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St. Francis of Assisi by G.K. Chesterton

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St. Francis of Assisi

By G.K. Chesterton

ISBN: 0-385-02900-4
Copyright 1924

coverThe enigma that is St. Francis of Assisi is one with which we should be intimately familiar. Upon first glance our age seems incredibly dissimilar to the time in which Francis lived, however closer examination will reveal a similar zeitgeist. G.K. Chesterton takes us into the life of St. Francis not by giving us a list of facts, dates, and accomplishments, but rather by taking us into the mind and heart of the man. As with any person, mere facts cannot truly tell the story that only knowing the person can tell. With this book one feels as though he has come to know Francis, rather than just know about him.

This book reads like a letter of introduction of St. Francis of Assisi to the modern world. Skeptics as well as devout are invited to understand this man who turned the world on its head, or rather turned himself on his head to see the world more clearly.

Chesterton explains himself sometimes too much. Rather than make a statement and let it stand or fall on its own, he often makes a statement, then pours over each detail propping them up with his reasons. At times this leads to rabbit trails that seem to have nothing to do with Francis himself. Taking in the whole picture however, we see that these divergences aren’t so much leaving the trail of Francis as following him through that whimsical trail that he leads us through. It is in these divergences that Assisi’s most famous son is understood more clearly.

An incredible event in the life of Francis of Assisi rings its bell in today’s world. The Mohammedans had invaded Europe, and the war was on with the Christian monarchs pushing them back. The Crusades Francis saw in their horror and attempted to stop them by going to the Saracens and asking them to stop. He gained an audience with the leader and left with his head, which is miracle enough, considering the way the modern Mohammedans treat outsiders who come to help them.

Any intellectual person who would like to learn more about the heart of Christianity would be wise to read about the life of St. Francis of Assisi, who perhaps more than any other person outside of the first century embodied the life of faith in its sincerest form.

From the Publisher

Francis of Assisi is, after Mary of Nazareth, the greatest saint in the Christian calendar, and one of the most influential men in the whole of human history. By universal acclaim, this biography by G. K. Chesterton is considered the best appreciation of Francis’s life—the one that gets to the heart of the matter. For Chesterton, Francis is a great paradoxical figure, a man who loved women but vowed himself to chastity; an artist who loved the pleasures of the natural world as few have loved them, but vowed himself to the most austere poverty, stripping himself naked in the public square so all could see that he had renounced his worldly goods; a clown who stood on his head in order to see the world aright. Chesterton gives us Francis in his world-the riotously colorful world of the High Middle Ages, a world with more pageantry and romance than we have seen before or since. Here is the Francis who tried to end the Crusades by talking to the Saracens, and who interceded with the emperor on behalf of the birds. Here is the Francis who inspired a revolution in art that began with Giotto and a revolution in poetry that began with Dante. Here is the Francis who prayed and danced with pagan abandon, who talked to animals, who invented the creche.

This review was written by Russell Mann. You can find more excellent perspective on books, movies, art, and music at his blog. This review of St. Francis of Assisi can be found on his blog as well.

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About Russell Mann

  • That reminds me of Judges, where the prophet has the king sends everybody out, then kills him, and on his way out tells everybody that the king will be busy for while. Such sainthood!

  • As in Nick Berg didn’t.

  • Left with his head? As in “he convinced him…” or as in “in a bag”?