“It Is Not Good For Man to Be Alone”: Clare and Francis - 9 

“It Is Not Good for Man to Be Alone”:
Clare and Francis

Then the Lord God said: It is not good for man to be alone; let us make him a helper like himself. Gn 2:18 And in this way Eve was created. God has re- peated these words from time to time during the course of history. One day God said: It is not good for Francis to be alone; let us make him a helper like himself. And in this way Clare was created. Clare truly was a helper “like himself” for Francis, having the same nature, of the same mettle as he, in the truest sense a “twin soul.”

The extraordinarily profound mutual understanding between the man Francis and the woman Clare that characterizes the Franciscan story did not come “from flesh and blood.” It was not, for instance, like that be- tween Eloise and Abelard. Had it been, it may have left some traces in lit- erature but not in the history of holiness. We can call their relationship, in the words of Goethe, a “chosen affinity,” a contract of understanding which is “elected” not only in the active sense of people who have made the same choices, but still more in the passive sense of people who have been chosen, “elected” by God for the same purpose.

Antoine de Saint Exupéry has written “to love does not mean to look at each other, but to look together in the same direction.” Clare and Francis certainly did not spend their lives looking at each other. There was not all that much communication between them, almost only those words pre- served for us in the sources. There was an amazing reserve between them, so much so that his brothers sometimes lovingly reproached Francis for
being too hard on Clare. According to the Little Flowers, it was at their insis-
tence that he agreed to eat with her and the sisters, at that famous picnic which ended in a spiritual conflagration, visible for miles!

Only at the end of his life do we see this rigor in their relationship relax, and Francis more and more seeking strength and confirmation near his pianticella, his little plant. It was to San Damiano that he went for refuge when he was near death and devoured by illness. It was near her that he intoned the Song of Brother Sun and Sister Moon, with that passage about Sister Water “utile et humile et pretiosa et casta [useful and humble and precious and chaste]” which seems to have been written with Clare in mind.



Clare of Assisi: Early Documents, p. 9