Francis of Assisi is one of those people in the history of the church that I've heard of but, like many, really did not know much about him. Goudge wrote that he was a humble and poor man who set out to walk as closely as he could in the footsteps of Christ. “Looking at him,” she writes, “we see what it means to be a Christian, and what it costs.” (2)
This reprint of a classic that was first published over fifty years ago is a very readable and inspiring account of Francis' life. We read of his birth in Assisi in 1182. He experienced his first severe illness at twenty-two. He was touched when he was confronted with the reality of poverty. He gave to the disadvantaged. He came to believe that no man could truly love Christ without living in some degree of poverty. He would go to the nearby caves to pray, a mystic. He made a pilgrimage to Rome at age twenty-four. Upon his return he saw a leper and was moved to embrace him. He sold some of his father's cloth inventory and gave the money away. His father was not happy and had him temporarily bound.
Such was the beginning of Francis' life. I was amazed at his odd behavior, such as throwing down his colorful clothes when his father sued for the money given away. God called him to rebuild a church so he begged for stones to use. He was misunderstood, mocked, and persecuted.
Nonetheless, others joined his way of life, taking vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. They had to sell what they had, living with no property and in shabby clothes. He appealed to the pope for a new order, which was eventually granted. He went on mission trips, went on a crusade and visited Jerusalem and Bethlehem, upon his return finding that some of the brothers had betrayed him. He was able to restore the rules, but his health was in decline. He experienced the wounds of Christ in his hands and feet at one of his times alone.
Not being a Catholic, I found it interesting how the Orders were established. Sister Clare established the Second Order. I was fascinated by the Third Order, allowing people to live in deeper devotion to Christ while remaining in their secular calling. Called the Order of Penitence, members had to give surplus money away, dress austerely, eat sparingly, and reject luxury.
There were so many parts of Francis' life that were amazing. While on the crusade, he went to the sultan, Melek-El-Kamil, and witnessed to him. Francis talked to a hungry wolf, convincing the animal to live in harmony with the village he was going to attack. And those are just a couple of many interesting aspects of his life.
I recommend this book to those who want to know of the sacrificial life of Francis. It is an inspiring story of a man committed to self-sacrifice, loving God and loving mankind.
My rating: 4/5 stars.
Elizabeth Goudge (1900-1984) was one of the most popular British novelists of the twentieth century.
Plough Publishing House, 310 pages.
I received a complimentary copy of this book through Handlebar for the purpose of an independent and honest review.