April 17: Blessed Clare of Pisa

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When Theodora (known to her family as Thora) was born in 1362, her father was the leader of the republic in the city of Pisa, Italy. As such, he betrothed her to the son of a wealthy family when she was only seven years old. Thora was deeply devout, practiced personal mortifications, and clearly desired religious life. But she acquiesced to her father’s wishes and was married at the age of fifteen. Her in-laws were not overjoyed with Thora’s generosity to the poor and her decision to join other ladies in caring for the sick. But an epidemic took the life of her husband soon after she was married.

Seeing that her family was planning a second marriage for her and with the encouragement of her contemporary, Saint Catherine of Siena, Thora stole out of the house one night and entered an enclosed convent of Poor Clare nuns. She took the name in religious life of Clare, but her brothers showed up at the convent soon afterward and demanded her release. The nuns were afraid of violence and dropped her over the wall to her waiting relatives. Clare spent five months in her father’s house, alternately threatened and starved, as they tried to make her give in and remarry. She refused. Finally, her father relented. He not only allowed her to join the Dominicans as a nun, he even built another house for the order.

Clare spent the rest of her life as a nun and later prioress of her house. She was a good administrator of her convent’s finances and even founded a hospital with donations she was given.

In addition to her wisdom, her willingness to forgive her enemies was one of the reasons she’s now known as Blessed Clare. Her own brother showed up at the door of the convent, being pursued by enemies of their family. Opening the door to her brother would put all the nuns under her care in certain danger. She kept the convent’s entrance closed to protect them, but her brother was killed on her front doorstep. Clare became ill was a result. She not only forgave her brother’s killer but later provided for the man’s widow and daughters when they became poor. Clare died peacefully but in great suffering in 1419.

Blessed Clare, help me to forgive.

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