Apologetics, Franciscan Intellectual Tradition, Saint Clare of Assisi, Saint Francis of Assisi, Saints, The Franciscans, Theology

Saint Francis & Saint Clare on the Human Person

saint-francis-and-saint-clare-on-the-human-person-part-1“Humans have an inviolable dignity because God created each person through love and for love. As scripture tells us, each human being bears God’s very image and likeness (Gen. 1:26). This means that humans are whole persons, distinct from the other creatures that were created ‘each after their own kind’ (Gen. 1:24). Each person is unique, yet joined to all others in a common humanness. Humans retain God’s image in spite of being born into a world where each is affected by more sin than he or she actually commits and even though each personally sins. Overwhelmingly, God’s generous love abounds and human beings, in the face of sin, are continually called to the very heart of God. They are also given the responsibility of being co-creators and co-redeemers with God, using their gifts and talents for the common good of all creation, but especially for the poor. They are enjoined to treat all other human beings with reverence and respect out of deference to the divine image. All women and men bear this divine image equally, so this rules out any forms of racism, sexism and the like.”

“Human existence is deified by the Incarnation. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, become line one of us, a physical-and-spiritual being. In God’s wisdom, God chose to express boundless love in a way humans could grasp best, specifically in the person of Jesus. This action of God reaffirmed the goodness of humanity. Also, Jesus is the model for what true humanity needs to be. Our way to wholeness and holiness is to become like Christ – fully human – developing our God-given gifts and talents as completely as we can and sharingsaint-francis-and-saint-clare-on-the-human-person-2 them with others.”

“In their writings, as well as by the way they lived, Francis and Clare, confirmed the goodness of the human body. Yet neither saint came to that positive stance without a struggle. Indeed, the effort to see bodily goodness was an important part of each one’s journey of conversion. In today’s world, there are all kinds of physical abuse: there is abuse in families; there is prostitution; there is drug abuse by athletes and others; there is pornography, slavery, torture; there is obsession with physical beauty and fixation on body weight. The views of Francis and Clare challenge such a status quo. By contrast, they stress the goodness of the body and reverence for it. All bodies are good. Women’s bodies are not sources of evil, as many have believed for centuries. Indeed, it was through a human body (Mary’s) and with a human body (Jesus’) that God entered our world. Through out bodies – for good or for ill – we touch people and enter into relationships with them. We experience union with Christ bodily as we receive the Eucharistic bread and wine. It is through the ‘human touch’ of our loved ones that we know analogously what the love of God is like. It follows then that our humanness requires us to extend a healing touch to the ‘untouchables’ of our time and place, because Christ fully embraced us, becoming flesh for us.”


“Though they have a distinct inviolable dignity, humans are earth creatures who live among other creatures of the earth.”

“To see any value in pain and suffering, we must experience it with new eyes. Certainly, as Francis and Clare eventually realized, we need not search out suffering in our world – there is suffering aplenty! But fidelity to learning from life’s hurts is a fight worth waging. Indeed, because we know what saint-francis-and-saint-clare-on-the-human-person-4physical pain and suffering are like, we can realize the depth and breadths of God’s deep love for us in the passion. It is this wondrous and boundless love that compels us to conversion of heart actions of love and justice and contemplation of the One who draws us close. Our human senses and emotions are valuable and good, alerting us to the deepest complexities of our existence and enabling us to respond to others with sensitivity and kindness.”

“Following Jesus’ example, as one who emptied himself of godly power and prestige (Phil. 4:1-11), humans are at their best when they surrender themselves to God’s love and care. Ironically, it is then that we are most powerful and most free. It is then that the power of love is ours to use in the service of others, especially the poor. We become transformed, concerned about establishing mutual relationships, rather than ‘lording it over’ others. In fact, with this Christ-like attitude, there are no ‘others’; the journey to God. When we live in such a God-infused world, three is very little that really threatens us. As Francis so clearly showed us, all the little ‘deaths,’ in which we struggle with disappointments, our own limitations, or the limitations of others, and even ‘Sister Death’ herself, cannot separate us from the love of God. As Clare showed, what separates us from God and our fellow humans is our clinging to a poor self-image, being egotistical, failing to seek forgiveness or refusing to generously forgive someone else.”


– Lucas G. Westman

[1] Every quoted paragraph is taken from the booklet by Dawn M. Nothwehr, O.S.F., The Franciscan View of the Human Person: Some Central Elements


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