Friday, September 21, 2012

7 Quick Takes Friday

1. I am reading a new book about Saint Francis of Assisi, written by a Dominican, which is an attempt to find the "historical Francis" hidden behind traditions and agendas and politics. It is quite an interesting book, and I find that in several ways it sheds light on Saint Francis. It is very readable and definitely worth while for anyone who has an interest in Francis.

2. A particularly interesting discovery about Francis, for me, is that he seemed to be far more interested in obedience, properly celebrated liturgy, and the Holy Eucharist than any other biographies I have read let on. Far more, apparently, than on poverty. And, contrary to the practice of the time of other religious orders, he was a meat eater!

3. Francis was also a rather confused and conflicted man. I have often found myself thinking that he might have been a little bit mentally disturbed, possibly scrupulous in some areas. Whatever the reality was, he was not the absolutely certain, unconflicted, clear-headed "reformer" that he is depicted as.

4. More than anything, what I get out of this biography, is that Francis was totally committed to following, imitating and radiating Christ as authentically as possible. He also regarded himself as having the obligation to be an example, a "living rule" for the other brothers, so that by looking at him, the brothers could learn how to live the written rule.

5. He was also driven to be the least of all. Here was part of his conflictedness. He did not want to be considered over anyone, or more than anyone, or having any importance or authority over anyone, and yet, in order to ensure that the brothers lived according to his vision, he had to exercise authority, often in a convoluted way through others, such as Brother Elias, his vicar, the visible head of the order, or through a Cardinal, a supporter and sort of protector of the order.

6. While the Francis of this book is a little different than my previous understanding of Francis, and very different from the "popular Francis," I find this Francis to be more real, more human, more believable, more worthy as an example, than the Francis I've read about in other biographies.

7. There is a second part of the book which can serve as a long footnote to the biography, giving sources, and explaining the reasoning behind the author's choice of sources, and the conclusions drawn. All in all, a very worthy resource for anyone sincerely interested in discovering more about the real person, the real Francis of Assisi, even if this depiction doesn't wholly resolve that quest.

Happy weekend, and don't forget to check Jennifer's and others' Quick Takes.