Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Catholic Company Review: Francis

Francis: The Journey and the Dream by Murray Bodo
40th Anniversary Edition with a foreward by John Michael Talbot

Francis: The Journey and the Dream is not a biography of St. Francis of Assisi. Written by a Franciscan priest who is also a poet, the book is more of a series of reflections on the life and inner thoughts of the saint by a modern member of his order. Fr. Bodo had the opportunity to live in Assisi while writing this book, gazing at a country rich in history and perhaps similar to the land Francis himself wandered.

The book allows us to dwell on St. Francis's thoughts and feelings.

God's own Son had spoken to him, had asked him to rebuild his church. He understood now that request meant more than brick and mortar. It meant that he, Francis, was to recreate in his own person the life of Jesus on earth. He was to be obedient to God's Word, chaste in mind and heart, poor in everything. How that was to rebuild God's Church he did not know, but he suspected that it would follow, as his father Pietro always said, from being a good steward.
The chapters tend to be short, just two or three pages. It would be a nice addition to a morning or evening devotion, a brief glimpse into the life of a man devoted to giving everything to Christ, and receiving Him in return.
When Francis passed people on the road or met the on their doorsteps as he begged, he could not hide his delight in them, in their very existence. All people to Francis were good gifts to brighten his day with the mystery of their unique personalities.

We can see how Francis embodied the Gospel and exhortations of Paul.

And he was not worried or anxious about yesterday, today, or tomorrow because Christ is, and all things are in Him and He is in the Father. Francis no longer worried, not because he was a naive optimist, but because he had become in prayer and penance a realist who saw the unimportance of everything but God, and in God and with God and through God, the importance of everything. God was everywhere; the divine presence charged creation with a power and glory that made everything shine with beauty and goodness in Francis's eyes. God's touch on everything inspirited everything that was.

I liked the following quote, because it shows that sharing pain with someone we love, who loves us, truly eases it.

[N]ow, as Francis lay dying, he was comforted by the thought that Leo was there with him. And Leo would suffer with him, so that all the pain was halved by Leo's love.

Writing of the end of Francis's life, Fr. Bodo speaks to those of us who are unable to work despite a great desire because of infirmity or a temporary condition:
Ironically, this non-activity was the hardest work he had ever done. For now nothing remained but love, kept alive by his faith and his hope. He had never been so utterly dependent on others. This was Lady Poverty's last courtship of him, and he realized for the first time that honeymoons do recur to those who persevere in love to the end. He now submitted finally and totally to his Lady, giving up for her even the pride of honest labor. And he was at peace in her arms.

Fr. Bodo imagines Francis's thoughts as he contemplates a common but beautiful mountain flower:
How much more should we human beings be witnesses to the glory of simply existing? We will live forever. Our existence alone is enough, and we are glorious apart from any work we may produce or any life we may engender. But we have to learn that liberating truth by meeting God in the soul's own core. God's love and acceptance of us makes possible our own self-love and self-acceptance.

This is a beautiful hardcover book with thick pages. It would make a lovely gift for someone who loves St. Francis or is interested in what it means to live a life of Poverty.

This review was written as part of the Catholic book reviewer program from The Catholic Company. I received a free copy of the book in exchange for this honest review. Visit The Catholic Company to find more information on Francis - The Journey and the Dream. They are also a great source for a Catechism of the Catholic Church or a Catholic Bible.

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