FIOR (Franciscan Institute Outreach - Malta)

7. History of the Franciscan Movement (9)


7.71. The Rule of St. Clare, approved by Innocent IV in 1253, was addressed to the monastery of San Damiano. In 1259 the Blessed Elizabeth of France, sister of St. Louis IX, King of France, obtained from Alexander IV a new Rule for the monastery of Longchamp. This Rule was then confirmed by Urban IV in 1263. The same Pope approved a new Rule for the Order of St. Clare on 18 October 1263. The Rule was written by Cardinal Protector Gaetano Orsini. This Rule gave permission for the Poor Clares to have property, and instituted a new family within the Second Order, the "Urbaniste", who followed the Rule of Urban IV as distinct from the Rule of St. Clare.

7.72. By 1260 the community of San Damiano had moved to the new monastery of St. Clare built in the town of Assisi, in the same spot occupied by the church of San Giorgio, the place where Francis was temporarily buried in 1226. They took with them the crucifix of San Damiano to the new basilica of St. Clare.

7.73. The monasteries of Poor Clares had grown in number. When Clare was still alive, outside Italy the Poor Ladies had a monastery in Pamplona, Spain, and another one in Prague, Bohemia. Others were soon to follow. The monasteries were generally under the spiritual care of the First Order, even though St. Bonaventure had asked that the spiritual service which the friars gave to the Poor Clares was to be rendered out of charity, and not out of obligation, and that it depended upon the direction of the Cardinal Protector. By the beginning of the 14th century there were about 413 monasteries of the Second Order.

7.74. The 13th century marks the beginning of a long list of saints and blessed of the Second Order: St. Agnes, sister of St. Clare (+ 1253); St. Agnes of Bohemia (+ 1280); Bl. Elizabeth of France (+ 1270); Bl. Elena Enselmini of Padua (+ 1231); Bl. Filippa Mareri (+ 1236); Bl. Salomea of Cracow (+ 1268); Bl. Margherita Colonna (+ 1280); Bl. Cunegunda (+ 1292); Bl. Iolanda (+ 1298); Bl. Mattia Nazzarei (+ 1300). A group of Clares also died as martyrs in Tripoli (1289) and in Acre (1291).

7.75. The 14th and 15th centuries marked a period of reform for the Second Order, on parallel lines with the First Order. The problem raised by the faculty to have possessions asked for a renewed fervour and a more rigorous observance of the primitive Rule of St. Clare. The monasteries were normally endowed with the possessions of sisters coming from the nobility, but not with a genuine calling to the Franciscan life. The main currents of reform were those of St. Colette, the Observant movement, the Capuchin Clares and the Conceptionists. We shall take a brief look at each reform.

7.76. The reform of St. Colette. Colette was born in 1381 in Corbie, France, and lived as a recluse in the Third Order. In 1406 she went to Nice to meet Pope Benedict XIII, the Avignon Pope, during the time of the Great Schism. He gave her the habit of the Second Order with the faculty to reform it. Until her death in Ghent in 1447, she left 22 reformed monasteries in Frances, Belgium and Holland. Her Constitutions were approved by Pius II in 1458. The reform aimed at the imitation of the primitive form of life of the Poor Ladies at San Damiano, with no possessions at all. The monasteries reformed by St. Colette were known as the Colettine reform.

7.77. The Observant reform. In 1431 Eugene IV asked the Minister General Guglielmo da Casale to reform the monasteries of the Second Order. In 1420 the monastery of Mantova in Italy was reformed. St. John Capistrano was instrumental in the reform of the Second Order. Bl. Antonia of Florence (+ 1472) reformed the monastery of L'Aquila, St. Caterina Vigri of Bologna (+ 1463) reformed the monastery of Corpus Domini of Ferrara and founded that of Bologna. In Perugia the monastery of Monteluce was also instrumental in the process of reform. In Messina we find the monastery reformed by St. Eustochio Calafato (+ 1491), and the monasteries of Camerino and Fano by Bl. Battista Varano (+ 1524). Outside Italy one can mention Bl. Ludovica of Savoy (+ 1503). In 1435 John Capistrano tried to unite all the reformed monasteries under the Observant family, and even tried to incorporate the Colettine reform, which was under the jurisdiction of the Ministers. But he did not succeed in this endeavour. The Colettine reform was placed under the jurisdiction of the Observants after 1517. The period of the Protestant reform was marked by heroic acts also on the part of the Second Order. The abbess of the monastery of Nüremberg, Charitas Pirckheimer (+ 1532) remained an example of resistance to the efforts of the Lutherans in her city.

7.78. The reform of the Capuchin Clares. This reform was born in Naples, in the hospital of the "incurabili", founded by a noble lady from Catalonia, Maria Lorenza Longo. The hospital was cared for by a group of Franciscan Tertiaries and in 1533 passed into the hands of St. Cajetan of Thiene. In 1535 he acquired the approval of the form of life of the "sisters of the Third Order of St. Francis under the Rule of St. Clare". In 1538 these sisters passed into the care of the Capuchin Order. Paul III confirmed this form of life in the same year. The reform spread to other Italian towns, notably in Milan, where St. Charles Borromeo founded three monasteries. The reform later spread to Spain and even to Mexico and Chile. The most illustrious figure of this reform was St. Veronica Giuliani (+ 1727), together with Bl. Maria Maddalena Martinengo (+ 1737).

7.79. The Conceptionists were founded by St. Beatrice de Silva (+ c.1492) from Portugal. In 1489 she obtained from Innocent VIII the faculty to found a monastery in Toledo, dedicated to the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary. After her death the archbishop Ximenes de Cisneros placed the monastery under the Rule of St. Clare. In 1511 Julius II approved a new Rule and Constitutions, prepared by Francisco Quinones. The reform of the Conceptionists spread in Spain and in Latin America. In Mexico City the Conceptionists arrived in 1540.

7.80. During the French Revolution the number of monasteries dwindled. On 23 October 1794 St. Josephine Leroux, from the monastery of Valenciennes, was martyred. The same persecution was systematically organised by the emperor Joseph II of Austria. A revival of the monasteries of the Second Order during the 19th century accompanied the birth of many new female congregations of the Third Order Regular of St. Francis.

7.81. In our century the Second Order has flourished, particularly during the celebration of the 700 anniversary of the death of St. Clare in 1953, and with the postconciliar effort at creating federations of monasteries. In 1993 the Second Order celebrated the 800 anniversary of the birth of St. Clare.

© copyright FIOR-Malta
Text by Fr. Noel Muscat ofm



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