Introduction to Clare of Assisi: Early Documents - 31 

strength], our one consolation and support and later, as given them as “a founder, planter, and helper in the service of Christ and in those things we have promised to God.” Yet it would seem that Francis stood in awe of Clare’s poverty that was far more demanding than his own, a poverty dependent on the providence of God, the generosity of others, and the care and attention of the brothers charged with begging for their needs. Did Francis learn from Clare in his understanding of poverty rather than, as we imagine, she receiving everything from him? Clare’s vision of a life sine proprio, without anything of one’s own, is more expressive of dependence upon and receptivity of God’s providence. Two writings from the last period of Francis’s life, his Canticle of Exhortation and Last Will, express his encouragement and even hint at his intuition that, after his death, others would attempt to dissuade Clare and the Poor Ladies from embracing the charism of poverty.

We might wonder about the role of the Lesser Brothers at this time. While Clare was persistent in her struggle to live an authentic poverty, the brothers were accepting one dispensation after another, were becoming increasingly entangled in legal interpretations of the meaning of "a life without anything of one's own," and were slipping farther from the ideals of Saint Francis. In 1230 Pope Gregory IX had written his famous declaration, Quo elongati, which officially interpreted the poverty of Francis in light of the teaching authority of the Church. During that same year, the friars accepted the scholastic distinction between precept and counsel in order to arrive at legalistic solutions to many of the differing interpretations of what Francis intended. Eleven years later, the Expositio Quatuor Magistrorum, a document sponsored by the friars of France, was a further attempt at resolving some of the doctrinal questions that confronted the Order, some of which centered on the issue of poverty.

Thomas of Celano, it is true, had been poetically describing Clare's virtues, as we have seen, but eighteen years later, in his Remembrance of the Desire of a Soul, he reminded his brothers of their obligations to stay close to her and her sisters. Was Thomas doing this solely out of his concern for the welfare of the Poor Ladies or was he hoping that his brothers would profit from their associations with them? We wonder. Nonetheless, throughout those difficult years after Francis's death, Clare was the one who courageously and forthrightly expressed the Gospel way of poverty for all, even the friars, to see. She did this not by means of long treatises but by the power of her own example and that of her sisters.

One person who remains somewhat overlooked during these years is Cardinal Rainaldo dei Conti di Segni, the nephew of Gregory IX, who succeeded his uncle as Protector of the Poor Ladies. Rainaldo's letter to Clare and her sisters in 1228 expresses many of the same sentiments as those of




Clare of Assisi: Early Documents, p. 31