One would think that an order which takes a vow of absolute poverty would be a drear place. On the contrary. Genevieve related upon her return that she was overwhelmed by a sense of holiness, piety community, and cheerfulness. She said she had a great deal of enjoyment, and it was exactly the opposite of what she had thought.
In the great Franciscan movement of the thirteenth century an important part was played by this order of religious women, which had its beginning in the convent of San Damiano, Assisi. When St. Clare in 1212, following the advice of St. Francis withdrew to San Damiano, she was soon surrounded by a number of ladies attracted by the holiness of her life. Among the first to join her were several immediate relatives, including her sister Agnes, her mother, aunt, and niece. Thus was formed the nucleus of the new order. Here St. Clare became the counsellor of St. Francis and after his death remained the supreme exponent of the Franciscan ideal of poverty. "This ideal was the exaltation of the beggar's estate into a condition of spiritual liberty, wherein man would live in conscious dependence upon the providence of God and the good will of his fellowmen". At the outset St. Clare received from St. Francis a "formula vitæ" for the growing community. This was not a formal rule, but simply a direction to practise the counsels of the Gospel. "Vivere secundum perfectionem sancti Evangelii" was the keynote of St. Francis's message. On behalf of the sisters, St. Clare petitioned Innocent III for the "privilege" of absolute poverty, not merely for the individual members but for the community as a whole. Highly pleased with the unusual request he granted it, says the saint's biographer, with his own hand "cum hilaritate magna" ...more...Jhesu+Marie
Note the links above will take you to the Catholic Encyclopedia of 1904