c1230 The letter of Agnes of Assisi to her sister St Clare


This letter to Clare from her blood sister, Agnes, is typical of Franciscan communications - she writes in the words of Sacred Scripture. She could simply have said: I am okay, the sisters here have been very kind and welcoming, and I miss you something terrible! She doest. She thinks and prays in the Word of God.

To her venerable mother and the woman beloved in Christ beyond all others, to the Lady Clare and her whole community, Agnes, the lowly and least of Christ's servants, humbly presents herself with all obedience and devotion with best wishes for her and them for whatever is sweet and precious in the eyes of the most High King.

The lot of all has been so established that one can never remain in the same state or condition. When someone thinks that she is doing well, it is then that she is plunged into adversity. Therefore, you should know, Mother, that my soul and body suffer great distress and immense sadness, that I am burdened and tormented beyond measure and am almost incapable of speaking, because I have been physically separated from you and my other sisters with whom I had hoped to live and die in this world. This distress has a beginning, but it knows no end. It never seems to diminish; it always gets worse. It came to me recently, but it tends to ease off very
little. It is always with me and never wants to leave me. I believed that our life and death would be one, just as our manner of life in heaven would be one, and that we who have one and the same flesh and blood would be buried in the same grave. But I see that I have been deceived. I have been restrained; I have been abandoned; I have been afflicted on every side.

My dearest sisters, sympathize with me, I beg you, and mourn with me so that you may never suffer such things and see whether there is any sorrow like my sorrow (cf. Lam 1: 12). This suffering is always afflicting me. This emotional tenderness is always torturing me, this ardent desire is always consuming me. As a result, distress utterly possesses me and I do not know what to do (Ph 1:22), what I should say, since I do not expect to see you and my sisters again in this life.

Oh if only I could lay bare for you on this page the continuing sorrow that I anticipate and that is always before me. My soul burns within me, and I am tormented by the fires of innumerable tribulations. My heart groans within me, and my eyes do not cease to pour out a flood of tears. Filled with every kind of sorrow and spiritless, I am pining away entirely. Even though I seek consolation, I do not find it (cf. Lam 1:2). I conceive sorrow
upon sorrow, when I ponder within me with fear that I will never see you and my sisters again. Under such distress I am totally disheartened.

On the one hand there is no one of all my dear ones to console me; but on the other hand I am very much consoled and you can congratulate me for this: I have found great harmony and no factions here, which is beyond belief. Everyone has received me with great happiness and joy, and has very devoutly promised me obedience and reverence. They all commend themselves to God, to you and to your community, and I commend myself and them to you in all things and in every way, that you may have a solicitous concern for me and for them as you have for your own sisters
and daughters. Know that I and the sisters wish to observe inviolate for all the days of our lives your admonitions and precepts.

As far as the precepts are concerned, be assured that the Lord Pope (Gregory IX) has satisfied me, as I have said, and has satisfied you too, in all things and in every way according to your intention and mine regarding, as you know, our position on the ownership of property. I beseech you to ask Brother Elias to visit me more often to console me in the Lord.