Introduction to Clare of Assisi: Early Documents - 33 

this demanding way of life she was underscoring what was at the very heart of poverty: a strong, unwavering confidence in the providence of God and the well-being of the Church? While the men were concerned with looking to and providing for the future with prudence and foresight, Clare was valiantly and patiently casting her care upon the Lord and, in so doing, manifesting her profound faith. In a sense, then, the vision of Francis finds in Clare its necessary complement and fulfillment, prompting us to wonder: without the presence and witness of the Poor Ladies would the Franciscan ideal have retained its vitality? To portray Clare, then, as simply "la pianticella," the little plant, of Francis is to do her an injustice. In modeling her life on the poor Christ and his poor Mother, Clare overcame the challenges of her time as we, too, are challenged by the gospel to move beyond the boundaries of our time.


If a new wave of scholarship prompted, in 1993, the second edition of Clare of Assisi: Early Documents, it also raised the new questions and subsequent research that encouraged yet a third edition. The reader has only to notice the detailed footnotes and expanded bibliography in this latest edition to appreciate a dramatic increase in the literature treating religious women in the thirteenth century and especially those of the tradition of Clare of Assisi. Both religious and lay scholars emerge through these pages as fascinated by the phenomenon of Clare and her sisters in attempting to live the Gospel inspiration and originality of Francis of Assisi.

In addition to the presence of this scholarship, however, this third edition of Clare of Assisi: Early Documents offers evidence of a greater sophistication in interpreting and presenting the texts emerging from this phenomenon. Unlike the earlier editions, the writings of Clare appear in two separate sections: the first, entitled "May You Live Blessed Poverty," presents Clare's letters to Agnes of Prague, her Testament, and her Blessing; the second, "Together with My Sisters," brings together the earlier documents of Pope Honorius III, Cardinal Hugolino, later Pope Gregory IX, and Pope Innocent IV that affected and eventually culminated in Clare's Form of Life. The editor and his collaborators hope that, in this way, the depth of Clare's Gospel spirituality will underscore her struggle to articulate her vision of the daily life of her sisters.

The third section of this edition of Clare of Assisi: Early Documents presents another dimension of the scholarly work done on these texts. Entitled "The Brilliance of Her Life," the critical apparatus accompanying the




Clare of Assisi: Early Documents, p. 33