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Reluctant Saint: The Life of Francis of Assisi

Penguin Books / 2003 / Paperback

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Product Description

Wealthy adventurer, wayward son, defender of the poor, friend of animals . . . for years, the beloved saint has captured our imagination, yet our knowledge of him comes mainly from legends and iconography. In this engaging, exhaustively researched biography, Spoto places St. Francis in the context of the multifaceted ecclesiastical, political, and social forces of medieval Italy. 256 pages, softcover from Penguin.

Product Information

Format: Paperback
Number of Pages: 256
Vendor: Penguin Books
Publication Date: 2003
Dimensions: 8.44 X 5.50 (inches)
ISBN: 0142196258
ISBN-13: 9780142196250
Availability: In Stock

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Publisher's Description

Acclaimed biographer Donald Spoto strips away the legends from the life of Francis of Assisi to reveal the true story of a man who has too often been obscured by pious iconography. Drawing on unprecedented access to unexplored archives, plus Francis's own letters, Spoto places Francis within the context of the multifaceted ecclesiastical, political, and social forces of medieval Italy, casting new light on Francis and showing how his emphasis on charity as the heart of the Gospel's message helped him pioneer a new social movement. This nuanced portrait reveals the multifaceted character of a man who can genuinely be said to have changed the course of history.

Author Bio

Donald Spoto, author of The Hidden Jesus, taught theology, Christian mysticism, and biblical literature at the university level for twenty years. His other eighteen books include internationally bestselling biographies of Alfred Hitchcock, Laurence Olivier, Tennessee Williams, and Ingrid Bergman.

Editorial Reviews

"An engaging and revealing portrait of a remarkable man." (The Hartford Courant)

"As with The Hidden Jesus, [Spoto again] produces a serious, thought-provoking book." (Booklist)

"As with The Hidden Jesus, [Spoto again] produces a serious, thought-provoking book." (Booklist)

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  1. Sacramento, CA
    Age: Over 65
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    5 Stars Out Of 5
    Magnificent
    December 25, 2013
    Philip Tutt
    Sacramento, CA
    Age: Over 65
    Gender: male
    Quality: 5
    Value: 5
    Meets Expectations: 5
    The author of this book is a professional biographer, historian, and theologian. His subjects range from the mundane (Jacqueline Onassis) to the sublime (Francis of Assisi). Before I read the book, I was inclined to the idea that had I but one saint whose life I would want to study, it would be Saint Francis. Having now read the book, I would simply add that I cannot conceive of a biography which would surpass this one in clarity, depth, and comprehensiveness. The author gives the reader a crystal clear picture of the man, warts and all, tracing his spiritual evolution from dissolute youth to God-absorbed caregiver of society's sick, poor, downtrodden and rejected. The theme of the book is conversion as a lifelong process. It is through this theme that the author traces Francis' development. What I value most about the book is that the author has carefully researched and considered his sources, in order to reach behind the accumulated legends and pious fictions about his subject's life to the real man. Francis was widely regarded as a failure in his time, the founder of a movement of companions in service to the poor and afflicted, which, contrary to his vision and wishes, developed into a religious order, the Order of Friars Minor, complete with a Rule, hierarchy, and formal status within the Church. He himself died, disappointed and largely abandoned by the Order, except for a (very) few faithful adherents to his original intent. I will leave description here, except to add that the author punctuates his work with short but highly suggestive theological remarks. For example, concerning Francis' disappointment with the evolution of his movement into a formal religious Order, the author observes: "In the face of his profound feelings of uselessness, failure and incompetence, he threw himself into the arms of God. It was not so far from the outcry of Jesus on the cross. Francis was sealing his alliance with and his fundamental trust in the God Who had not, after all, abandoned Jesus to death. This is as close to a definition of faith as anyone could seek." (Ch. 12). Insights of this type are plentiful, and, to my mind, represent the summit of the biographer's art. I cannot praise the book highly enough.
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