During Advent we are reflecting on episodes in the life of St Francis. December 3. Who was St Clare of Assisi. Clare was born in 1193, into a noble family. Always a serious child she gave to the poor whatever she could. She was 16 when she first heard Francis speak and immediately felt drawn to follow him and she ran away from home when she was 18 to join him and his brothers. She was sent to live with a community of Benedictine nuns until she was able to form her own congregation of sisters at St Damiano. She composed their rule which closely followed the way of Francis and strongly defended their right to observe strict poverty. Clare led the contemplative community of sisters, still today known as The Poor Clares, until her death in 1253 having finally gained the approval of the Pope. Clare and Francis remained spiritually close and he requested her presence to nurse him at St Damiano in the final days of his life.
The Friendship between Francis and Clare. Extract from THE LITTLE FLOWERS OF ST FRANCIS. 15. “He enjoyed speaking with her. He gladly listened to the graceful words flowing from her lips like honey. Clare, too, longed for his presence and tasted the words that Francis spoke of the good Jesus. Yet again and again they restrained themselves and refrained from seeing each other. Above all, Francis believed that not visiting Clare gave honour to God, who meant so much to him. Clare often pleaded with Francis’ brothers to dissuade him from such hardness.
His companions, knowing how great was the wish of Sister Clare to eat with him, went to seek him, and addressed him: ‘Father, it seems to us that this severity on thy part in not granting so small a thing to Sister Clare, a virgin so holy and so dear to God, who merely asks for once to eat with thee, is not according to holy charity, especially if we consider how it was at thy preaching that she abandoned the riches and pomp of this world.”
Accordingly, Francis invited Clare to a meal. They ate together with the brothers and some sisters while sitting on the bare ground. Both felt as bound to the earth as they did to God. And thus they spoke with each other, listening spellbound to the thoughts behind the words they spoke. Then God caused a divine fire onto their lips and into their hearts. They became nothing but fire and flame. The fire of love was so large that it blazed beyond the settlement and encompassed the entire area. The fire brigades from Assisi and Montefalco and elsewhere raced to put it out. In vain, of course. Who, after all, wants to extinguish the love that God kindles among us mortals?”
Scripture: The light of the moon will be as the light of the sun and the light of the sun will be sevenfold as the light of seven days. Isa 30. Pope Francis: Service means “caring for vulnerability, for the vulnerable members of our families, our society, our people. Service always looks to their faces, touches their flesh, senses their closeness and even, in some cases, ‘suffers’ that closeness and tries to help them. Service is never ideological, for we do not serve ideas, we serve people”. FT115. For Reflection and Sharing. As family members consider what a beautiful gift the friendship of Francis and Clare was. How can one aspire to such deep committed friendship?