“It Is Not Good For Man to Be Alone”: Clare and Francis - 11 

Clare, like other luminous couples in the history of Christian holiness, Benedict and Scholastica, Francis of Sales and Jane Francis de Chantal, et al., constituted a summons to something other in which nature is not destroyed but crowned by grace.

Even within the Church we have much to learn. In the history of the Church, the ordinary rapport between masculine and feminine has almost always been configured around dependence and submission on the part of women’s congregations to the corresponding men’s Orders. Clare and Francis say more to us about complementarity and collaboration than about submission. Together men and women must become, for the world, a sign of the heavenly Jerusalem in which God will be all in all.

We could document with any number of examples, the way in which Clare and Francis truly looked in the same direction. I would like to underline one of these examples: the love they both had for the Eucharist. In his writings, Francis speaks most often about the Eucharist, even more than about poverty. For him, the Eucharist is not only a mystery, a sacrament, it is a living person: it is Christ completely given into the hands of a man, fragile and defenseless, just as he was in Bethlehem. From this come his tender feelings for everything to do with the Sacrament of the altar, and his preoccupation with the dignity and cleanliness of the church and sacred vessels.

For Clare, the monstrance of the Eucharist is her sign in iconography. She heard a voice “like a child” coming from the ciborium and assuring her: “I will protect you always!”
This is an essential aspect of the cloistered life: kneeling to hold the world before the Most High, and the Most High before the world, lifting him up, so to speak, and brandishing him from the walls of the city. Assisi was saved from the Saracens, not by the soldiers but by Clare who met them with the monstrance in her hand.

Pope John Paul II wanted a small cloistered monastery within the walls of the Vatican, in order to have this “spiritual” help close beside him, and the first community which he called to bring this to birth was a community of the daughters of Saint Clare.

This responsibility rests on them too. They need a “concentration,” a renunciation. Too much gazing on the world turns the gaze aside from Him. Too much rapport “outside”—even though it be done with the best of intentions—disturbs the rapport with Him.

And now, with incredible presumption, I am going to imagine that I am Francis himself who sends Clare and her sisters his child-like and stupendous “canticle-testament”:

 Previous

Next 

 

Clare of Assisi: Early Documents, p. 11