The Struggles of the Saints of Assisi

Kathleen Brady, Francis and Clare: The Struggles of the Saints of Assisi (New York 2021).

Catholic Media Association Award 2022: "Francis and Clare is a wonderful book that shows the humanness and struggles of two of our greatest saints. For all those interested in the Franciscan charism and for those who have not yet been introduced to it, this book will not disappoint.”

When the adolescent Lady Clare agreed to secretly meet Francis Bernadone, the eccentric merchant’s son who had become a wandering preacher, she was desperate to avoid the marriage that her parents were arranging for her. Francis, having gathered more than a dozen male followers, including her cousin, believed Clare to be the one to lead the female half of his movement, a movement that was loyal to the church but inspired by heretical sects where women played a prominent part. Over many meetings he promised a future in which she would preach and serve the lepers of Assisi. Warming to his plans, Clare and her kinswoman escaped their family under cover of night and began to live the life that Francis had envisioned. They continued until one particular cardinal, a future pope, took notice.

Francis of Assisi is rightly known for his joyous love of God and nature, but his life was also filled with opposition, as Francis and Clare: The Struggles of the Saints of Assisi shows. Kathleen Brady’s new dual biography reveals that Francis’s neglect of Clare in the face of church opposition was his greatest shame. Clare, fighting against being locked into a cloister, used the fame she derived from their association as her only cudgel in her decades-long battle with the papacy for control of her community.

Set largely in thirteenth century Rome and Assisi, this narrative biography is the story of individual genius versus societal controls. Replete with holy, wily, and sometimes comical characters, it is set against the emergence of the flawed, bureaucratic Roman Catholic Church that is coming into ever-clearer focus today.

Drawing from early biographies of the subjects, the records of Clare’s canonization process, and recent discoveries by scholars in diverse fields, Kathleen Brady reveals the fuller story that has long been obscured. Francis of Assisi is rightly known for promoting peace, espousing nature, and for being joyous in the Lord but his optimism took effort. Clare, to the extent that she is known, has been misunderstood as a woman who wanted only to fast and suffer for the love of God.

In this day when many feel betrayed by their religion, Francis and Clare: The Struggles of the Saints of Assisi offers new reasons to admire them both. It shows that while Francis did not reform the church, he transformed lives by extolling the glory of God. Clare was not passive. Her strength of character and her resistance can encourage others to persevere despite overwhelming odds. Kathleen Brady’s double portrait reveals that the story of one cannot be truly told without the other. In it readers will find new reasons to admire the saints of Assisi and new justification to find their story poignant and inspiring.

Watch the trailer here.

Order the book here.