Flat Saints: Clare and Francis of Assisi

During our month of saints, we are hearing the stories of seven different saints from Scripture and tradition. We have already heard about Mary Magdalene, Monica and Augustine of Hippo. Aside from these posts, there are several other ways to learn about our Saints. Check out some suggestions here. Remember to share what you and your family learn about the saints this month on Facebook with a photo of your flat saint out and about and #CHFSaints.

Giotto [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The Poor Saints of Assisi: Clare and Francis

After returning to Assisi upon his release as a prisoner of war, Saint Francis found himself praying in a church: “God what do you want from me?” when Christ, from the crucifix on the wall responded: “Francis, rebuild my church; it is falling apart.” This is exactly what Francis began to do, earning one stone at a time as payment for singing, Francis carried stones to rebuild the dilapidated church in Assisi.

It is quite easy to sentimentalize the lives of Saint Francis and Saint Clare, at least hundreds of years after their lives. The potency of their witness to the church has seemingly lessened in their popularity. Though they had many followers in their lifetime, even in their own time, their rule of life, which required giving up ownership of any material possessions and living in poverty, was difficult for those who opted to follow their way of life. Before establishing the Order of the Friars Minor, the pope said that the requirements of their lives were far too stringent, and perhaps the standards might be relaxed. Clare and Francis both responded that this was the life God had required of them.

Following God, for Francis and Clare, was costly and the requirements of a holy life, extreme. In their lifetimes, they challenged and pushed the church to see God at work in poverty. In his lifetime, Francis built churches, cared for the poor, lived a poor and simple life, gave away all of his family’s wealth, and most amazingly received the stigmata (the markings of Jesus’ crucifixion) on his hands, feet, and side. Clare was the first woman to write a rule of life, which has already been said, was found difficult even for those in the church’s highest levels of leadership.

Francis of Assisi (1181-October 3, 1226): Remembered on October 4. His symbols are skull, stigmata, cross or crucifix, birds and other animals, friar’s robe.

Clare of Assisi (July 16, 1194 – August 11, 1253): Remembered on August 11. Her symbols are flowers (esp. roses and lilies), monstrance, book/Rule of life, cross, cloth.

Books in the Christian Education Cabinet: The books in our Christian Education resource cabinet are always available for check out. Please remember to fill out and leave the card that comes with the library book and remember to return it when your family is finished. We have many books about Francis and Clare in our Christian Education Library. Among them:

Saint Francis by Brian Wildsmith
Francis: The Poor Man of Assisi by Tomie de Paola
Clare and Francis by Guido Visconti
Brother Sun, Sister Moon by Katherine Patterson
Canticle of the Sun by Fiona French

Activity to do at home: 

On Saint Francis Day, parishioners at Church of the Holy Family painted birdhouses and read together Saint Francis' Sermon to the Birds.
On Saint Francis Day, parishioners at Church of the Holy Family painted birdhouses like churches and read together Saint Francis’ Sermon to the Birds, a lovely sermonette in which Saint Francis admonishes birds always to be grateful to God for all that God has done in caring for them. If you didn’t make it to our church-birdhouse painting intergenerational event, you can make a simple bird feeder by spreading crisco or peanut butter on a pinecone before rolling it in birdseed. Make a cross with found items for the top of the pinecone.

Canticle of the Sun (also called the Canticle of Creatures). We have several children’s books, in the Christian Education library in the Commons, illustrating the words of this hymn. The last verse, welcoming sister death is said to have been composed by Francis moments before his own death, and the song sung in its entirety for the first time by the community gathered around him on his deathbed.

Learn the Canticle of the Sun together and work on the art project below.

Be praised, my Lord, through all Your creatures,
especially through my lord Brother Sun,
who brings the day; and You give light through him.
And he is beautiful and radiant in all his splendor!
Of You, Most High, he bears the likeness.

Be praised, my Lord, through Sister Moon and the stars;
in the heavens You have made them bright, precious and beautiful.

Art Project: You can find a simple art project to do at home with young children (through third grade) that visually reflects the section of the song written above, here.

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