St. Agnes of Assisi: Co-founder of the Poor Clares
November 19, is the feast of Saint Agnes of Assisi (Catarina di Favarone) according to the Franciscan calendar. She is the younger of sister of Saint Clare of Assisi, and Abbess of the Poor Ladies of Assisi, and co-foundress of the Poor Clares.
Born in Assisi, Catarina was the youngest daughter of Count Favorino Scifi and Countess Hortulana (now Blessed). Catarina was later named Agnes by St. Francis of Assisi when she became a nun. Catarina was a beautiful girl who was gentle, prayerful, and kind.
On March 18, 1212, Clare renounced her inheritance and family and founded the Poor Clares, the Franciscan cloistered Order. Catarina joined her sixteen days later at the Benedictine cloister of St. Angelo in Panso, where they received their initial training. Her father, Count Favorino, sent knights to carry her away. They tried to drag her out of the monastery, kicking and striking her, but all of a sudden her body became so heavy that several of the men could not budge it. Her uncle Monaldo tried to strike her but was temporarily paralyzed. The knights then left Agnes and Clare in peace.
Catarina was accepted by St. Francis, who gave her the name Agnes after of St. Agnes of Rome and placed her at San Damiano with Clare. She and Clare were soon joined by other noblewomen of Assisi, and there Agnes achieved perfection as a religious at a young age.
Agnes was eventually named abbess, and in 1219, was sent by St. Francis to direct the Poor Clares at Monticelli, near Florence. Agnes wrote a letter to Clare, and this surviving document clearly demonstrates her love of poverty and her loyalty to Clare’s ideals. Agnes also established Poor Clares in Mantua, Padua, and Venice. In 1253, she was summoned to Clare’s deathbed and assisted at her funeral.
Agnes died three months after the death of Clare, on November 16, 1253, at the monastery of San Damiano of natural causes at the age of 56, Her mother, Hortulana, and a younger sister, Beatrice, had already died, and Agnes was buried near them in the Church of Santa Chiara in Assisi, Italy.
“I come, O Lord, unto Thy sanctuary to see the life and food of my soul. As I hope in Thee, O Lord, inspire me with that confidence which brings me to Thy holy mountain. Permit me, Divine Jesus, to come closer to Thee, that my whole soul may do homage to the greatness of Thy majesty; that my heart, with its tenderest affections, may acknowledge Thine infinite love; that my memory may dwell on the admirable mysteries here renewed every day, and that the sacrifice of my whole being may accompany Thine.”
~St. Agnes of Assisi
Father of mercies,
St Agnes did not hesitate to suffer for love of you.
Grant that we too may be willing to share
whatever comes our way,
and always seek your will.
We make our prayer through Christ our Lord .