A Season of Contemplation

I confess. When I began my research on Saint Francis of Assisi, I expected brief, flowery biographies and thin books about the bird-loving friar. How shallow of me, a Protestant Christian, who knows little about Catholic saints.
Thanks to Richard Rohr’s book, “Eager to Love”, I’m cloistered in my study, contemplating his point of view regarding the life and writing of San Francesco d’Assisi (1186-1226).
A contemporary Franciscan friar, Rohr offers no biography, “what is too often jokingly called “’birdbath Franciscanism’”, and expounds on the spiritual partnership between Francesco and Chiara Offreduccio (1193-1253), a woman overshadowed by her “counterpart” throughout history.
You may find this common knowledge, but it’s a surprise to me. Rohr sets the record straight. “A supreme irony is that Francis and Clare, two dropouts who spurned the success, war, and economic agendas of thirteenth-century Assisi, have been fully sustaining its economy for eight hundred years through the pilgrims and tourists who pour into this lovely medieval town. The Bernardone and Offreduccio families are very proud of their children, but they were not when those children were alive.”
Francis’s father, a wealthy cloth merchant, didn’t appreciate his son’s conversion to poverty, prayer, and charity, called him before the bishop of Assisi for money Francis threw away in anger when a priest of the church at San Damiano refused it.
On April 16, 1210, Pope Innocent III gave oral approval of the Franciscan rule of life.
Posthaste, Francis repaired the San Damiano church and established the Poor Clares within its parish. Chiara scribed the Rule of St. Clare: “When the Blessed Father saw that we had no fear of poverty, hard work, trial, shame, or contempt from the world, but instead held them in great delight, he created a form of life for us.”
“How countercultural can you get?” Rohr asks.
Indeed. Thankfully, I’ve never feared poverty or hard work. My granny, mother, and uncles taught me mankind is born first to dig, plant, and harvest. Nature and the Bible encourage me to trust God to provide my bread.
Unlike Saint Clare and Francis, I do not delight in trial, shame, and contempt from my family and the world. I fear separation from those I love, consider the faith and courage required to become a dropout from the rat race of our secular world.
Come spring, with new meaning I will set my garden statue of St. Francis amidst my hydrangeas. Meanwhile, I read his poetry, “Brother Sun, Sister Moon”, hear the voice of a man who followed God’s call into the heart of Jesus and Creation. I find Saint Clare’s letters and begin to see the widespread legacy of two thirteenth-century Italians – kindred spirits calling to one another from San Francisco Bay to our Great Lakes.
Dear Reader, I just ordered a garden statue of Saint Clare seated and snuggling a fawn. I’ll place her in the garden overlooking her Franciscan brother and the hydrangeas, his head bowed, in her shadow. Assisi’s beloved dropouts.