St Francis, when residing at Assisi, often visited St Clare, to give her holy counsel. And she, having a great desire to eat once with him, often begged him to grant her this request; but the saint would never allow it. His companions, therefore, went to seek him, and thus addressed him: “Father, it seems to us that this severity on thy part in not granting so small a thing to Sister Clare is not according to holy charity, especially if we consider how it was at thy preaching that she abandoned the riches and pomps of this world. Of a truth, if she were to ask of thee even a greater grace than this, thou shouldst grant it.” St Francis answered: “It seems to you, then, that I ought to grant her this request?” His companions made answer: “Yea, father.” St Francis answered: “As you think so, let it be so.”
When the appointed day arrived, St Clare left her convent with great joy, taking with her one of her sisters, and followed by the companions of St Francis. She arrived at St Mary of the Angels, and having devoutly saluted the Virgin Mary, before whose altar her hair had been cut off, and she had received the veil, they conducted her to the convent, and showed her all over it. In the meantime St Francis prepared the meal on the bare ground, as was his custom. The hour of dinner being arrived, St Francis and St Clare sat down together, all the other companions of St Francis seated humbly round them.
But when the first dish was served, St Francis began to speak of God so sweetly, so sublimely, and in a manner so wonderful, that the grace of God visited them abundantly, and all were rapt in Christ.
Whilst they were thus rapt, with eyes and hearts raised to heaven, the people of Assisi and of Bettona, and all the country round about, saw St Mary of the Angels as it were on fire, with the convent and the woods adjoining. It seemed to them as if the church, the convent, and the woods were all enveloped in flames; and the inhabitants of Assisi hastened with great speed to put out the fire.
But, on arriving at the convent, they found no fire; and entering within the gates they saw St Francis, St Clare, with all their companions, sitting round their humble meal, absorbed in contemplation. It was a celestial fire they had seen, an outward sign of the divine flame of love which consumed the souls of those holy brethren and nuns; and they returned home with great consolation in their hearts, and much holy edification. After a long lapse of time, St Francis, St Clare, and their companions came back to themselves; and, being fully restored by the spiritual food, cared not to eat that which had been prepared for them; so that, the holy meal being finished, St Clare returned to San Damiano.
adapted from The Little Flowers of Saint Francis of Assisi, original manuscript c. 1250, first English translation by Lady Georgina Fullerton, 1864
May we, too, have such picnics!
May we find friends, or even one friend, with whom we can speak from the heart.
May we remember that friends can be found in unexpected places.
May we recognise a friend when we see one.
May we find friendship online, if we choose, but may we not grow too shy to meet our friends IRL!
May we find the courage to be our authentic selves—and the discernment to know when speaking from the heart is wise and safe for us.
And may we not forget to eat lunch!
Watercolour by Henry Thompson