Monday, August 16, 2010

Book "Saint Francis" by Robert West

About the Book: Christian Encounters, a series of biographies from Thomas Nelson Publishers, highlights important lives from all ages and areas of the Church. Some are familiar faces. Others are unexpected guests. But all, through their relationships, struggles, prayers, and desires, uniquely illuminate our shared experience.
He’s more than just a statue of the saint in the neighbor’s garden surrounded by adoring animals. As a wealthy young man, Francis was a member of the “brat pack” of his day, wearing bright clothing, hanging out with rich friends, engaging in street brawls, and partying. After a dream in which God called him into service, Francis abandoned all his rights and possessions and began preaching simplicity and poverty, relying on God's providence rather than worldly goods. In this Christian Encounters biography, read about this patron saint of animals who so delighted in God’s works that he once preached a sermon to a flock of birds.

About the Author: Robert West grew up in Indiana, but he and his wife, Helen, have raised their three sons in Southern California. Formerly Director of Theater at Pepperdine University in Malibu, Robert moved into the film Industry, becoming a Director of Development and Story Editor active in the production of several films including Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Robert is a versatile writer, with credits ranging from historical fiction and liturgical drama to radio commercials, in addition to his children's adventure series coming out with ZonderKidz in early 2008. He is also an actor, performing in theater productions, classical concerts and churches throughout the area.

My Review: The author did a magnificent research, digging deeply into the life of our Saint Francis. He uses mainly data from the first biographer (1230), Thomas of Celano and on top of that he does a lot of speculations on what might have been Saint Francis' life. Sometimes too much speculation might be a little dangerous, but it does not seem that the author deviated too much from the reality, or at least his speculations does not compromise the overall character he is trying to describe.
Through 18 chapters, Robert West guide us to that old city of Assisi, where our young Francis, a merchant's son, does not seem to be in the path of the church. More like a dreamer, he lives in fine clothes and in worldly pleasures. He dreams of being a knight. In a quest to fight against Perugia, he is captured and placed into a dungeon for almost a year. When he comes back to Assisi he is gravely ill.
After recovering, he starts questioning himself over his life and after a dream, the process of his conversion takes place. He starts preaching poverty and simplicity and starts rebuilding churches. Others start following him and he decided to ask the pope to establish an order recognized by the Vatican. His best friend, Clare, also join his lifestyle and soon many others joined her informally establishing the women's version of his order. A third order for married couples follow suite. The narration of his last days and his first miracles is very touching.

Author's style makes the reading very pleasant. If you like a serious biography written based on serious research and some speculation, this book is for you.
This book was written by Robert West in 2010 and published by Thomas Nelson and they were kind enough to send me a copy for reviewing through their Thomas Nelson Book Review Bloggers Program. If you are reading this review, feel free to leave a comment with your thoughts.

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