Sometime 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!
Yesterday morning I finished Eileen Dunn Bertanzetti’s little book Praying With Padre Pio—a wonderful, simple introduction to the life and spirituality of one of our great 20th-century saints. As I mentioned in the past week, I’m increasingly drawn (or pointed) to St. Pio as an example and intercessor in my own life. A Capuchin monk, priest, mystic, and stigmatist from southern Italy, St. Pio has been the subject of numerous books and biographies; this one breaks his life and spiritual advice into fifteen meditations on topics of particular interest or importance to his practice of the Catholic Christian faith, such as suffering, the Eucharist, Mary, and joy in the Lord.
The book opens with a brief overview of St. Pio’s life before diving into the meditations. Each meditation opens with a one- or two-sentence summary of the topic at hand and an opening prayer. Next follows a brief biographical account of how this particular topic played out in the saint’s life. The book then presents a single question for the reader to reflect on, comparing and contrasting his or her own experience to that of St. Pio’s.
Next, the book shares Padre Pio’s own words on the topic, gleaned from letters, journals, and biographical accounts, followed by three to five reflections, from which the reader is encouraged to choose one. These exercises range from journaling to meditation to resolving to act in a way that underscores the lesson of the day. Finally, the book shares a few relevant scripture passages to reflect on and offers a closing prayer, often in St. Pio’s own words.
I read one meditation a day for the past fifteen days and found the book informative, enjoyable, challenging, and inspiring. Every day I took something new from St. Pio’s life and spiritual practices that could be adopted to my own—and nearly every day, the topic providentially aligned with the daily scripture readings and other spiritual reading and writing I’m doing these days. This was truly an inspired find; if you are interested, it’s at the parish lending library. (I returned it yesterday, so look in the returns bin!)
I believe in one God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and Earth, of all things visible and invisible. — the Nicene Creed, emphasis mine
Each time we pray the Creed at Mass, we acknowledge—in fact, we profess our sincere belief—that there is more to this world than meets the eye. We believe in saints and angels, heaven and hell, the devil and his minions. We believe in the real presence of Jesus Christ—body, blood, soul, and divinity—in the Holy Eucharist. We believe in the power of prayer and redemptive suffering.
Practicing Catholics proclaim this belief in the invisible world and spiritual realities at least once a week. But do we live daily as if we believe heaven is for real? Continue reading →