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HALL OF FAMEon 18 March 2004
G.K. Chesterton is one of the best Christian writers of the twentieth century. Prolific and artistic, he had the knack for combining a classic British commentary sense to any historical Christian subject, making it both the object of cultural interest and often historic reverence. As St. Francis of Assisi was one of the primary influences on Chesterton's decision to convert to Roman Catholicism (Chesterton once described his conversion as being largely due to wanting to belong to the same institution that had produced St. Francis), it makes sense that Chesterton would devote considerable energies toward this biography.
Chesterton said that there are essentially three ways to approach a biography of a figure such as St. Francis - one can be dispassionately objective (or at least as much as can pass for such a stance), looking at things from a 'purely' historical standpoint; one can go to the opposite extreme and treat the figure as an object of devotion and worship; or one can take a third path (and you've guessed correctly if you assumed this was Chesterton's route) of looking at the character as an interested outsider, someone in the modern world but still one involved in the same kinds of structures and virtues as the one being studied.
Chesterton's prose is snappy and lively, witty and bit sardonic at times. Chesterton is not afraid to digress to make his own points, and like the intellectual critic who cannot contain the myriad of responses to particular points, Chesterton treats us to a generous collection of tangential observations. One discovers, for instance, Chesterton's opinion of modern British history (that it reads more like journalism than like a developed narrative) - he makes the observation that journalists rarely think to publish a 'life' until the death of the subject; this of course cannot be helped in the case of Francis of Assisi, but the method of the media serves to highlight the difference in world-view between then and now.
This is a spiritual biography - it does not simply go from event to event in Francis' life, but rather looks as the development of his spirituality, his calling, his order and his influence in later church (and more general) history. In his discussion, he looks at miracles and poetic production, political realities and logical fallacies, ancient sentiments and present-day practices. Francis is seen in many ways as the Mirror of Christ (not quite the same thing as the WWJD fad of the current day, but approximating the sense in some regards), but this sets up an interesting logical situation - if Francis is like Christ, then Christ is in some ways like Francis. Chesterton points out the importance of the difference, likening it to the difference between creator and creature, but there is still the interesting development in history where some tried to make Francis a second Christ (something Francis himself would have opposed bitterly).
Fun, fascinating, spiritual without succumbing to kitsch, intellectual without being overblown, this book is a classic on Francis, and a classic by Chesterton, a small miracle of Francis (in the many sense of the term).
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on 22 June 1997
Without exaggeration, this book changed my life completely.St. Francis is by far one of the most important and influential men in the history of the world, aside from St. Paul and Jesus Christ, himself. Francis' life--like the lives of all the Saints and great Christians--is a testament to the message of Christ. He lived "in the world, but not of the world." He made "the world a means and heaven the end." Francis denied the power of the material world over God's gift of spirituality, for who can hurt a man who rejoices in the pain--which he uses as his vehicle to reach eternal life--caused by the world? Who can starve a man who is constantly fasting? What can anyone take away from a man who's way of life is poverty? Without possessions and employment, no one could hold anything over him to persuade him to change his life. Francis had one master, and that was the Lord, Christ Jesus.
Though Saint Francis would not let the world rule over him, he was not blind to the beauty in it. He saw everything as a great and divine painting, with God as the master painter. The world is simply the canvas, and all of God's creations make up the picture. In a way, time is the paintbrush... But, enough about that! Back to Francis!
Francis refused to overlook Jesus' commands to seek God with all one's heart and life, and to leave the material world behind and deny the self to seek that goal. However, Francis was no mastermind who read every book and asked everyone for their opinions before he could give himself fully to God--that is not Francis, and he would never have become the Saint he is, had he been so stubborn. Like C.S. Lewis, he prayed, not because he made a conscious choice to pray, but because he could not help himself. God tends to work that way in our lives.
My name is Michael Shirk, and I am a 17 year old high school student in Washington State. I owe much to G.K. Chesterton for his book. It taught me not only the ideals of a great man in our human history, but a deeper way to look at the message of our Lord, Jesus Christ.
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on 25 July 2003
This is a wonderfully written book, the first I've read by Chesterton and the first I've read on St Francis. It sat on my book shelf for years till one day I picked it up and couldn't put it down. As a christian minister trying to understand the place of both christianity and the church in the 21st Century I have discovered a companion in St Francis who can teach me much. This book turned me on to both Francis and Chesterton to the point that I am writing this review while searching Amazon for more on Francis.
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on 11 November 1998
Chesterton does not attempt mere biography here. This is not some skeletal and bland litany of names, dates, and events able only to provide the meagerest comprehension the rich charater of St. Francis. In point of fact, the author makes mention of only those relatively few events salient to the developing the personhood of St. Francis. Though it is short, to the extent that Chesterton reveals for us the character of the founder of the Three Orders, he achieves his goal nicely. The author provides wonderful insights into both the mind and the times that shaped the worldview of Francis Bernardone. Beautifully written, respectful, and dynamic, this is a truly wonderful work and I recommend it to anyone who is interested in trying to develop a balanced understanding of the man who is St. Francis of Assissi.
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on 17 April 2013
This book gives a greater insight to the type of man st Francis was, his ideals, his life,his love of the poor and a man who had a love of the environment. Gods creation. it was a book recomended to me after the election of Pope Francis. i'am very glad it was, and would recomend it to everyone, who like me, wondered why he chose the name francis.
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on 18 August 2014
Chesterton was way ahead of his time in terms of biographical writing. He positions himself not only through the eyes of the reader but also into the mediaeval mind and context. As a convert to Catholicism he is not driven by sentimentality and so this book offers the C21st reader with an alternative vantage point by which to question our own global culture.
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on 12 April 2014
i wanted to learn about St Francis, however, this book was very rambling and incoherent and never seemed to get to the point.
Did nothing to gain my interest -
Will buy another biography on St Frances, the Donald. Spoto reviews were very positive.
Would advise to download sample of text before purchase of this book!!
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on 31 July 2015
I was very surprised by Chesterton's approach. This isn't a biography in the accepted sense, but a far deeper interpretation of his life that allows for a better understanding of the incidents that are reported, and that sometimes sound incredible. Can only recommend for someone who wants deeper access to St Francis.
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on 1 October 2015
This inspiring little book is spoilt in this Amazon produced edition by poor editing, the first half particularly is littered with errors in the text.
However the subject remains valid and the book a good springboard to further study of St. F
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on 30 September 2013
very good condirtion, arrived before time. was delighted with this product,Margaret from ireland Why is there a word coun there...
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