Francis Bernadone (1182-1226) grew up leading a life of dissipation, however, herealized that this life was essentially empty. St Francis had the revelation that God had otherplans for his life. He found himself seeking conversion in 1206 in the ancient church at SanDamiano.
He was praying in the church when he heard Christ speak to him from the crucifix.Christ told Francis to repair his church. Thinking only in the literal sense, Francis began to repairthe desecrated church using money he had borrowed from his father. His father rejected his newlife choices, so Francis had to beg for supplies to rebuild the church. With the stones he receivedhe rebuilt the church of San Damiano with his own hands (sl.edu).
Once he finished the church, Francis began preaching. Over time people began toapproach Francis. These people wanted to follow in his life of loving God. These companionsled Francis to the realization that he needed to find direction to his life. He looked for this newdirection in the Bible, where he discovered the rich man who was commanded to sell hisbelongings and give to the poor, the apostles who were ordered to take nothing with them ontheir journey, and the demand to take up the cross daily. He made it his goal to live by theGospel (sl.
edu). Clare Offreduccio (1193-1253) was from an influential family, and her life was destinedto be one of service and generosity. In her teenage years Clare often listened to Francis preach,and her love for God allowed her to appreciate Francis’ love for the Gospel message. Claredecided to spurn from the plan her family had for her future, and she secretly joined him in hislife devoted to living out the Gospel. Clare was the first woman to write a rule of life forreligious women, and she founded her own community of “poor ladies.” Her lifetime wasdedicated to devotion, kindness, tenderness, and practicality to the women in the church of San McKenna 1 McKenna 2Damiano. Clare is recognized not only as the most faithful follower of Francis, but also as a co-founder of the Franciscan movement (sl.edu).
Clare faced many struggles, mainly her family’s disapproval of her chosen path. On oneoccasion, her uncles attempted to remove her from the convent where Francis had placed her.However, she showed unwavering strength and remained in her position. She was able to gain afollowing of noble women who sought to lead a life like hers: a life of generosity and simplicity. Francis and Clare had a simple relationship. It was not a relationship where either Clareor Francis looked at one another in a spousal way, rather their relationship was much deeper.They were not bonded by temptation, but by their mutual love for God. In a way, theirrelationship can be described as two people looking in the same direction, rather than two peoplelooking at each other.
Their relationship led to a growth in the theological virtues of faith, hope,and charity. Together, their faith and love for God grew immensely. Their different qualities,especially their masculinity and femininity, allowed them to understand more about faith thaneither of them could have ever understood on their own. Francis’ preaching led to Clare’s growthin charity and love. Already a generous person, Clare grew in her love for God, charity, andliving the Gospel life.
As a team, Clare and Francis were able to grow in temperance, fortitude,and prudence. They were not tempted by each other to live a life that was unchaste, rather, theirrelationship allowed them to mutually practice these virtues (Zenit.org).
Temptation did not seem to be an issue within the relationship of St Clare and St Francis.They were drawn together by their passionate love for God. The two saints can be consideredlovers, but in a different sense than the word is used today. Their love was pure and without McKenna 3expectations or demands. Their lives were made a living sacrifice and they were and will forever be united in their mutual love for God (relevantmagazine.com). Differing from many other Christian radicals at the time, Francis held deep respect for theauthority of the institutional church.
He called everyone to repentance, including priests andbishops, but he fully respected the authority of the Church. For example, he was once passingthrough a town where a priest was living with a woman. One of the citizens of this town askedFrancis whether the people should continue to receive the sacraments from an immoral priest. Hetook the man and everyone who was listening to him to the door of the priest’s house.
He told thepriest that he was unsure if the man was telling the truth, but in any case the priest still remainedthe ability to bestow the sacraments and blessing’s of God upon the townspeople(christianitytoday.com). Francis exemplifies his respect for the authority of the institutionalChurch is when he took the early members of the Order of Friars Minor, the Franciscans, to SaintJohn Lateran to visit the Pope. Francs knew that his followers may have resembled someheretical groups who preached a form of poverty that was not consistent with the Gospel, and hedid not want his own group to be included in these heretical groups. He sought assurance fromthe Pope that his order was on the right path. In his Testament, Francis says that the Lord gavehim brothers and showed him what to do. Francis believed that his way of life was not his, but itbelonged to the Lord. This means that the Order of Friars Minor was always subject to the rule ofthe Catholic Church, and Francis had desired to be faithful to the Church and its rule(Franciscanmedia.
org). Clare also had a respect for the authority of the institutional Church, but as a woman shealso recognized its shortcomings. She challenged the authority of the Church by disregarding the rules written for her poor ladies by Pope Gregory IX and writing a rule of her own. She felt thatthe rule written by Pope Gregory IX did not properly allow her or her followers to truly andauthentically respond to the gospel and live out a gospel life. This was viewed as a radicaldeparture from the religious norms of the time period, and it was met with much resistance. Infact, the rule was only approved two days before Clare’s death by Pope Innocent IV(ncronline.
org). St Clare recognized the authority of the Church and she never turned her back onthe institution of the Catholic Church, however, she was able to take control and write the rulethat was necessary for her and her followers to live by. Saint Clare and Saint Francis were two Christians bonded by their mutual love andappreciation for God. Together, they created not only a community but a lasting movement ofChristians seeking to live the simple life as described in the Gospel. Without any temptationbetween them, Clare and Francis had a special friendship that connected them through their lovein Christ.
They both grew in virtue throughout their lives and because of one another, and overallthey both respected the institution of the Catholic Church. Francis and Clare are perfectexamples of Catholics who live lives of simplicity and solidarity, and still truly enjoy the gift oflife through Christ.