St. Francis of Assisi
Feast Day: October 4
Patron Saint of: Animals and Ecology
In his early years, as the son of a prosperous cloth merchant, St. Francis planned to either join his father in business or become a knight. He explored the latter first, taking part in a series of battles. In 1201, he was taken hostage and remained a captive in Perugia for one year. He became seriously ill during this time, but his mind also began to focus on religion. Although planning to return to battle, Francis had two visions from God that led him towards a radical lifestyle change. He began to live a life of poverty in service to Christ, caring for the sick and outcasts of society. Through the second vision, God called Francis to repair His Church, so he devoted himself to repairing the church of San Damiano, located near Assisi.In 1208, in response to a passage from Matthew’s Gospel, Francis felt called to embark on a preaching ministry. He was soon joined by a group of companions. These men traveled to Rome and received approval from Pope Innocent III of their Rule and for the inception of their brotherhood, which is referred to as the Order of Friars Minor.
As the order grew, Francis and his brothers traveled beyond Italy into neighboring countries to preach and spread the Gospel. St. Francis received the stigmata in 1224, and thereafter became increasingly more ill. Despite his failing eyesight and inability to walk without pain, Francis continued to visit towns in Italy until only a couple of months before his death.
As described in Praying With St. Francis, Francis’ love of nature and all created things, as epitomized in the Canticle of the Sun, is “simply an extension of his deep love of the Creator.”
St. Clare of Assisi
Feast Day: August 11
Patron Saint of: Eye Disorders and Television
St. Clare, virgin and Foundress of the Poor Clare Sisters, was born in the year 1193 into a comfortable and noble family life. In her late teenage years, Clare heard St. Francis speak at the church of San Giorgio in Assisi. His Lenten sermons inspired Clare to live a humble life “after the manner of the holy gospel”, leaving all things for Christ.
On Palm Sunday in the year 1212, Clare ran away from home to the town of Portiuncula, where St. Francis lived with his brothers of the Order of Friars Minor. On that night, Francis and his community met Clare at the chapel of our Lady of Angels, where she vowed “I want only Jesus Christ, and to live by the gospel, owning nothing and in chastity”. She cut off her hair and was given a plain brown habit to wear, creating the Second Order of St. Francis, known as the Poor Clares.
This order of sisters attracted many women that desired to be brides of Jesus, including Clare’s younger sister, Agnes. The women lived in poverty and constant prayer at a convent at San Damiano. Although they wore no shoes, slept on the ground, abstained from meat, and subsisted entirely on daily contributions, Clare exclaimed: “They say that we are too poor, but can a heart which possesses the infinite God be truly called poor?” (Catholic.org).