Today in Catholic History – Saint Clare and the Privilege of Poverty

On 17 September 1228, Pope Gregory IX answered Saint Clare’s request for the Privilegium Paupertatis. This was a modification of the 1219 Rule for the Poor Clares through which Gregory granted that the Poor Clares could not be forced to accept property.

For Clare, living the poverty of Christ as exemplified in the life of Saint Francis was a necessary element of her own community. However, the Catholic authorities greatly doubted that a community of women could survive without material wealth. Thus, there were many attempts to get Clare to accept property so as to provide her community with support. However, Clare believed that accepting property would mean a rejection of the total dependence that she and her sisters wanted to have upon Christ.

That Clare was able to obtain this privilege which had never been granted before or has been granted since is a testament to the authority and respect that Clare possessed.

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