Search This Blog

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

St. Francis of Assisi

ST. FRANCIS by G. K. Chesterton
                        (Go to end to see comment on Picture Book)

I don't have a good picture of this book, and since it was initially published in the 1920's, I don't think the picture would be all that good anyway. St. Francis  by G.K. Chesterton is not a traditional biography of the Saint. Instead, it is a historical commentary/biography. Chesterton, a Catholic, was attempting to recapture St. Francis for the Church, after what he felt was an attempt by the Secularists of the day to claim the great Saint for themselves. The commentary focuses on the importance of God in the life of St. Francis, as well as his role in the Renaissance of the 13th Century.

I have to admit, this wasn't what I was looking for in a book about St. Francis. I was looking for more of a biography, so I'll have to continue to look. I want to understand more about the man many have said have came closer to living the life Christ intended than anybody other than Christ himself. If anybody out there has any good suggestions for books on St. Francis, please let me know.

I really liked this book.  It's short (I think 94 pages).  The pace I read it at made it seem to be about 200 pages, but I don't think that was a bad thing.  I have always thought so much of St. Francis.  I was eager to learn more about him and I knew Chesterton was a good writer, so I picked up this book.  I was not disappointed. 

The first time I picked it up, I had checked it out from the library and I didn't get very far before I had to return it.  This time, I got it on my Nook, which was astoundingly handy for looking words up in the dictionary on the Nook.  I did need to have a dictionary to fully appreciate what I was reading.  I would highly suggest looking up the words you don't know in this book rather than guessing using the context.  The precise words Chesterton uses often have a double meaning which is significant or are so exact at relating his point, it's impressive. 

Chesterton approaches this book as an address to those who are skeptical or don't believe St. Francis is a saint but rather was just a radical.  But he doesn't prove his point by listing miracle after miracle performed by or to St. Francis because if a person is already skeptical-miracles are suspect.  Chesterton explains the amazing things St. Francis did and the self-sacrifices he made.  And because Francis was a human being just like all of us, his sacrifice is inspiring.  In the beginning of the turn in direction of St. Francis' life, Chesterton comments, "Francis still looks more or less like an ordinary young man; and it is only when we look at him as an ordinary young man, that we realise what an extraordinary young man he must be."  Chesterton also shows how St. Francis' life mirrored Christ's.  Examining St. Francis' life, which mirrored Christ's so closely, may help us to base our life on Christ's because we may be able to relate more to St. Francis as he was an ordinary man who took up an extraordinary life and who faced the questions and struggles we all face.  Chesterton wrote, "St. Francis is the mirror of Christ rather as the moon is the mirror of the sun.  The moon is much smaller than the sun, but it is also much nearer to us; and being less vivid it is more visible." 

Francis, the Poor Man of Assisi by Tomie dePaola: Book Cover
In the end, Chesterton lays out a powerful case for St. Francis' honor and sainthood.  This book literally made me stop and think as I was reading it.  It really is worth the time (and perhaps extra effort) it may take to read.

If you would like a more simple introduction to St. Francis' life rather than a commentary on his holiness and relevance, I highly recommend FRANCIS, HOLY MAN OF ASSISSI by Tomie dePaola.  This is a wonderful book, even for adults.  Tomie dePaola has many excellent books on saints and Jesus.  You should really check them out.

No comments:

Post a Comment