From the Renovaré Newsletter Archive

The selection below is from a January 1997 Renovaré newsletter. Download a PDF of the original newsletter.
Introductory Note:

Finding good models for the Christian life is really not so hard. From the blessed ancients to modern-day saints, Christendom has been full of men and women who show us what it means to walk in the ways of the Lord.

Today, Richard Foster calls to our remembrance two of these—St. Francis of Assisi and St. Clare of Assisi. Through their unique friendship, bold faith, and joy-filled obedience, they can teach us, even across the many years, how to live this with-God life in full.

Renovaré Team

In our day of anti-heros, we need exam­ples of faith­ful liv­ing that we can gen­uine­ly admire. So from time-to-time (often at the begin­ning of a new year), we at Ren­o­varé hope to fea­ture par­tic­u­lar indi­vid­u­als that are ster­ling mod­els of Chris­t­ian spir­i­tu­al­i­ty for us. In this issue we look at two such indi­vid­u­als — Fran­cis and Clare who were both from Assisi, a small town in North­ern Italy. Togeth­er they laid the foun­da­tion for the world-wide Fran­cis­can movement.

The Fri­ars Minor” (as they called them­selves) became the most dynam­ic spir­i­tu­al move­ment of the thir­teenth cen­tu­ry, draw­ing thou­sands into their ranks and inspir­ing tens of thou­sands more to a deep­er devo­tion to Christ. Fran­cis and Clare were at the heart of this spir­i­tu­al explo­sion, Fran­cis set­ting the pat­tern for the men’s expres­sion of the move­ment and Clare for the women.

Com­bi­na­tions to Emulate

The delight­ful sto­ries of Fran­cis and Clare have been recount­ed well over the years. What I want to stress here is the unique com­bi­na­tions we find in their lives — com­bi­na­tions that make them espe­cial­ly invit­ing mod­els for us today even though we live in dras­ti­cal­ly dif­fer­ent circumstances.

First, between Fran­cis and Clare them­selves we find a won­der­ful com­bi­na­tion of devot­ed friend­ship which at the same time is free from sex­u­al over­tones. In Fran­cis and Clare we see the deep­est care and most pas­sion­ate respect for one anoth­er with­out the slight­est hint of eroti­cism. This is a pow­er­ful les­son to us who live in a cul­ture that makes love” and sex” vir­tu­al synonyms.

Sec­ond, we see intense con­tem­pla­tion com­bined with evan­ge­lis­tic fer­vor. When Fran­cis asked Clare for coun­sel on whether he should devote him­self to con­tem­pla­tive prayer or to evan­ge­lis­tic preach­ing, she wise­ly replied that God want­ed him to do both. What an instruc­tive mod­el for us today.

Third, we dis­cov­er a rad­i­cal cri­tique of the Church com­bined with a pro­found love for the Church. When St. Fran­cis heard the divine Word, rebuild my church,” he went about obey­ing that com­mand in such a way that called into ques­tion every crav­ing for pos­ses­sions, every han­ker­ing after sta­tus, every yearn­ing for hon­or. Yet, through it all it is impos­si­ble to ques­tion Fran­cis’ great devo­tion and con­cern and love for the Church, the com­mu­ni­ty of Faith. It is a com­bi­na­tion we would do well to imitate.

Fourth, we find an authen­tic charis­mat­ic lead­er­ship com­bined with a pro­found com­mit­ment to Chris­t­ian com­mu­ni­ty. In our day gift­ed lead­ers are sore­ly tempt­ed to go their own way with­out regard for either the tra­di­tions that have gone on before them or the guid­ance and coun­sel of those around them. But for both Fran­cis and Clare sub­mis­sion and obe­di­ence to Chris­t­ian author­i­ty were cen­tral to their call­ing. In this they teach us.

Fifth, we learn from these two how to have an eco­log­i­cal sen­si­tiv­i­ty that refus­es to deify cre­ation. Fran­cis could express the deep­est rev­er­ence for nature — tam­ing the wolf of Gub­bio, preach­ing to the birds, writ­ing his can­ti­cle to Broth­er Sun and Sis­ter Moon” — with­out ever wor­ship­ing nature. Con­sis­tent­ly he called upon all of the cre­ation — Broth­er Wind and Sis­ter Water, Broth­er Fire and Sis­ter Moth­er Earth, as well as the entire human cre­ation — to Praise and bless my Lord (God) and give Him thanks and serve Him with great humil­i­ty.” It is sol­id guid­ance for us today.

These, I believe, are com­bi­na­tions that we can all appre­ci­ate and embrace. And I would hope we will find many inven­tive ways to inte­grate these com­bi­na­tions into our day-to-day experience.

Orig­i­nal­ly writ­ten for Per­spec­tive in 1993.

Text First Published January 1997

📚 The 2022 – 23 Ren­o­varé Book Club

This year’s nine-month, soul-shap­ing jour­ney fea­tures four books, old and new, prayer­ful­ly curat­ed by Ren­o­varé. Now under­way and there’s still time to join.

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