After completing the previous book on the life of St. Francis, I decided to pick up this story. Alison also gifted this book to me last Christmas, and since I was fresh on the life and characters of St. Francis, I thought it was a good opportunity to read about this next chapter in the Franciscan movement.
Given that it covered largely the same subject matter as the other book, there was some overlap between this book and How Francis Saved the Church. This book, however, went much deeper into the stories and also took the perspective of an outsider looking in.
The book’s main focus is that of Brother Elias, a childhood friend and early follower of Francis, and how he changed personally and Franciscanism after the death of their founder. Elias has been lionized by some and despised by others, and many of the facts and stories are subject of incomplete historical record. What is clear, however, is that Franciscanism had to transition from following a personality, to taking on a spiritual discipline of its own.
Having made a pilgrimage myself to Assisi nearly a decade ago, and reading these two books, I now have a very clear understanding of the life, thought, and spirituality of St. Francis. Confronting this radical way of life is our modern societal decay.
Culture swings back and forth like a pendulum throughout the ages, but I can see clear parallels between the culture that Francis renounced and the one that we find ourselves in today. The core sickness is a fundamental rejection of the dignity and beauty of every human person, in particular.
The solution that Francis gives us is not a revolution, but rather something much more achievable. A radical conversion of self, a fixing of one’s own life, and letting that example and momentum ripple throughout all of history.
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★