This fascinating joint biography of Francis and Clare of Assisi nicely complements Jon Sweeney's other works: The Road to Assisi: The Essential Biography of St. Francis which he edited; and two prayer books which he wrote: The St. Francis Prayer Book: A Guide to Deepen Your Spiritual Life and The St. Clare Prayer Book: Listening for God's Leading. Sweeney is associate publisher of Paraclete Press and lives in Vermont.
He sees these two saints as providing light into the darkness of the late Middle Ages: "Francis, Clare, and their early followers were part of a select group of Christians through the ages who have been passionately spiritual and ardently practical at the same time." A good example of what he means is the following anecdote: "Even in his later years, Francis would always carry a broom when he went off to preach in a church. He would preach and then sweep the floor clean."
The author covers the stages of Francis's conversion and his ideal of living in voluntary poverty; the account of how he first heard the voice of God; the beginning of the Franciscan movement and the founder's views on foolishness and joy as hallmarks of spirituality; a look at the turbulent relationships between Francis and Clare and their parents; and Clare's conversion and her desire to imitate Christ. Sweeney also reflects upon the corruption of the thirteenth-century church, Francis's love for the earth and all its creatures, Clare's hunger strike, their crusade to restore the nobility of all human beings, and the divisive conflicts that shook the Franciscan order after the founder's death.
Sweeney states that we need at attune ourselves to the spirit of St. Francis and St. Clare. They offer us fresh inspiration on practicing essential spiritual virtues such as humility, living lightly upon the the earth, reverence for human being and animals, and loving our neighbors and serving them with joy.