Francis Bernadone (1182-1226) grew up leading a life of dissipation, however, he
realized that this life was essentially empty. St Francis had the revelation that God had other
plans for his life. He found himself seeking conversion in 1206 in the ancient church at San
Damiano. 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 repair
the desecrated church using money he had borrowed from his father. His father rejected his new
life choices, so Francis had to beg for supplies to rebuild the church. With the stones he received
he rebuilt the church of San Damiano with his own hands (sl.edu).
Once he finished the church, Francis began preaching. Over time people began to
approach Francis. These people wanted to follow in his life of loving God. These companions
led Francis to the realization that he needed to find direction to his life. He looked for this new
direction in the Bible, where he discovered the rich man who was commanded to sell his
belongings and give to the poor, the apostles who were ordered to take nothing with them on
their journey, and the demand to take up the cross daily. He made it his goal to live by the
Clare Offreduccio (1193-1253) was from an influential family, and her life was destined
to 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. Clare
decided to spurn from the plan her family had for her future, and she secretly joined him in his
life devoted to living out the Gospel. Clare was the first woman to write a rule of life for
religious women, and she founded her own community of “poor ladies.” Her lifetime was
dedicated to devotion, kindness, tenderness, and practicality to the women in the church of San
Damiano. 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 one
occasion, 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 a
following 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 Clare
or 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, their
relationship can be described as two people looking in the same direction, rather than two people
looking 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 than
either of them could have ever understood on their own. Francis’ preaching led to Clare’s growth
in charity and love. Already a generous person, Clare grew in her love for God, charity, and
living 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, their
relationship 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 considered
lovers, but in a different sense than the word is used today. Their love was pure and without
expectations 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 the
authority of the institutional church. He called everyone to repentance, including priests and
bishops, but he fully respected the authority of the Church. For example, he was once passing
through a town where a priest was living with a woman. One of the citizens of this town asked
Francis whether the people should continue to receive the sacraments from an immoral priest. He
took the man and everyone who was listening to him to the door of the priest’s house. He told the
priest that he was unsure if the man was telling the truth, but in any case the priest still remained
the ability to bestow the sacraments and blessing’s of God upon the townspeople
(christianitytoday.com). Francis exemplifies his respect for the authority of the institutional
Church is when he took the early members of the Order of Friars Minor, the Franciscans, to Saint
John Lateran to visit the Pope. Francs knew that his followers may have resembled some
heretical groups who preached a form of poverty that was not consistent with the Gospel, and he
did not want his own group to be included in these heretical groups. He sought assurance from
the Pope that his order was on the right path. In his Testament, Francis says that the Lord gave
him brothers and showed him what to do. Francis believed that his way of life was not his, but it
belonged to the Lord. This means that the Order of Friars Minor was always subject to the rule of
the Catholic Church, and Francis had desired to be faithful to the Church and its rule
Clare also had a respect for the authority of the institutional Church, but as a woman she
also 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 that
the rule written by Pope Gregory IX did not properly allow her or her followers to truly and
authentically respond to the gospel and live out a gospel life. This was viewed as a radical
departure from the religious norms of the time period, and it was met with much resistance. In
fact, 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 on
the institution of the Catholic Church, however, she was able to take control and write the rule
that was necessary for her and her followers to live by.
Saint Clare and Saint Francis were two Christians bonded by their mutual love and
appreciation for God. Together, they created not only a community but a lasting movement of
Christians seeking to live the simple life as described in the Gospel. Without any temptation
between them, Clare and Francis had a special friendship that connected them through their love
in Christ. They both grew in virtue throughout their lives and because of one another, and overall
they both respected the institution of the Catholic Church. Francis and Clare are perfect
examples of Catholics who live lives of simplicity and solidarity, and still truly enjoy the gift of
life through Christ.