Francis and Clare: a better view

Yesterday I watched two more movies about St. Francis and St. Clare.  If you saw either the two I noted in may previous post (Saint Francis of Assisi and Brother Sun, Sister Moon), the two I will recommend now will provide the depth and accuracy that you are probably hungering for after a couple of hours of fictionalized romanticism.

The main thing those two movies lack is Jesus Christ. The first one indeed shows Francis as a religious saint, one who sacrifices himself doing good for others, but fails to recognize the centrality of Jesus Christ, and his embrace of Poverty as radically fulfilling the command of Christ.  Ziffirelli’s elaborate production, while faithful to the outlines of the story, does not rise above portraying him as an über-hippie. (Well, it was 1971, after all.)

Do anything you can to get ahold of these two. They are not on Youtube, but they are both worth searching for and purchasing or downloading on Amazon or your favorite vendor.

The first is a 50-minute travelogue, but from the perspective of Francis himself. Much of the narrative is in his voice. The videography of today’s city is excellent, and, by including a folk festival, one also gets something of the flavor of Medieval life.

The second is a set of three half-hour docu-dramas focusing on Francis from the stories of three of his earliest followers: Bernard of Quintavalle, Brother Leo, and Clare. It features dramatized bit with interviews with today’s Franciscans to help understand their life and spirituality now.

These are films not just to watch, but to savor and to share. If you are making this Virtual Pilgrimage with me, these both could help your journey “in spirit.”

I have not yet met a Franciscan who follows literally the example of Francis. I don’t think anyone ever has. He simply cannot be duplicated. During his own lifetime, his followers had difficulty completely adopting his way of life. He never intended to found a religious order in the conventional sense of the word. In fact, his followers broke into factions even during his life, and created several distinct Franciscan orders not long after he died. The variety of orders in the “Franciscan family” can be confusing, especially since they all have different letters after their names.  Here’s a chart that may help:

The word “friar” simply means “brother”, and “minor” here means “lesser.” Francis intended his followers to be simply brothers to one another, each considering himself to be lesser in relation to the other brothers and, well, everyone else.  For him, this was the true call to follow Jesus Christ perfectly and his commitment to absolute and radical (which means “deeply rooted”) poverty was the only means this perfect servanthood could be accomplished. He never liked the idea of found a religious order, and insisted that the only true rule would be the Gospel. He also insisted that they would not be monks, living in permanent monasteries, but mendicants (“wanderers”), living in makeshift shelters begging for food for the poor they served, which they would share.

How this early band of brothers became the large and complex “Franciscan family” we know today is fairly well and succinctly told in a Wikipedia article. Also look up each order individually, not only on Wikipedia, but also explore the web with Google. With the above chart for reference, you can have a lot of fun exploring online. Here are a few links to various Franciscan orders to start your exploration:  OFM, OFMCap, Capuchins.org, OFMConv, Poor Clares, Secular FranciscansTOR . . . and on and on . . .

And, of course, who can think about Assisi and Francis and Clare without thinking about Brother Alessandro?

Here he is visiting with the children at St. Charles Borromeo Church/School in Parma, Ohio.

And an interview with the Holy Land Franciscans.

 

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Author: tomwelbers

I have been a Catholic priest for nearly fifty years, most of that time serving in parish and college campus ministry. I also have professional degrees in theology and liturgy, as well as institutional management, and continue avidly to explore pastoral theology, Scripture, liturgy, ecumenical and interfaith relations, and spiritual direction. I have a passion for sharing insight into our Christian heritage through teaching, writing, and leading pilgrimages, especially to Early Christian World sites in Turkey. Now actively retired from parish ministry, I live at Nazareth House in Los Angeles.

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