I, Francis, the Spirit of St Francis of Assisi by Carlo Carretto (Collins £3.95).
NEXT MONDAY is the feast day of St Francis of Assisi. "I, Francis" — by Carlo Carretto, brings a message to today's
world during this Commemorative year of Francis which celebrates the eighth centenary of the birth of the radical yet gentle and peaceloving saint. This book brings Francis of Assisi to the reader in an original and striking way.
The author says he was tempted to call the book My Francis, which technically would have been more accurate, for he interprets the events of Francis' life. A well-known spiritual writer of clarity and persuasive invitation, he captures the spirit of Francis and in his hands, Francis comes alive and tells us his own story.
The reader finds himself listening attentively, while Francis looks at the ills and problems of our times relating them to incidents from his own life. Chapter Eight, "My Church, my Church" and Chapter Ten, "The Primacy of Non-Violence" stand out as being especially appropriate today. Francis leads usNtowards certain attitudes that could help us find practical answers and this is done simply, directly and with good-natured humour.
Some of the thoughtprovoking themes discussed concern poverty, community, discernment, anti-feminism and non-violence, to mention just a few. The meaning and relevance of poverty in today's context keep recurring as an underlying theme in many facets of our Christian commitment.
When the author makes Francis say of his Lady Poverty, "Her eyes were pearls washed in tears but filled with a mystery not revealed to many", we have an example of the lovely poetry to be found throughout the book.
For long-standing followers of Francis, this book, in a new way, brings into focus their Franciscan heritage giving new vigour to timeless values by the re-telling of the manly yet picturesque life of their spiritual father.
For those whose acquaintance with Francis is limited to his love of animals and birds this very readable book shows a human person who "set out on the adventure of sainthood and expresses it in a way that is truly universal".
Simple joy, romance, birdsong and taming of wolves are all there. So too, is darkness and obscurity, right on to the mystery of the branding into his flesh of the marks of the Passion of Jesus. But, as we hear St Francis say, what really matters is that the Holy Spirit has penetrated his flesh and made him Christ's forever.
A warm sense of Francis' immediacy lingers on as his account ends. So we find that the prayers he composed, with which the book concludes, take on new depths and invite us to join him in praise and worship of God our Father and Maker.
A remarkable book on the whole — it makes sense to those who already know something about Francis but it could cause some confusion to others who might mistake certain passages to be actual sayings of St Francis. Carlo Carretto truly incarnates the spirit of Francis but his book is in no sense a strict 'autobiography' of the saint.
. Sr Elinor Foxwell FMM