The Franciscan Embrace of ‘the Other’

Describing the early experience of St. Francis as his former friends struggled to understand the change in him, Henri d’Avranches describes his outreach to the lepers:

What spread his good name in the first place was his patience

In virtue of which he is given the care of the lepers, no one

Was more zealous than he in looking after them, even if

At one time he could not bear to watch their houses even

At a distance. Now he makes beds, wipes away venom, soothes ulcers,

Touches mouths, washes feet, strokes corroding,
rotten limbs,

And forces to the task his fugitive feelings.

—The Versified Life of St. Francis, by Henri d’Avranches, 125, 126 (see p. 456 in Francis of Assisi: Early Documents, Volume 1)

It is easy for us to romanticize this early experience of Francis—his first embrace of a leper. We speak of it often as emblematic

Read more
Saint Clare: Light of Assisi

In 1253, Clare’s health began to deteriorate. With August’s scorching temperatures, she was closer and closer to the end. As always, the late summer heat drove the papal entourage from Rome to the refreshing heights of Perugia. It would not be long until these dignitaries heard the news echoing from hill to hill in the Valley of Spoleto: Madonna Chiara was dying. 

Clare fresco 2 Friedman 700pxlsA fresco of Clare and her sisters can be found at San Damiano near the dormitory. Photo by Greg Friedman, OFM. 

Pope Innocent IV understood the meaning of the moment. His nephew, Cardinal Rainaldo, accompanied him on the journey to the little cloister. This pope, whose attempt at a Rule for the women had been politely rejected by San Damiano’s sisters, arrived to see its famous abbess. She received him with utter respect and humble gratitude. 

How wonderful was this? The successor of St. Peter was under her

Read more