Introduction to the Letters to Agnes of Prague - 40 

Clare and the Holy See, asking permission to establish the Order of St. Damian in Prague and requesting sisters from Italy for the purpose.

In the Spring of 1234, during an immense public celebration, Agnes, with seven other young women of the wealthiest noble families of Bohemia and five of the Poor Ladies from Italy entered the new monastery.

First Letter

The presence of so many passages taken from the solemn consecration of virgins suggests that Saint Clare sent this letter to the Lady Agnes at the time of her embrace of religious life.a Clare poetically encourages Agnes in the choice of Christ as her Spouse and devotes a large part of the letter to a consideration of poverty.b If this were the only writing of Saint Clare's in existence, it would suffice in revealing not only her profound understanding of poverty, but also her marvelous teaching skills in gently leading "her student," Agnes, to move to an embrace of a "blessed" and "holy" poverty promising eternal riches and beyond to that more mystical or "God-centered" poverty motivated by a simple, profound love of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Even in this early writing of Saint Clare, her clarity of understanding of the charism of poverty and her remarkable strength in practicing it distinguishes her. She emerges as someone who amplifies and develops his Gospel intuition and, in fact, preserves untarnished what the brothers were in danger of losing. Thus, her first letter to Lady Agnes already establishes Saint Clare as a marvelous contributor to the Gospel spirituality of Saint Francis and not simply his "perfect follower," as many would prefer to consider her.

Second Letter

The obvious changes in tone in this second letter suggest not only a later date but also some external circumstances that may have impeded the Lady Agnes from pursuing her ideals. An early manuscript of this letter is entitled "Concerning Strong Perseverance in a Good Proposal," thus suggesting an important reason for its composition: Saint Clare's encouragement to persevere in the embrace of poverty.

The letter was definitely written during the period when Br. Elias was the general minister of the Lesser Brothers (1234-1239) since he is mentioned

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Clare of Assisi: Early Documents, p. 40

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