Introduction to Clare of Assisi: Early Documents - 23 

in his encouragement to live "without anything of one's own." "Let the sisters not appropriate anything, neither a house nor a place nor anything at all," Clare insists, "instead, as pilgrims and strangers in this world who serve the Lord in poverty and humility, let them confidently send for alms." She is not simply writing of a poverty of accidentals, such as clothing or money, even though, with her practical sense, she treats of these things. Her primary concern centers on the refusal of possessions and stable belongings, that is, of the socio-economic foundations considered indispensable in her world of time. While Clare follows the inspiration of Francis, she expresses it for an enclosed community and, thereby, implies a far more demanding way of life. To live without any stable form of income or support, without the freedom to go about begging for alms as the friars were doing: these expressions were unheard of in the lives of religious, and, undoubtedly, seen as utopian and naively presumptuous. Yet it is precisely her demanding way of poverty that so clearly underscores what is at its very heart: an unflinching confidence, even in the direst circumstances, in the loving providence of God. Clare's expression of poverty is far more dependent upon the generosity of others and is, therefore, thoroughly imbued with faith: faith in the goodness of people and faith in the overwhelming goodness of God.

The ebb and flow of this life "without anything of one's own" frees us and gently prompts us to focus our attention on others as day by day we become more dependent upon them. Francis seems to have clearly perceived this not only as he became more aware of the never-ending love of God, but also as he continually linked the concepts of poverty and fraternity thereby implying that growth in one augments the development of the other. This is even more so with Clare whose embrace of such a demanding poverty within the confines of a small enclosed community made her ever more dependent on the generosity of God even as she became increasingly sensitive to the needs of others.

The Testament, above all, focuses on this aspect of Clare's relationship with God. While in her Form of Life she refers to God as the "Most High Heavenly Father," in the Testament she speaks more descriptively of the mercy, love, and grace of the "Father of mercies." As Francis, she repeats that it is only through the mercy and love of God, not our merits, that good is accomplished. With great conviction she expresses gratitude for the daily initiative of "the glorious Father of Christ" in bestowing so many gifts upon us. "I give thanks to the Giver of grace," she writes to Agnes of Prague, "from whom, we believe, every good and perfect gift proceeds." Everything comes from God's generosity: her call to following that way which is the Son of God, and Francis who gave Clare and her sisters deeper insights into living the life of the gospel. The God of her Testament,




Clare of Assisi: Early Documents, p. 23