Last Sunday we finished watching this inspirational portrayal of St. Francis & St. Clare – after breaking the viewing into 2 parts (at 3 hours running time it’s very thorough!) The time, however, was incredibly well spent – this it is truly one of the BEST movies about the life of St. Francis out there, with the added bonus intertwining of St. Clare’s story.
What a life!! Totally RADICAL for his times (1182 – 1226), St. Francis would still be considered rather radical today… and St. Clare, too, in a radically contemplative way. During a time of extreme poverty, both Francis & Clare were born into wealth: Francis to a rich cloth merchant family and Clare into a powerful family of the nobility. Both gave up everything, severing their familial ties to serve the poorest of the poor.
Well, it’s a bit more complicated than that. With his father’s enthusiastic support, Francis dreamed of being a knight and winning renown in battle. Taken prisoner in his first battle, however, Francis became quite ill before he was ransomed home. When he later does well marketing-wise in the cloth trade, his father transforms his disappointment over the knight-debacle into successful merchant & son expansion endeavors.
After much wild living (the movie doesn’t dwell too much on this, but you get the idea!) Francis is horrified by a group of lepers…and then by a former comrade in arms who has leprosy. God is chipping away in his heart, making way for some BIG changes. Francis starts noticing the poor, giving food away, selling cloth on the cheap to help them (angering his father in the process!)
The movie covers the highlights of St. Francis life -the showdown with his father, God’s ‘call’ from the cross in the dilapidated San Damiano Chapel to ‘rebuild My House which is falling in ruins,’ his work among the lepers & the poor, the founding of the Franciscan Friars (& the challenging trip to Pope Innocent III in Rome for his blessing), his trip to the Sultan during the Crusades and more and more and more…
Meanwhile, Clare struggles with the challenges of women in her day – an arranged marriage to someone she doesn’t love – when she feels called to a life of prayer and poverty like St. Francis. After seeking to join St. Francis in his work, she ends up taking vows & starting a women’s order linked to the Friars – the Poor Clares. Not without some excitement when her grim, violent uncle tries to take her forcibly from the convent where Benedictine sisters have taken her in..
There is truly so much to take in, as when you read the account of their lives. Sometimes Francis seems like such a MAJORLY RADICAL saint, how can his life inspire us today? Are we meant to give up all our possessions, take off our designer clothes, join an order, become a pastor, or be a missionary?
Some of us, yes, may be called to do so (the Franciscans & Poor Clares continue doing that the world over!!) But maybe you might be inspired to live differently right where you are – to be a brighter light where God has placed you.
After Francis draws closer to God, he sees the lepers around him with new eyes – eyes of Love, the Heavenly kind for ALL people. As he kisses a leper & tenderly binds his wounds, he sees Jesus Christ. It’s that Mother Teresa kind of reaching out – seeing the image of God in all people, even society’s ‘throw-a-ways.’
Look around, we all have ‘lepers’ in our lives – those we are afraid to touch, who seem reprehensible. As much as we shout ‘Hallelujah!’ and then walk down the other side of the street (political aisle, gender room, race divide…), we need to reach out, like Saint Francis, and kiss the lepers in our lives with the love of Jesus. (ok, so maybe a REAL kiss is kinda mushy, but how about a HUG? how many HIV+ folks have you hugged lately? how many Republicans/Democrats have you had to lunch – cordially without coming to political blows? how many people different from you have you at least SMILED at? vs. pursing your pious lips & looking the other way…)
Sometimes we have to start simply … and smiles don’t cost much. : )
All in all, this is an outstandingly inspiring movie – excellent acting, filmed beautifully on location in Italy & endorsed by the Franciscan leadership. We had it from Netflix, but it’s surely one to add to the collection.
“Preach the Gospel at all times. If necessary, use words.” St. Francis of Assisi
Radical & still applicable – 800+ years on…