In a not so frequently examined early Franciscan text, “The Canticle of Exhortation for the Ladies of San Damiano,” we read Francis’s words of consolation, challenge and prayer addressed to St. Clare and her fellow Sisters. There are some wonderful words of wisdom for all of us today, not just cloistered nuns eight-hundred years ago. For example, take a look at the suggestion Francis makes that the Sisters (and us by extension) look within, look to the Spirit for our guide and source of life instead of looking, as Francis put it, “without” or in the world. He also reminds us of our need to endure both the joys and challenges of our lives in peace.
Listen, little poor ones called by the Lord,
who have come together from many parts and provinces,
Live always in truth,
that you may die in obedience.
Do not look at the life without,
for that of the Spirit is better.
I beg you out of great love,
to use with discernment
the alms the Lord gives you.
Those weighed down by sickness
and the others wearies because of them,
all of you: bear it in peace.
For you will sell this fatigue at a very high price
and each one will be crowned queen
in heaven with the Virgin Mary.
— Francis of Assisi. For more early Franciscan texts, seeFrancis of Assisi: Early Documents (1999).