Love: Sts. Francis & Clare

​When we come to Francis (1182-1226) and Clare (1193-1254), we see another mountain peak in a theology of love.  Each of them sought to be instruments of God’s peace, sowing love in a multitude of ways throughout their lifetimes.

Looking at their respective theologies of love as a singular reality (as it largely was), we are plunged anew into Trinitarian love, which they saw as the heavenly Community of Love, which is meant to be the paradigm for earthly communities.  Love, for Francis and Clare, is at the core of individual and collective life, and it is a radiating core that offers love to everyone everywhere.

With respect to Francis, his writing, “The Prayer Inspired by the Our Father” most clearly shows how love runs as the golden thread through all of Francis’ thoughts, words, and actions. [1]  Like others before him, and since, Francis wrote a prayer based on each of the phrases in the Lord’s Prayer. Love is the central idea from beginning to end, expressing the love called for in the two great commandments.

With respect to Clare, we see her commitment to love illustrated in the third letter she wrote to Agnes of Prague, reminding her that she was a “dearly beloved lady in Christ,” and exhorting her to “love Him totally Who gave Himself totally for your love.” [2]

Together they incarnated an intense love of God with an extravagant love of others, which has come to be summarized in the prayer attribute to Francis, a prayer that teaches us that compassion is the inevitable result of contemplation, and that the creation of Beloved Community is the inevitable proof of love.

 Francis and Clare’s deep commitments to love became the cornerstone of the Franciscan order which arose from their leadership.  The disposition of their communities love all creation through vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience was a natural outflowing from the cave of the heart—that soul-place where the Lover and the Beloved dwell in deep communion. [3]

[1] Regis Armstrong & Ignatius Brady, tr., ‘Francis and Clare: The Complete Works,’ in The Classics of Western Spirituality series (Paulist Press, 1982), 104-106.

[2] Ibid., 200-201.

[3] John Michael Talbot, ‘The Lover and the Beloved’ (Crossroad, 1988).


About Steve Harper

Dr. Steve Harper is retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 45 books. He is also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
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