On my pilgrimage last summer, I fell in love with Assisi. I had some mystical moments there that have remained with me. When I mentioned this to a friend of mine who was visiting from the United States, she told me that she had the Ignatian Press DVD called Clare and Francis and she knew she had to give it to me. I accepted it gladly as I wanted to know more about them, especially Clare.
The film opens with Francis asking Clare who is walking behind him if she is following in his footsteps. Her joyful response is “No, bigger ones.” This version of the film shows a strong Clare who guides Francis as much as he her. The viewer sees how each of them lives out their vocation and how they encourage one another along the way.
As I watched it, I marveled at the beauty of their relationship with one another and with Christ. The Lord is who receives their devotion but the joy that they find in each other is also evident. Each of them experience mystical moments and the film does not reveal all of them or even showcase the work that they do as well as it could. I wondered about my own life and who fuels my devotion to the Holy Trinity whose feast we celebrate tomorrow. Who in my faith journey encourages me to go further, serve with more humility and endurance, and love beyond the limits and definitions of this world? In the film Francis kisses a leper on the lips, sure in this day and age, to stir up homophobia rather than awe of what he had done and the taboos he had broken for his time. Clare’s courage and single-heartedness as she rejects marriage to a man and embraces her Spouse is also not lost on me centuries later.
What happens when we follow bigger footsteps? For both these saints, the inexplicable occurs. The incorruptible body of Clare is a mystery to many. Francis had an encounter with a wild wolf that makes no sense. Clare held the baby Jesus in her arms on Christmas Eve when she awoke from a long illness. Francis gained the stigmata in his later years. The movie does not include some of the events that both experienced. Can we trust enough to walk in those bigger footsteps too? The Pope in the film warns Francis not to thank him for approving his order because he senses the hardships that would befall the Franciscans. Walking in bigger footsteps does not mean that no harm will come. Clare is told at one point by a child-like voice that she will always be defended and she tells her community to trust. Those bigger footsteps are of a man who knows sorrow and suffering. If we choose to walk in them, we may experience the same.
The question though is if we do not follow bigger footsteps, then what? Who defends us then? Who can we trust absolutely and thoroughly? We are told to pick up our crosses and follow Jesus. The blood-stained path will lead us Home. Like Clare and Francis, I am walking in those bigger footsteps and trusting the One who leads me. What about you?