Thursday, November 5, 2009
St. Francis' Order was founded eight hundred years ago this year - in 1209 AD, in Assisi.
St. Francis was so crazy in love with God! So was Clare. Both renounced medieval middle-class. She was a young girl who followed him - escaped the marriage her parents set up. She eloped to Francis' chapel, San Damiano, outside of Assisi, cut off her hair and married God. Both undertook a life of keeping their hands empty - burning themselves up for God.
They created twin orders, the Friars Minor and the Poor Clares. Francis turned over San Damiano to Clare, where she gathered followers, and became its abbess. He died in a hut, on a mat on the floor. She lived more and more in seclusion. By the end, she didn't need to leave her cell to attend Mass - it appeared as a vision on her stone wall. Today she is the Roman Catholic Church's patron saint of television.
I think they were lovers. They shared one meal. I love their foolish love affair with the world and the sun and moon and birds and mountains and olive groves. Their unequivocal sense of place in those God-lit hills of Umbria.
Here is a verse of Francis' Canticle of the Sun, as we descend into the darkest part of the year:
"Be praised, my Lord, through Brother Fire,
through whom you brighten the night.
He is beautiful and cheerful, and powerful and strong."