The Order of
St. Francis and St. Clare
Of the Cathedral of Hope
A Congregation of the United Church of Christ
In 2003, the Cathedral of Hope began to explore a twenty-first century extension of the ancient tradition of the Religious Order. Out of those discussions, classes and retreats emerged the Order of St. Francis and St. Clare. Its members form a Secular Order, meaning they do not live in a monastery or practice any other radical separation from the world. They do share a lifetime commitment to pursue practical ways of living out Jesus’ Gospel of Grace as demonstrated in the teachings of St. Francis and St. Clare. The well known saints spent their lives seeking to better see God in the teachings and life of Jesus Christ and to experience the fullness of Christ’s humble love for all persons.
The Order of St. Francis and St. Clare Today
Order members and friends meet in the Children’s Chapel of the Congregational Life Center after the 11 a.m. service on the first Sunday of each month for a brief discussion of upcoming Order events and for a time of community prayers and encouragements. Our common interest is focused on simplifying our lives, caring for all of Creation and seeking the guidance of the Holy Spirit in all that we do. Among our regular activities are contributing the Greening Tips in the Cathedral Weekly, sponsoring Labyrinth Walks, Taize Services, The Blessing of the Animals and other events that provide the congregation opportunities be more aware of God’s presence in their own lives.
Visitors are welcome to attend these meetings in order to learn more about what we do and to participate in our prayer life. For individuals who feel called to be professed members of the Order, there is a Novice stage of study and discernment with meetings on the third Sunday of each month. We also encourage others to be “Friends of Francis;” those who are led to participate in our events, but who are not yet called to membership in the Order.
Who Were St. Francis and St. Clare?
Francis of Assisi
Francis of Assisi was born in 1182 of a wealthy Italian cloth merchant. His mother was French. A privileged young man, Francis was attracted to adventure and frivolity. At 20, in knight’s armor, he joined the war against another Italian city-state, was captured and spent a year in prison where he contracted malaria. After his return, he was bedridden for a year. On an errand in 1205, Francis stopped at the old, rundown church of San Damiano where he had a vision of Christ that changed his life as the image in an icon said,” Don’t you see that my house is being destroyed? Go and rebuild it for me.” The young man took this command quite literally and began re-building the old structure, stone by stone, but also began rebuilding his own life, centering on serving the marginalized, working with his hands and bearing witness to the gospel. Finally forsaking all luxury and inheritance, and clad only in a simple peasant’s frock, Francis gradually transformed into the leader of like-minded followers of a new Order, the Friars Minor, approved in 1210 by Pope Innocent III. Francis had a vivid sense of sacredness of creation. All things, whether living or inanimate, reflected their Creator's love and were thus due reverence and wonder. He died in 1226 and left relatively few writings, but his selfless, Christ-centered life gave rise to numerous legends and parables, making him the most celebrated of all Saints today.
Clare of Assisi
Clare was born in 1193, also to a family of privilege. She first heard St. Francis deliver a series of Lenten sermons in 1212 when she was 18, and her life was changed forever. On the evening of Palm Sunday of 1212, she rejected her family and social status and arranged a meeting with Francis and his brothers at the chapel of St. Mary of the Angels. In front of the altar she put off her fine clothes and assumed a habit, while Francis sheared off her hair as a sign of her spiritual marriage to Christ. Her goal in life was not to be a reflection of Francis, but to be like him, a reflection of Christ. Her family was greatly distressed but eventually several of them also joined the movement. Clare founded a women's community (later called the Poor Clares, approved in 1253) which was established at San Damiano. Courageous in her many inspirational writings and her actions, she maintained loving bonds of friendship with Francis, who, for the rest of his life, placed great trust in her wisdom and counsel. She lived 27 years longer than Francis and died, a legend in her own right, in 1253.