St Clare of Assisi is depicted in a modern painting by Stephen B Whatley, an expressionist artist in London. During a Lenten service, St Clare heard St Francis preach. She was so moved by his words, she asked him to show her how to live the Gospel more fully. She was only 18, but she left the security of her home, cut off her hair and joined the convent.
“Since 2000, when I made a painting of the Baby Jesus on Christmas Day, I have increasingly felt compelled to express the depth of my Christian faith – upon which I depend – through my art. My faith has grown through suffering and heartbreak – and miraculous moments of joyous overcoming – not through indoctrination.
Along the way I have been enriched by learning of the different Saints – some of whose intercession I have been humbly honoured to feel. Most recently I have been deeply moved to learn of the life and faith of St Clare of Assisi – whom I have painted with deep prayer just days ago…”
St Clare, described as a great beauty, was born in 1194 in Assisi, Italy to a family of great wealth and from her earliest years had a great yearning for a more spiritual life. She was greatly inspired in her teens by hearing St Francis of Assisi preach; and with all her heart desired to imitate Francis and to live a poor humble life for Jesus. Along with her younger sister Agnes, she co-founded a community of nuns, still known throughout the world as Poor Clares.
In 1234, through the depth of her prayers, God saved Clare and her Sisters when the army of Frederick II launched an attack on Assisi; planning to raid the convent first. Clare was very sick, but she pulled herself up from her bed and proceeded to face the invaders at an open window – placing the Blessed Sacrament in clear view of them. In artistic depictions St Clare is often shown holding the monstrance (as in Stephen’s tribute) or the ciborium; as she prays for help and protection. She begged God to save the Sisters: “O Lord, protect these Sisters whom I cannot protect now”. At this moment the attackers were struck with sudden fear and fled.
St Clare passed away in 1253, and was canonized in 1255.