“I have been all things unholy. If God can work through me, He can work through anyone.”
St. Francis of Assisi
Born Giovanni Francesco di Bernadone in 1182, his wealthy cloth merchant father called him Francis. Well-educated and high-spirited, Francis often led the young men of Assisi in enjoying good food and drink, singing and dancing. Rather than follow in his father’s footsteps, Francis wanted to be a knight; he joined the Assisi forces but was taken prisoner in a fight against another town and fell ill. He had several spiritual experiences while recuperating and as he prayed in the chapel of San Damiano outside Assisi, he heard Jesus direct him to “repair my house.” Francis immediately began to rebuild the San Damiano church, broke ties with his father and from then on, lived a life of poverty.
Francis’ beliefs are simple: all people, no matter their station, must be treated with dignity and respect; greed causes suffering; and the gift from God that is nature must be protected. He taught his followers by example and found his inspiration in three readings from Scripture:
- “If you would be perfect, go and sell all you have and give to the poor, and follow me.”
- “Take nothing with you for the journey.”
- “If any man will follow me, let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow me.”
In 1209 Pope Innocent III gave his approval for Francis’ followers to become a religious order, although Francis himself was never ordained a priest. In 1224, however, he was praying on Mount Alvernia and had a vision during which he received the stigmata, the marks of the nails and the lance wound suffered by the crucified Christ. Soon after he took ill and never recovered; he died on October 4, 1226 at the age of 45. Just two years later, he was canonized a saint.
St. Francis is considered the patron saint of merchants, the environment and of animals.
“Who we love shapes what we become.”
St. Clare of Assisi
St. Clare of Assisi was born Chiara Offreduccio in Assisi in 1193. The daughter of a nobleman and a Christian mother known for her charity, Clare lived a life of privilege; even as a child, however, she showed little interest in material things and grew in spirituality.
Clare first heard Francis of Assisi preach in 1210; his words spoke to her heart and she determined to commit her life to God. She left her home on Palm Sunday in 1212; Clare, her sister Agnes and her cousin Pacifica eventually settled in the rebuilt church at San Damiano. This would become the focal point for Clare’s new religious order, at first known as the “Poor Ladies” because of their radically austere lifestyle.
Clare imitated Francis’ virtues and way of life, stopping multiple attempts by several popes to ease her radical commitment to poverty. Just two days before she died in 1253, Pope Innocent IV confirmed that Clare’s rule — the only one written by a woman — would serve as the governing rule for Clare’s Order of Poor Ladies.
Within two years of her death, Pope Alexander IV canonized Clare as St. Clare of Assisi. Just ten years later, the order became known as the Order of St. Clare. Her feast is celebrated August 11.
St. Clare is patron saint of television, embroiderers, and goldsmiths.