who are truly poor; and the testimonies of those sisters who lived with her reveal how poverty was realized in the daily community life of San Damiano. Thus, when the scriptural foundations of Clare's understanding are placed beside those of Francis, we see clearly that she not only accepted his teaching but developed it in a different way.


One of the most curious aspects of the writings in this volume is the lack of writings by women to or about Clare. It would seem natural that women of this period would have written more about her and her uniqueness in following the teachings of Francis. Yet there are only three writings coming from feminine hands: the letter written to Clare by Agnes of Assisi, her sister; the notification of her death composed by the Poor Ladies of San Damiano; and the mandate of 1238 which more than likely was drawn up by some curial official. Whereas we might not have paid much attention to this lack in the past, our contemporary sensitivity prompts us to look more closely at the variety of writings to and about Clare and to study their contents from a different perspective. Two tendencies stand out immediately in those writings of male origin: their great reverence and respect for Clare, expressed even during her lifetime, and their imposition of masculine constructs without attempting to understand her unique feminine expression of the Franciscan ideal.

We might begin to wonder, however, if Clare and her vision were ever fully understood, for Hugolino's Form of Life for the Poor Ladies was, as we have seen, based largely on the Benedictine Rule and the large amount of legislation shaping religious life. We cannot find any evidence of Clare's desire to follow an itinerant manner of life such as that of Francis and his brothers; or, on the contrary, her desire for the enclosure.

While Francis was alive, Clare no doubt found strength and support for her desires. In the Testament she speaks of Francis as "our one pillar [of




Clare of Assisi: Early Documents, p. 30