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RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN SAINT FRANCIS AND SAINT CLARE

09 Aug

RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN SAINT FRANCIS AND SAINT CLARE

The relationship between Francis and Clare and the brothers and Poor Ladies was not something romantic like the relationships of knights and ladies in the tales of courtly love, but they were united by a deep bond of spiritual friendship because of their intense love of Jesus Christ and the common struggle to preserve the gospel ideal of voluntary poverty.

Francis and Clare saw very little of one another, but they each knew the battles amd sufferings of the other, and they followed the sacred journey each was making independently yet joined in heart and soul by the call of the Poor Christ which drew them like the legendary Holy Grail.

Francis and Clare were like a new Adam and Eve restoring the decaying Garden of Western Christianity; and though they labored apart, they knew they were never really separated. And this union of heart and soul which was theirs is reflected in art and popular literature from the Middle Ages till now: The story of Saint Francis is never complete without Saint Clare, nor hers without him. In reality, as well as in the popular mind, the Franciscan life has ever been male and female, and the symbols of that truth are Francis and Clare themselves.

There is a medieval folk tale which not only reveals how their contemporaries viewed Francis and Clare, but which also symbolizes the profound integration of the masculine and feminine in Francis’ way to union with God and all of creation. The story appears in Arnaldo Fortini’s VITA NUOVA DI SAN FRANCESCO D’ASSISI, which was published in Milan in 1926:

One day Francis and Clare are on a journey together from Spello to Assisi, and on the way they stop and knock at a house for a little bread and water. The family invite them in but proceed to give them the suspicious looks and make snide remarks about Francis and Clare  being alone together on the road.

The two saints then continue on their way through the snow-felted countryside, for it is winter. And as evening comes on, Francis suddenly says, “Lady Clare, did you understand what the people back there were hinting at?” But Clare is too distressed to answer for fear the words will catch in her throat.

So Francis continues, “It is time for us to part. You will reach San Damiano by nightfall, and I shall go on alone, whever God leads me.”

Then Clare fall to her knees in the middle of the road, prays awhile in silence and walks away without turning around. She walks until she enters a deep wood where she stops, unable to continue without some  word of consolation or farewell. So she waits there for Francis; and when he finally enters the wood, she says, “Father, when shall we two meet again?” and Francis replies, “When summer returns and the roses are again in bloom.”

Then a miracle occurs: All the surrounding juniper bushes and frosted hedges are covered with roses. And Clare, recovering from her amazement, walks to the bushes and picks a bunch of roses and gives them to Francis.

And so, says the legend, from then on Francis and Clare are never really separate again.

Jakarta, 9 Agustus 2010 

Taken from Murray Bodo OFM, THE WAY OF ST. FRANCIS – The Challenge of Franciscan Spirituality for Everyone, by A Christian Pilgrim

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