A Deeper Look at the Best Books on St. Francis
by Trevor Thompson
This is the latest in an on-going series of “playlists,” in which we recommend books around a particular theme. This one offers another, deeper look at the best books on St. Francis (the subject of our first playlist earlier this month).
“Making a mixtape (or playlist) is the opposite of indifferent. It’s heartfelt, purposeful — often a subtle form of flirtation. … [The playlist] is a way of making yourself known, an interpersonal form of show business, of making news, of replicating sounds and words you find important. It’s like poetry, because poetry is what you can’t say in any other way.”
– David Dark, The Sacredness of Questioning Everything
(Our 2009 Book of the Year. Read our Review…)
*** Watch for more ERB playlists in the coming weeks and months, and for a forthcoming essay on playlists as a way of doing theology.
Use the comments below to let us know what you think…
Are there books that should be added to or deleted from this list?
It is thought to be the case that Francis is the most biographed person of all of history. If this is the case, it is no doubt because of Francis’ holy and eternally compelling witness for living the gospel life. But the number of biographies is also, quite frankly, because his image and mission are highly contested. The argument about the “true Francis” gleaned from the variety of written sources and oral traditions coupled the wider historical-cultural critical work parallels the argument about the historical Jesus in so many ways. Before Francis even dies, he himself is torn by the many versions of this so-called Franciscan life that were circulating around Europe. As the history of Franciscan life unfolds, the drama is thick, chock-full of contentious feelings and deep fractures, even bloody sanctioned murder. So, leaning into a top-10 list for Francis might be a more serious and risky venture than one imagines.
I will offer my “remix” playlist using genre-type classifications, dividing these works into five groupings. I am conscious that with all typologies, there are weaknesses in classification, and of course, plenty of overlap, but this was a helpful way to consider all the strands of influence on me from this “poor one” we call Francis. Francis is so deeply a part of my imagination, and so I offer this list to you with all the excitement, care, and vulnerability that I made and shared those cassettes of jams back in the day.
1. Books that highlight Francis’ more radical social embodiment of the gospel life and freely use the language/lenses of Catholic social teaching (including care of creation), liberation theology, and labor/work
- Boff, Leonardo. St. Francis: A Model for Human Liberation. Trans. by John W. Diercksmeier. New York: Crossroad, 2006. [ Amazon ] [ Kindle ]
- Crosby, Michael. Finding Francis, Following Christ. New York: Orbis, 2008. [ Amazon ]
- Dennis, Marie, Joseph Nangle, OFM, Cynthia Moe-Lobeda, and Stuart Taylor. St. Francis and the Foolishness of God. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2002. [ Amazon ]
- Flood, David. Francis of Assisi and the Franciscan Movement. Quezon City: Franciscan Institute of Asia, 1989. Out of print, but a great work if you can get your hands on it!
- Flood, David, and Thaddée Matura. The Birth of a Movement: A Study of the First Rule of St. Francis. Trans. by Paul Schwartz and Paul Lachance. Chicago, IL: Franciscan Herald Press, 1975. [ Amazon ]
- Flood, David. The Daily Labor of the First Franciscans. St. Bonaventure: Franciscan Institute Press, 2010. [ Amazon ]