Blessed Clare Gambacorta(A.D. 1419)
“Blessed Clare Gambacorta (born Victoria, and also known, confusingly, as Bl. Theodora or Thora of Pisa) was born in 1362- probably in Venice, where her family (the most important in Pisa) were in political exile. When the young Victoria was aged 7, altered circumstances in the politics of Pisa made it possible for the Gambacorta family to return to their native city, where her father, Peter, was duly instituted chief magistrate.
Victoria was a devout child, but, being attractive and of good family, was inevitably destined for politically and socially advantageous marriage. Accepting Peter Gambacorta’s will in this regard, she became (aged 13) a loving and attentive wife. Shortly after Victoria’s marriage, St. Catherine of Siena visited Peter in order to discuss politics with Peter, and Catherine met Victoria, offering her advice and encouragement in her endeavors to be both a good Christian and a good wife.
Tragically, Victoria’s husband succumbed to the plague after fewer than three years of life, and, though she had been perfectly happy as a bride, she was reluctant to marry a second time. Catherine wrote to Victoria (now aged 15, exhorting her to ‘Strip yourself of self. Love God with a free and loyal love.” Aware that Peter was negotiating another marriage contract on her behalf, Victoria fled the family home, finding refuge with the Poor Clares where she took the name Sister Clare…Clare’s brother removed (her) from the convent and returned her to her home were she was kept locked in a dark room…Her…father invited a visiting Spanish bishop to talk her round to the family’s way of thinking,…far from persuading Clare to abandon her plans..he laid the ground for a conversion of heart on the part of the entire Gambacorta family.
Clare did not return to the Poor Clares, however..entered a Dominican convent.
The constitutions of the new convent…imposed a strict canonical cloister on the nuns, and all men (apart form the bishop and the Dominican Master General) were forbidden to enter its walls. By a bitter irony, Peter Gambacorta was killed by a mob…in the street outside the convent, together with one of his sons. Another son was wounded, and pleaded to be given sanctuary in the convent. Clare felt she had no choice but to refuse to open the door, and her brother was slain by the mob.
When Clare appeared to be dying, she asked for some food to be sent to her from the table of her father’s murderer, and the man’s wife duly obliged. Clare was healed of her illness, the murderer was himself killed, and his wife…and daughters were afforded sanctuary in the convent….When death finally came to Clare in 1419, her burial-place was immediately associated with miracles, and a local cult grew up rapidly, as did the legend that, whenever a sister of the community is on the verge of death, Clare’s bones will rattle in her coffin.”
Blessed Clare, pray for us.