Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Clare of Assisi

While she does not get as much press as the other "of Assisi", Clare is no slouch. For starters, she has not one, not two, but four feast days on the calendar. Her 'broad spectrum' feast day is August 11th, but today is the feast of the finding of her body. Much like the American Physical Society has not-what-you-would-think to do with getting physical, the finding of Clare's body was not an erotic discovery.

The big cinematic version of Clare of Assisi's story is she was devoted to Francis of Assisi, refused to marry- much to the disappointment of her family, & followed his teachings the rest of her days. That is the church's version, too, although they still manage to be very, very different. Unlike so many saints, there is no doubt that she was one real person: she founded the order of the Poor Clares (so sinisterly mocked in White Oleander: good movie, better book) & is patroness of those with eye ailments as well as televisions, telephones, & telegraphs. That last one made me laugh: this means when you send money via Western Union, it is in the care of the woman who wrote on the privilege of poverty. I'm just saying...

How she came to be patroness of television is kind of fun actually. When she was bedridden & too ill & frail to attend services, she could see them on the wall of her cell. In 1958, Pope Pius Xii apparently went "ah-Ha!" & a declaration was made. I think the other two are retroactive, all that new fangled technology being lumped together.

Aside from White Oleander however, my first hearing of Clare was actually in connection with her other invocation: eye ailments. She is the patroness of embroiderers & other fine needleworkers & all aspects of laundry (once upon a time this was a needlewoman's chore, mending etc.). Also goldsmiths & gilders. Oh, & clairvoyants, although I think that is that seeing & hearing mass on the wall thing again.

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