Book: Reluctant Saint: The Life of Francis of Assisi
Author: Donald Spoto
Viking Compass, NY, pp. 247
Excerpt from Introduction:
Almost 40 years ago, the translators of a biography of Francis of Assisi undertook a count of the books and articles the French author has consulted. Their final tally was 1,575 works in four languages. Up to and since that time, no saint has been the object of more attention from historians and biographers.
But even the last century's most important books on Francis — by Sabatier (1906), Jorgensen (1912), Fortini (1959), and Engelbert (1965) — were severely limited. Since their publications, discoveries made in a number of fields, and especially the results of Franciscan scholarship since 1990, have been extremely significant and directly affect our understanding of the times and events in Francis's life. Curiously, no writer (so far as I can tell) has taken these studies into account and pursued their implications for a thorough and up-to-date biography. Hence the book you are now reading.
Excerpt from Book:
Holiness does not, we should stress, necessarily depend on fidelity to an institution, or on allegiance to a particular juridical tradition. The true mark of holiness is the character of a life that gives to others, that extends beyond the narrow frontiers of itself, its own comfort and concerns — a life that furthers the humanizing process. Whether one uses the specific vocabulary of religion or not, this is the core: living close to God — a habit of being that (at least according to the great Hebrew prophets of old and the insistent message of Jesus of Nazareth) is seen concretely in loving service, a hunger for peace and justice and an active longing for concord among nations, groups and individuals. . . .
In Francis of Assisi, the world has taken to its heart a man whose life was about peace. It was also a chain of disappointments and failures. But the abandonment of his plans and goals brought him to the profoundest identification with Jesus, who died outcast, alone and rejected. His illnesses were but the external sign of his identification with the one wh confounded the world. But at the end he was confident. "I am not ashamed," he could confidently say with St. Paul. "I know whm I have trusted."
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