One of the great things about this year is that I have a lot of time to read. Here’s what I’m focusing on right now.
This is a book that no friar should be without. Part of a three volume set, this book includes everything that Francis ever wrote, including the Canticle of the Creatures, The Admonitions, The Earlier and Later Rules, and The Testament, as well as a long list of prayers and letters written to and for members of the order. Together, it amazingly takes up the first 126 pages of the book, a fact that is quite significant when one realizes the time in which he wrote and the lack of formal education and stability in his life. The rest of the book, as well as the other two books in the series, is made up of biographies, papal encyclicals, and liturgical texts written about Francis within the first few centuries after his death.
Because Francis has probably the largest hagiography of any saint (much of which is based in folklore and legend) it’s impossible to know who Francis actually was without reading the earliest and most authentic sources. So far, I’ve read about half of the texts penned by Francis himself as well as his earliest known biography.
The Catholic Study Bible (NAB Translation)
With the early documents, this is the other text that a friar can never be without. Besides being a critical text for all Christians, Francis was very well read in the Bible and thus, his life and Rule can only be understood by reading it.
After having read Luke and Mark’s Gospels twice each, I moved to the Old Testament for an understanding of Israelite history. Beginning the tour with 1 and 2 Samuel, and I plan to continue with 1 and 2 Kings, Jeremiah, and a minor prophet before returning to the New Testament to finish the Gospels and explore a few of Paul’s letters.
For me, it was/is critical to have a plan. Since the book is so large, it can be overwhelming to even start because there is a feeling that no matter how much reading I do, it can never be finished. By picking out a few critical books (some are just more important than others in the Salvation History narrative), and reading a few pages a day, the task is much more manageable and certainly more fulfilling.
In the Spirit of Francis and the Sultan
Over the years I’ve developed a real interest in ecumenism and inter-religious dialogue, embracing the Church’s efforts for peace and reconciliation among all of the world’s peoples. It’s no surprise, then, that I’ve taken to Francis’ encounter with the Sultan as a source of great inspiration: in a time when relations between Muslims and Christians were even worse than they are today, these two men found a way to speak peacefully, respect one another, and depart as equals to one another.
Though the book recognizes that there is little historical detail to the content of their meeting, the meeting in and of itself was a great first step in relations, and there is much to be learned from it to be used in our world today. Beginning with a basic overview of the two faiths, the authors point out the many similarities that could be used as a point of contact, as well as the many differences as a point of challenge to approach with caution, all with the hopes that with greater understanding will come more fruitful interactions, and ultimately peace.
Though most famous for being the saint for finding lost things, St. Anthony of Padua is also considered one of the greatest preachers of all time. This book is a compilation of excerpts from his homilies and writings, organized and commented on by a friar in the 1970s. Using it as more of a prayer/meditation aid than an academic read, I’ve been reading a page or two of this book every few days as a starting point for reflection.