Page:The parochial history of Cornwall.djvu/218

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alms, they were incessantly employed; so that the mendicants soon acquired the distinctive appellation of preaching friars; and the whole institution being suited to the genius, the spirit, and the prejudices of the rude age in which it arose, the Dominicans and Franciscans acquired and maintained, during some centuries, almost the temporal sovereignty of Europe; till their dissentions, the scandalous immorality growing out of their vagrant lives, and the diffusion of knowledge, dissolved the charm.

This contagion readily extended itself to females, so that, with some indispensible modifications, societies soon arose of women bound by the same rule of individual and collective poverty. St. Clare appears to have been the first female disciple of St. Francis, or at least the first raised by him to eminence and power, acquisitions far more captivating to the human mind, than wealth with all its passive luxuries and enjoyments.

St. Clare had the gratification of eloping from her parents to receive the veil and the tonsure from the hands of St. Francis, who placed her at first in a monastery of Benedictine Nuns; but the young saint soon found herself in the situation of an abbess, with her mother and two sisters members of the community, submitted to her sway. From this station she advanced to be the founder of an order, having numerous houses established under her supreme authority, exercised according to rules dictated by St. Francis; and the poor Clares constitute a principal branch of the female monastic establishments existing in all Catholic countries up to the present times.

Pope Innocent IV. made a journey on purpose to visit Clare, not long before her death in 1253, and again to assist at her funeral. His successor, Pope Alexander IV. two years afterwards, inscribed her name in the celestial canon. Mr. Hals then proceeds to particulars.]