Tuesday, July 22, 2014

When Saint Francis Saved the Church by Jon M. Sweeney

The meaty subtitle of When Saint Francis Saved the Church is How a Converted Medieval Troubadour Created a Spiritual Vision for the Ages.  True to the book's title, this is not a biography of St. Francis of Assisi. 

This book looks at why medieval St. Francis is relevant in today's world.  And the book answers the question:  What did St. Francis do that was different than his contemporaries that made his teachings still studied today?

St. Francis of Assisi is in the news lately, due to the new pope's choosing "Francis" ("Francesco") as his papal name, in honor of the humble saint.  That humility and devotion to the poor and victimized is at the heart of Pope Francis's ministry.

The author uses a conversational tone of writing.  The book almost reads like an infomercial at points, and certainly reads like a text with accompanying slides for a presentation, which it turns out was an early form of the book.

Part One - A New Look at Francis sells the reader on reading history books.  The author stresses that:
"well-meaning Christians almost killed the faith eight hundred years ago" and 

"Franics of Assisi saw it coming and turned everything around".   

Francis of Assisi was one of the "signal figures who are catalysts for rapid change".

The underlying thesis of the book is posed as a question:
Is it too bold to suggest that another Francis may just be saving the Church again in the twenty-first century? 
The author refers to Pope Francis, who told the Cardinals who elected him that if we value institutions over seeking the real goals of the Christina life, then things go wrong.  If the Catholic Church is more concerned with its money and property and avoiding lawsuits, then it will ignore the suffering of the people they are there to consul.  The new Pope wants to reformed the church from within.

Pope Francis cannot work change in the institutions of the Catholic church without the help of the Catholic faithful.  That is the role this book aims to fulfill.  The book is a gentle call to arms in support of the Pope's efforts to emulate St. Francis's humanistic teachings and examples.

Part Two - Six Ways Francis Quietly Created a Spiritual Vision for the Ages examines Francis's humanistic views and actions relating to:  friendship (all-inclusive), others (open to outsiders), poverty (humility and moderation), spirituality (in daily life), gentleness (to all God's creatures), death (as a stage of life),

Part Three - Why Francis Matters Right Now is a look at how Francis can inspire people to goodness and faith through emulation of his humanistic views and actions.

The extensive Further Reading section is a gift to those interested in expanding their knowledge of St. Francis of Assisi, and further exploring the ideas of the author.

From the book's description:
In When Saint Francis Saved the Church, popular historian Jon Sweeney presents an intriguing portrait of Francis beyond the readily familiar stories and images.

In the tradition of Thomas Cahill’s How the Irish Saved Civilization, Sweeney reveals how the saint became a hinge in the history of the Christian faith and shows how in just fourteen years—from 1205 to 1219—the unconventional and stumbling wisdom of a converted troubadour changed the Church.

Sweeney outlines Francis’s revolutionary approach to friendship, “the other” (people at the margins), poverty, spirituality, care (for people, creatures, and the natural world), and death.  

This vibrant book presents the unsullied life and message of Francis in its essential details, offering a sweeping, informative, remarkable look at how Francis and his movement quite literally saved the Christian faith—and continues to offer a spiritual vision with contemporary relevance.

When Saint Francis Saved the Church is published by Ave Maria Press.
Founded in 1865 at Notre Dame, Indiana, Ave Maria Press, a ministry of the Congregation of Holy Cross, is a Catholic publishing company that serves the spiritual and formative needs of the Church and its schools, institutions, and ministers; Christian individuals and families; and others seeking spiritual nourishment.

In the tradition of Holy Cross, we are committed, as educators in the faith, to helping people know, love, and serve God and to spreading the gospel of Jesus through books and other resources.

Never been to Assisi, Italy?  Here are six quite minutes of sightseeing in and around the town and basilica.

Here is a direct link to When Saint Francis Saved the Church at Amazon.com:

The author has other books in print, several of which have to do with St. Francis and/or St. Clare.  Here are some of them at Amazon.com:

I review other books by this author on this site:
Sweeney - The Complete Francis of Assisi by Jon M. Sweeney
Sweeney - The Enthusiast by Jon M. Sweeney

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