Book Break: The Little Flowers of St. Francis

LittleFlowersStFrancisCoverSometime in the past week or two, I finished The Little Flowers of St. Francis, a collection of stories about St. Francis of Assisi and his earliest brothers, compiled in the 14th century. The book is a delightful mixture of familiar legends (St. Francis and the Wolf, St. Francis Preaching to the Birds), a thorough account of his receiving the stigmata (the wounds of Christ), stories of less well-known miracles, and sage spiritual advice that still applies to souls like mine, several centuries later. It also includes the same sort of stories and wisdom from a few of his contemporaries recognized by the saint and others for their holiness, humility, and simplicity.

My edition is a newer reprint of a 1915 translation by H.E. Cardinal Manning, and includes a handful of beautiful color prints of paintings by F. Cayley-Robinson. The book (pictured) does have a few mistakes in the copy—for the purposes of reading out loud, it might be helpful to pre-read first!

The style is somewhat old-fashioned and poetic, but readable even for youngsters—I can imagine it being a good volume to read out loud to your family. (And a few of the stories, like that of Brother Juniper cutting the foot from a pig that did not belong to him to cook and feed to a sick brother, are hilarious!)

If you are  looking for an enjoyable and edifying introduction to this popular saint and his spirituality, look no further!

He’s Saving Me

SoulApostolateOne of the books I’m reading in my “down time” right now is The Soul of the Apostolate, by Dom Jean-Baptiste Chautard. The book has been bedside reading for popes and saints, and was recommended on Jason and Chrystalina Evert’s Chastity Project website as a critical step second only to prayer for anyone aspiring to active ministry. Fr. Chautard was a 19th- and early 20th- century Cistercian abbot in France, who saw a proliferation of active Catholic ministries around him, led by priests, religious, and lay people. Some prospered; others did not. Some were fruitful, and some weren’t. Some prospered in a worldly sense, but bore little spiritual fruit.

He saw the reason for this as a neglect of the interior life: seemingly good people became so busy doing seemingly good works they no longer had time to spend in intimate relationship with God. They neglected prayer, scripture, the rosary, even communion—forgetting that God is the only source of goodness for the works they are attempting.

That’s a summary of the book, so far at least—I’m only a third of the way through. I share it now because it has led me to a new reflection on these past two months of joblessness. Continue reading

Memento Mori, Revisited

Back in April I shared a post entitled “Memento Mori, or Don’t Get Comfortable.” It was inspired by the sense of urgency I saw in the saints highlighted in Fr. Gaitley’s guide to Marian consecration, 33 Days to Morning Glory. In my reading this summer—particularly Praying With Padre Pio and The Little Flowers of St. Francis (which I’m reading now )—I continue to see this urgency. No sooner is a sin perceived than repentance and penance are undertaken; no sooner does an opportunity arise to serve or suffer than it is pursued to the full; no sooner is a prayer answered than praise and thanksgiving erupt.

LittleFlowersStFrancisCoverThis urgency is particularly edifying to me. Not only do I have a marked tendency to overestimate what I can achieve in the time I have, but I am also tempted more to presumption than despair. In other words, I’m inclined to coast and hope for the best—which is fine for a thing with wheels, but on two legs, usually turns into a long tumble downhill. Continue reading

Book Break: A Canticle for Leibowitz

LeibowitzBeing without work these past few weeks, I’ve had more time than usual to read. Last weekend, I finished Walter M. Miller’s 1959 novel A Canticle for Leibowitz, a book recommended to me by three of the smartest men I know. Set in post-apocalyptic America in the centuries following a nuclear holocaust, it tells the story of the monks of the Albertine Order of Leibowitz, who scratch their livelihood from the rocks and dust of the southwestern deserts and dedicate themselves to their founder’s mission of extracting knowledge from the rubble of the previous civilization and preserving it for the future. Continue reading

Book Break: Resisting Happiness

ResistingHappinessThis morning I finished Matthew Kelly‘s 2016 book Resisting Happiness. I opened this book several weeks ago while staying at a friend’s, after reading the cover blurb: “A true story about why we sabotage ourselves, set aside our dreams, and lack the courage to simply be ourselves…and how to start choosing happiness again.”

It seemed relevant.

Although his books are very popular in our local parish and in the Church more broadly, this is my first cover-to-cover reading and mini-review of a Matthew Kelly book. Resisting Happiness was clear and concise, personal and practical, naming and describing dozens of little things we do that keep us comfortably stagnant and offering simple ideas on how to overcome those tendencies and start living intentionally for God. Continue reading