Simon Tugwell defines spirituality as “a way of looking at the world,” and Franciscan spirituality as “a way of radical unprotectedness.” That is about as apt a definition as it is possible to give. Francis was in love with God and threw himself into the love relationship with the dangerous abandon of a lover. He saw the Kingdom of God as present now and expressed this with great passion by embracing the radical poverty of Christ. His Order not only did without possessions — things as basic as shelter from the elements; they were downright happy about it! The worse things got, the more joy it seemed to produce. Before Francis, the spiritual focus of religious orders was to renounce the world as evil and humanistic and to work at negating it. Francis looked at the world, saw his beloved (its Creator) and embraced it with open arms. He called all created things his brothers and sisters: sun, moon, living beings, storms, fire, even death. Sometimes this attitude is mistranslated into a sort of sentimental piety that is anything but representative of the passionate Franciscan ethos. Francis had so much love and compassion for Jesus’ suffering and death on the cross that he wanted to share Christ’s passion as deeply as he was able; therefore he saw any pain or hardship he had to endure as a gift to be celebrated, any contact for good or ill with creation as contact with his beloved — embracing a leper, he embraced Christ.
Francis unhesitatingly followed the leading of the Holy Spirit, which he perceived in deep prayer and scriptures. He followed the Gospels so literally, he makes latter-day fundamentalism seem liberal. The playboy excesses for which he was notorious before his conversion were channeled directly into his relationship with God – he became a zealot, “a fool for God.” He surely would not pass psychologicals for ordination today, though he was quickly ordained deacon when his original Rule was approved, lest he be turned loose on the world with his crazy insistence that the Gospel should be followed literally, without formal accountability to Church authority. Everything he did was done with great heart, deep humility, and much joy. Prayer leading to action, generosity and joyousness of spirit, careful discernment, and close following of the Gospels should characterize the Tertiary’s way of seeing and being in the world today, just as they did that of Francis.
The Francis Book, Edit. Roy Gasnick, OFM, Macmillan, 1982. Written to celebrate the 800th birthday of this man whose life set in motion a presence of so much universal appeal that transcends poverty, suffering and death, St Francis’ importance to our time is made manifest by the list of contributors.
Guides on the journey include novelists: Nikos Kazantzakis, Albert Camus; essayists: G.K. Chesterton, Oscar Wilde; poets: William Wordsworth, Vahel Lindsay; songwriters: Donovan, Arlo Guthrie; historians: Arnold Toynbee, Sir Kenneth Clark; theologians: Thomas Merton; multiple journalists and Francis’ own contemporaries. Its universal appeal includes articles such as: “Saint Francis and Sri Ramakrishna”; “Muhammad and Saint Francis”; “Jesus, Francis and Buddha: the Challenge of Tomorrow”; and “Saint Francis, Buddha, and Confucius.” There are over 100 photographs and illustrations. *
Francis, Brother of the Universe, Roy Gasnick, OFM, Marvel Comics. Comic book, fictionalized version of Francis’ life. Very effective. *
St. Francis, Nikos Kazantzakis, Ballantine Books / Published By Arrangement with Simon And Schuster, Inc. (1966), Edition: 1st Printing, March 1966. The most full-bodied fiction biography. It gives the reader the best fully human Francis. *
Clare: A Light in the Garden, Murray Bodo, Saint Anthony Messenger Press and Franciscan (1992). It paints Clare the human woman and Clare the divine woman and seeks not to compromise either but makes St. Clare real flesh and bone and brings her radiant awe into a new era when mankind is floundering for as sense of identity. Friar Bodo writes like no other and from the point of view of a contemplative,the inner way and written by a man who himself seems to be madly in love with the Lady Clare – and who himself has the touch and the gift of a medieval poet. This book is written with all the tender poignancy of a lover and with all the insight and wisdom of a man who has followed in the footsteps of the Franciscan Way.*
Following Francis: The Franciscan Way for Everyone, Susan Pitchford, Morehouse Publishing 2006. Susan tells her own story as wife and professor as she proceeds through the Third Order Formation process, and she explores how “being Franciscan” is not just for monks, nuns and clergy, but for everyone. *
The Way of St. Francis: The Challenge of Franciscan Spirituality for Everyone, Murray Bodo, OFM, Franciscan Herald Press, 1995. The tone of the book is conversational like a series of sessions with a spiritual director, which the author has been. Listening was especially helpful as Bodo lead the listener through the experience of achieving inner silence and engaging in contemplative seeing.*
The Prayer of Cosa: Praying in the Way of St. Francis. Cornelia Jessey, Harper & Row, 1985. Many approaches to prayer and meditation proceed along the Via Negativa (the pushing aside of everyday concerns and reality). Francis’s method of praver is the Via Positiva (the embracing of all in the act of prayer). This is the best single book that covers that. *
Franciscan Spirituality – Following Saint Francis Today, Brother Ramon, Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 1994. A primer on Franciscan spirituality. Honest and down to earth, but neither evasive nor sentimental, this book will appeal to Christians of differing backgrounds… there is a gentleness about Ramon’s writing that inspires trust and cooperation. *
God’s Fool, The Life and Times of Francis of Assisi, Julian Green, Harper and Row, 1985. Readers of it have the privilege not just of learning all about St. Francis, but of seeming to participate in his sublimely crazy ministry. To say that it is finely done is not enough; it is enchanting,’ said Malcolm Muggeridge quoted on the back cover. *
The Little Flowers of St. Francis. Many translations, many editions. Somewhat apocryphal stories about Francis and his early followers give the flavor of the early Franciscans and their extraordinary spirituality. Essential Franciscan folklore and possibly more truth to them than we might imagine.*
Francis of Assisi: Early Documents – Volume 1, The Saint, Edit. Regis J. Armstrong, OFM Cap., J.A. Wayne Hellman, OFM Conv., and William J. Short, OFM, Franciscan Institute of St. Bonaventure University, 1999. *
Francis of Assisi – The Founder: Early Documents, vol. 2 (Francis of Assisi: Early Documents), 2000. *
Francis of Assisi – The Prophet: Early Documents, vol. 3 (Francis of Assisi: Early Documents), 2001. *
Clare of Assisi – The Lady: Early Documents. Edit. Regis J. Armstrong, OFM Cap. , Franciscan Institute of St. Bonaventure University, 2006.
Scholars and lovers of Francis and Clare of Assisi will find much to treasure in these volumes of the early documents series. Detailed footnotes add to the reader’s understanding of Francis and early Franciscans, while providing insight into the editors’ specific decisions. All of the saint’s writings are included, as are the preserved texts of his earliest followers. Essential to the academic and spiritual study of Francis and Clare.