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A letter from Hugolino/Ugolino dei Conti, cardinal (1220)


Translated letter: 

To his dearest sister in Christ and mother of his salvation, the lady Clare, the handmaid of Christ, Ugolino, miserable sinner and bishop of Ostia, himself all that he is, what he can be.
Dearest sister in Christ! From that hour that the necessity of returning separated me from your holy conversation and pulled me away from that joy of heavenly treasures, such bitterness of heart, abundance of tears and vastness of sorrow came into me that, unless I find the consolation of accustomed piety at the feet of Jesus, I fear lest I always incur those anguishes for such things which my spirit strongly lacks and my soul goes completely soft. Justly, since, lacking that glorious happiness with which I discussed with you the body of Christ when the Lord was seized from his disciples and fixed to the gibbet of the cross, while I celebrated Easter with you and with the other handmaids of Christ, the sadness that followed was enormous; so I remained forsaken at your absence.
Though until now I would write and consider myself a sinner, having recognized the signs of your merits and seen the rigor of your religion, I have learned for certain that I am weighed down by a bundle of so many sins, I have offended the lord of the whole earth so much, that I am not worthy to be gathered into the company of his elect and taken away from earthly occupations, unless your tears and prayers obtain mercy for me for my sins. I commit my soul, therefore, to you and commend my spirit so that, as Jesus commended his spirit to his Father on the cross, you might answer for me on the day of judgment if you were not solicitous and attentive to my salvation; since I believe for certain that you will obtain from the highest judge whatever the perseverance of such devotion and abundance of tears requests.
The lord pope does not come now to Assisi, but I desire to see you and your sisters when the opportunity arises. Greet my sister, the virgin Agnes, and all your sisters in Christ. Amen.

Original letter: 

Carissimae sorori in Christo et matri salutis suae dominae Clarae, ancillae Christi, Hugolinus, Hostiensis miser et peccator Episcopus, se ipsum totum quod est, quod esse polest.
Carissima soror in Christo! Ab illa hora, qua a sanctis colloquiis vestris me redeundi necessitas separavit et ab illo gaudio coelestium thesaurorum avulsit, tanta me amaritudo cordis, abundantia lacrymarum et immanitas doloris invasit, quod, nisi ad pedes Iesu consolationem solitae pietatis inveniam, timeo, ne angustias illas semper tales incurram, quibus spiritus meus forte deficiet et penitus anima liquefiet. Merito, quia, dum Pascha tecum et cum ancillis Christi ceteris celebratum, deficiente illa laetitia gloriosa, qua vobiscum de corpore Christi tractaveram, sicut, cum Dominus a discipulis raptus et patibulo crucis affixus, immensa fuit tristitia subsecuta, ita remansi de vestra absentia desolatus. El licet me usque modo sciverim et reputaverim peccatorem, illtellecta meritorum praerogativa tuorum et rigore Religionis inspecto, modo pro certo didici, quod tot peccatorum sum sarcina praegravatus el in tantum universae terrae Dominatorem offendi, quod non sum dignus electorum eius consortio aggregari et ab occupationibus terrenis avelli, nisi lacrymae et orationes tuae mihi veniam impetrent pro peccatis. Committo igitur tibi animam meam et spiritum recommendo, ut, sicut Iesus in cruce Patri suo spiritum commendavit, et in die iudicii mihi respondeas, si de salute mea non fueris sollicita et attenta; quia pro certo credo, quod apud summum iudicem impetrabis, quidquid instantia tantae devotionis et copia lacrymarum exposcit. Dominus Papa modo non venit Assisium, sed opportunitate captata te et sorores tuas videre desidero. Saluta Agnetem virginem et sororem meam et universas sorores tuas in Christo. Amen.

Historical context: 

Cardinal Hugolino/Ugolino, who would become pope Gregory IX in 1227, writes after a visit with Clare in which he was impressed by the depth of her devotion to the religious life, to ask her to offer special prayers and tears for his sins. Hugolino had also written a form of life for houses of Damianite sisters, as Clare's followers were first known, based on the Rule of St. Benedict, which Armstrong has translated, Clare of Assisi, Early Documents (New York: Paulist Press, 1988), 88-96.

Printed source: 

Analecta Franciscana, III, 183