The First Witness of Thomas of Celano (1228) - 396 

The Life of Saint Francis

Part I (18-20)

When Thomas wrote the following passage of the Life of Saint Francis, Clare and her sisters had been living in San Damiano for at least fifteen years. We can easily imagine their embarrassment at the lavish praise with which the author extolled their hidden life in this place where Saint Francis heard the call of the Crucified to rebuild His house that was falling to pieces. Yet it is clear that Thomas, writing this Life in the context of a theology of ecclesial reform, perceived the fulfillment of that call in the life of the Poor Ladies.a Indeed, Clare is portrayed in an obviously ecclesial context and called "the most precious and firmest stone of the entire structure" and its "foundation" upon whom" a noble structure arose."

Thomas's description of the life of the Poor Ladies indicates that at this early period he perceived as one of their salient qualities "that excelling virtue of mutual and continual charity," a characteristic later extolled by Innocent IV and Alexander IV. In his seven-part schema he places humility in second place, placing mutual charity in the first position. He, therefore, deviates from an earlier tradition that placed humility as the foundation for holiness. The pursuit of the contemplative ideal, the seventh and final quality described by the author, is built firmly upon one of the outstanding strengths of the Poor Ladies, their pursuit of mutual charity and unity. In doing so, Thomas accentuates one of the important contributions of the Poor Ladies to spirituality.




Clare of Assisi: Early Documents, p. 396