cover image Light in the Dark Ages: The Friendship of Francis and Clare of Assisi

Light in the Dark Ages: The Friendship of Francis and Clare of Assisi

Jon M. Sweeney, . . Paraclete, $16.95 (204pp) ISBN 978-1-55725-476-4

S he was “rudder to his sail” and “yin to his yang,” but the relationship between medieval saints Clare and Francis of Assisi was hardly the love affair depicted in literature and film, as this joint biography makes clear. Sweeney, author of the St. Francis Prayer Book and The Lure of Saints , sketches the true nature of the liaison, which he says was marked by natural affection, but never led to marriage or an affair. “There is little reason to believe that Francis and Clare shared any romance other than one that was jointly with God,” Sweeney writes of the partners in the spiritual movement that revolutionized Western religion. Relying on early biographies of Francis by Thomas of Celano and Bonaventure as well as more recent scholarship, Sweeney examines Francis's conversion and decision to “marry” poverty, showing how Clare, 12 years his junior, fled her family to embrace his radical way of life. Sweeney deals, too, with the controversy and dissension that erupted in the movement after just two decades as some followers softened the radical mendicancy espoused by Francis and Clare. Readers interested in an accurate portrayal of these two powerful figures will find this an excellent introduction to a movement that has captured the imaginations of moderns more than 700 years after the deaths of Francis and Clare. (Aug.)