In addition to the patronage of the Mother of God, the Capuchins honor St. Clare as a spiritual mother and exemplar of Franciscan holiness. Under the guidance of St. Francis, she became the first member of the Order of Poor Ladies (later called Poor Clares) and the first abbess at San Damiano .
Clare (Chiara Offreduccio) was born in Assisi on July 16, 1194, the eldest daughter of Favorino Scifi, a wealthy nobleman. According to the writings on her life, Clare was a child devoted to prayer and the practice of virtue. So it was that she was already yearning for a deep way to follow Christ when St. Francis came to preach the Lenten course in the church at San Giorgio. The words of the saint touched Clare’s heart and, before long, she sought out Francis in secret to learn how she might follow him in living according to “the pattern of the holy Gospel.”
On the night of Palm Sunday, 1212, Clare escaped her father’s house and, together with her aunt and another companion, arrived at the chapel of the Porziuncula where Francis and his brothers awaited them. After Francis had cut away her golden hair, she lay aside the clothes of a young noble woman and donned a rough tunic and thick veil instead.
Initially, Francis entrusted Clare to the care of the Benedictine nuns at San Paolo, but it was not long before her father learned of her whereabouts. Determined to dissuade his daughter, whom he had been preparing for an arranged marriage, the Count of Favorino tried to drag his daughter away by force. However, Clare was adamant and eventually her father was obliged to leave her in peace.
Not long afterward, Clare was joined by her sisters Agnes, who had likewise fled the estate of her father. The two sisters were entrusted to the nuns at St. Angelo until St. Francis established for them a poor dwelling adjoining the chapel at San Damiano. This was the first community of the Order of Poor Ladies, later known as Poor Clares. They are also referred to as the Second Order of St. Francis