Introduction to Clare of Assisi: Early Documents - 20 

obligations and even allowed possessions. There is no documentation tracing Clare's immediate resistance to Innocent's demands. The fact remains, however, that this Form of Life lost its binding force three years later when Innocent declared in another papal bull, Inter Personas, June 6, 1250, that no sister could be forced to accept his initial document. At about this time, Clare, once again courageous and determined, began to write her own Form of Life based on that of Francis and incorporating legislative passages from the earlier documents of Hugolino and Innocent which were essential for its approval.


In attempting to understand the persistence of Clare preserving in the daily life at San Damiano the Gospel vision of Francis, it is important to reflect upon the very foundation upon which they built that life: their intense pursuit of a relationship with God. This is never an easy task when describing the contemplative life for there are so many basic suppositions that must be taken for granted: an unwavering faith, an unquenchable desire to lead a God-centered life, and a tenacity to depend on an all-loving, provident God.

The unassuming Clare tells us very little about her prayer. We must turn to her writings and read between the lines for any clues or insights and, in so doing, discover the transparency of her life of prayer. When we consider the Testament and letters to Agnes of Prague as coming from a "shared vision," that is, of heart speaking to heart, we see more easily those writings as flowing from spiritual depths. The fact that the same basic approach is found throughout writings that span a period of more than eighteen years suggests a certain consistency and, therefore, a persistent pattern in her relationship with God.

In the earliest of her writings, the first letter to Agnes of Prague, Clare provides us the most obvious aspect of her prayer: its never ending fascination with the person of Jesus. Simple as this seems, it underscores the profundity of her understanding of life as a continuous relationship with Christ which expresses itself in unceasing prayer. Repeatedly we come across Clare's encouragement to focus on the Lord: " ... may you totally love Him Who gave Himself totally for your love," "... cling to Him Whose beauty all the blessed hosts of heaven unceasingly admire," "Look upon Him Who became contemptible for you." She offers very few intellectual or practical formulas for making progress in the life of prayer. Clare consciously wanted to teach her sisters that prayer was a matter of falling and




Clare of Assisi: Early Documents, p. 20