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Book Report: Francis of Assisi: Performing the Gospel Life
Publisher: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2004.
The main character in the book is Francis, and the other minor characters include Clare, the sultan, the crusaders and the Beguines. The theme of the book is selflessness with intent to lead Gospel life. The purpose of the book is to demonstrate the source of Francis Christian spirituality. Indeed, the book was understandable because there is minimal use of complicated language, and the consideration of the works of others heightens the knowledge of Francis.
Chapter 1: Beginnings at Assisi
The chapter gives the background of Francis. He hailed from a well-off family and through the education he was able to access from the priest of his parish church, his spiritually developed. Francis even strips his secular clothes and becomes naked to the public just like “Christ and Adam” (Cunningham 20). The chapter helped me understand the transition of Francis into a performer. In addition, I learned about the importance of education in regard to the Christianity of Francis. The knowledge of this chapter is helpful in appreciating the grandness of education to the life of an individual.
Chapter 2: Francis and his companions
The chapter talks about the Francis’ associates in Assisi. It is affirmed that Francis’ was not alone in his journey, and his companions included Clare. The political and social structure of Assisi helped Francis’ companions “cross the social line” (Cunningham 36). The chapter elevated my knowledge on Francis in the sense that I learned that he had affiliates despite the opposition. Moreover, I have learned that most of the companions of Francis had vigorous spiritual backgrounds and were not merely infatuated with the works of Francis. Lastly, I learned that the religious people had to abandon their fortunate lives and lead difficult lives in order to fulfill their spiritual thirst. As such, I can use this knowledge to uphold the Christian life by avoiding worldly distractions.
Chapter 3: Rome and beyond Rome
The chapter gives an account of Francis deeds in Rome and outside Rome. The grim scene encountered in Damietta is emphasized to portray Francis’ Christianity. Francis takes the risk of entering the Muslim world and even challenges Muslim holy men to go through the fire so as to determine who was telling the truth, a bold move to Christianity. The chapter has educated me about the history of the divide between Muslims and Christians. I also learned that people will pass up difficult challenges when they know they are lying like the “Sultan refused such an encounter” (Cunningham 62). Besides, I learned that, as a Christian, fear has no place in the manner one operates. Given this, I will use this suggestion to challenge fear in the course of my journey as a Christian.
Chapter 4: Francis and the Rule(s) of the Lesser Brothers
The chapter discusses the Francis’ celebration of Christmas at Greeccio. Francis is portrayed to be passionate about the whole idea of the birth of Jesus. Furthermore, it is this passionate that sets him off to follow the trails of Jesus. From the chapter, I get to learn that passion is one of the motivating factors for Francis’ Praxis. I also learn that Francis was determined to lead a life of a Christian against all odds. Finally, I learned that Francis was selfless, and that is why he gave up all the material possessions. The know-how developed through the chapter is helpful in the sense that I will ascribe less meaning to material things like Francis did.
Chapter 5: The Stigmata of Saint Francis
The chapter addresses the incarnation of Francis in his bid to lead the life of Christ. The chapter first warrants the legitimacy of the stigmata. The controversial letter indicating that Francis dead and that his body had five wounds similar to those of Christ when he was crucified is delineated. The chapter is insightful because I learned that Francis was a true follower of Christ. He was ready to do anything as long as it reflected in the deeds of Jesus. I also discovered that this is the ground on which Francis was labeled the precursor of spiritual movement. The knowledge acquired from the chapter is helpful in my interpretation of the Bible in regard to the crucifixion of Christ.
Chapter 6: Saint Francis and the love of creation
The chapter describes how Francis loved animals. Besides, Francis’s loved the natural world such as the sun, the moon, stars, flowers and mother earth. It also endorses the perceptions of other scholars on Francis, whereby he is considered a blessed of animals. From the chapter, I get to understand why in several churches honor Francis by bringing the animals to church to be blessed. Moreover, I learned where Francis’s title “saint of nature” (Cunningham 92) emanates from. Finally, I got to ascertain the reason many stories depict Francis as a lover of nature. The lesson learned from this chapter can help me in appreciating the natural world to a greater extent as a way of respecting the creation of God.
Chapter 7: The final years
The chapter considers the terminal years of Francis before his death. His final years were full of humiliation and suffering as he tried to “share the passion of Christ” (Cunningham 110). He got ill due to following the poverty life he had chosen, and he succumbed to the illness. I learn from the chapter that Francis was a true follower of Christ. He did not give up despite the challenges that he encountered in performing the Gospel. Indeed, Francis died in Christianity. The insights of the chapter are helpful in the sense that I am motivated to lead a Christian life relentlessly without having to fear of the consequences like Francis did.
Chapter 8: Francis reconsidered
The chapter summarizes the Cunningham’s historical, critical, social and theological reading on Francis. The chapter asserts that Francis wanted his followers to be poor and preach the Gospel just like Jesus did. Most importantly, the chapter describes Francis sentiments on what it meant to preach the Gospel through communication. The way a person presents himself is a form of communication no wonder he laments to his brothers that “Preach and if necessary, use words” (Cunningham 135). From the chapter, I learned that preaching the gospel is not only about the words. The picture that an individual creates in society is primal. Besides, I learned that being less concerned about the material world is the way of Christ. As such, the knowledge of this chapter will aid me in portraying a Christian picture in the manner I present myself.
Chapter 9: Reading essay
This chapter consists of the major works of Francis. Cunningham uses these historical studies to develop the theological reflection of Francis’s life. In fact, these studies serve a very substantial role in offering the background information on the studies done on Francis. From the chapter, I got to appreciate the importance of historical studies when doing research. I also learned of the important position that Francis holds in the purview of theology. Furthermore, I learned of the conflicting view of the life of Francis. The knowledge gained from the chapter will help me in future when tasked with research assignments.
The book is very insightful, and having given the different perspectives on the life of Francis as conceived by historical scholars, the knowledge gained is all round and holistic. I like the fact that Francis is depicted as acting out the Gospel, not in the manner of a stage, but in the sense that he lived his life in terms of the script of the Gospel. The book challenged me to walk the path of Jesus because it is possible, no matter how hard and illogical it may seem. However, I did not understand some expressions, such as “quondam knight” (Cunningham 47). Furthermore, I did not like the inconsistency in the book. For example, the date of Clare’s conversion is indicated as 1209 at one point of the book (37). However, in another section of the book it is indicated as 1212 (46).
Cunningham, Lawrence. Francis of Assisi: Performing the Gospel Life. Grand Rapids, MI:
Eerdmans, 2004. Print.
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